12 Years and 90 Seconds by Mary Statham

Twelve years ago, I went into emergency with vertigo and blurred vision and the most horrible headache I’d ever even imagined. A lot of my memories from that period of time are blurry, but I do remember an earnest young doctor looking at a picture of my skull and saying, “You are bleeding into your brain. You could die.” I was paralyzed on my left side, and I could only see shadows. My family was quietly told not to expect me to walk again, or remember them again, or even to live past six or seven more years. Fortunately, nobody told me what to expect, they just asked me to try. So I did.

But every April Fool’s Day, I find myself remembering that experience. I remember terror and delusions and helplessness. To combat those feelings, I spoke to Kerri and asked if my CRIS family would like to help me celebrate my continued existence. That’s how the group of us (including the rest of my family) ended up kayaking on the first Sunday in April, when the snow was still bright on the mountaintops, and the water turned toes blue. We had a beautiful day for a paddle, really. There was a little wind, but we didn’t have to fight anyone for the beach. I could smell the green of leaves about to bud, and hear birds gossiping about the crazy humans. My husband, Kelly, had never been in a kayak before; he has Cerebral Palsy and limited use of his left hand. The modified paddle made it possible for him to finally experience what I’ve been going on about all these years. Matthew has a fear of deep water, but being with CRIS means being with people you can trust implicitly. It was such a joy to share that day, that strange day when everything changed. The day when my heart stopped for 90 seconds.

I had to make my first steps on my own, but I make more and more steps with CRIS. I don’t believe in ‘best before’ dates for humans. I believe in finding more me to be, and I know without question that CRIS helps me do that.
So, thank you. Thank you everyone who volunteers, everyone who participates, everyone who donates, and everyone who cheers us on. This is what you support, this is what you make possible.

What We Are by Mary Statham

I did the kayaking portion of the Ski to Sea race this year with Troy as my pilot. It felt really great at first, and I know I said “I remember now, I’m good at this!” Just past the first checkpoint, I also said that it was starting to feel like work. Troy just said “Well, how about some music, then.” For those of you who don’t know me yet, I sing. I sing at any possible occasion, and really, what’s better than a captive audience? So I sang, and suddenly found that it didn’t really matter that my arms were tired or my toes were asleep. It stopped being about racing, and became, once again, about joy. It was amazing to finish, to help carry that kayak over the line and be with people who had never doubted me for a second.

Then, predictably, my blood sugar crashed and the world got a little muddy and uncomfortable. CRIS folks noticed right away, and came to the rescue with juice and pop. I was sitting on the bench with Lynette and I suddenly realized that it was okay to be how I am with these people. I have fought with shame over my disabilities, and I’m certain I can’t be the only one. It’s not easy to need people when I am so fiercely independent. CRIS has taught me that it’s safe to trust other people with my needs and frailties, and safe to be who and how I am. That safety is beyond price, and it’s part of what makes risk possible.

When I got home, I posted on Facebook about the race, sharing my pride and pain both. A dear friend told me that I amaze her, that she couldn’t understand how I could just hop in a boat and go. I thought then that for someone who doesn’t think of herself as an athlete, I do an awful lot of athletic things. The definitions of who I am have changed drastically since I first started going out into the world with CRIS. I did not imagine myself as someone who would ‘hop in a boat’ or bike down from Big White, or paddle the Bowron Lakes. I’m all those things, now. Who we are depends in part upon who we trust, and on what we dare to do. CRIS continues to give me opportunities to expand that definition. I’m grateful for the chance to evolve my self-definition, to become more and different than I had ever imagined. I’m proud, too, to be part of CRIS, to be able to speak for the power of their work and commitment. Who they are is pretty amazing, too.

A Letter from Karin

I am writing this letter to recommend the CRIS organization (Community Recreational Initiative Services). I have been participating as a disabled person with CRIS for 3½ years now. I learned about their existence through the MS Society – Kelowna Chapter.

During the time I have been a participant with CRIS I have noticed several things. The CRIS people are always enthusiastic, cheerful, respectful, and caring individuals. Further, when there is a challenge with equipment for a participant, they innovate until a solution is found never considering it a problem but a fun challenge from which to learn something.

Troy Becker who originated the organization, I believe, is to be commended most highly as a visionary humanitarian. He is very wise in his choice of staff and volunteers. As well, the equipment is carefully chosen to provide safe outdoor activities for people with disabilities who are often otherwise housebound.

So far, I have participated in kayaking, biking, and hiking. Last week a dream of mine was fulfilled when the CRIS group took me to the Myra Canyon and hiked some of the trestles and the tunnel with me in the trailrider. This was something I had always wanted to do and had never managed to fit in when I was still able-bodied. We took a lot of pictures and had tons of fun.

Outdoor activities, especially hiking, nature photography, picnics, swimming, camping were my preferred recreational activities when I was an able-bodied, single mother with three children. As such, it has been one of the things I miss most as a disabled person.

Two years ago, I went on an outdoor wilderness adventure to Granby Mountain, with CRIS. I had been planning suicide for months previously and had come to the point where I was ready to do it in spite of antidepressant drugs and counselling. This was going to be my final adventure. This adventure freed me from the suicidal feelings I had where I would surely have taken my own life had it not been for this weekend trip with CRIS. That trip still lives in my mind as a touchstone for when I needed a miracle and it was delivered via the CRIS organization.

It brings tears to my eyes when I think of the wonderful difference CRIS (the organization, the volunteers and staff, and their sponsors) made in my life. MS is a disease that narrows one’s life inexorably with no mercy. CRIS has provided me with joy and laughter, social activity and physical and mental health benefits. It is often the only fun I get for months and gives me strength to carry on, and even encourages me to do my exercises at home, what little I can do.

I wish to express my deepest appreciation for the things the CRIS organization did for me and others in similar and worse situations than I find myself in. They literally saved my life!

Thank you for your attention.

 

Rock Climbing Experience by Ruth Bieber

Rock Climbing; July 10, 2011

It was my very first official rock climbing experience, save for a climb I did in the Sacred Valley of Peru, which didn’t require ropes. The climb with the CRIS group was the real thing! Before the climb, including hike into the rock face, I felt excited, but not in that way which involves nervousness. I am sure this is because I have come to appreciate the care and amazing preparation, which goes into all of the CRIS activities. Fortified with this knowledge, and after receiving some detailed instruction, I was strapped into the climbing gear by Kerri, who is an experienced rock climber from Penticton, and up I climbed, with Troy right long side.

During the initial portion of the climb, I received some verbal assistance from Kerri, who was on the ground. Soon I began feeling the rock for my own hand and foot holds, always knowing if I needed help, it was there. Then I experienced a personal challenge, when I was very close to the top. There didn’t seem to be anything substantial to grasp, but my hand touched the rope which was anchored into the rock face. It seemed logical to me, so I asked Troy if it would be considered cheating for me to use the rope. “Yes, that’s cheating,” he replied, “but, whose looking? ” It was just like him to give me the out, but there was no way I was going to cheat. That gave me the determination I needed to find a hold, and up I went. It was exhilarating!

At day’s end, while back in my home, I reflected upon the earlier events and it all just felt quite surreal. Had I really climbed that rock face today? Indeed I did, and now I have the photos to prove it. It is one of those kinds of experiences, that leaves a person wanting more, and I highly recommend it for anyone who has the desire. I am very grateful for this wonderful opportunity!