Not Letting Genetics Control You; Live Life and Make Progress

Balancing on the top of a mountain on a gusty Colorado day. Blue Lake about 11,250 foot elevation hike.
Balancing on the top of a mountain on a gusty Colorado day. Blue Lake about 11,250 foot elevation hike.

While suffering from Ankylosing Spondylitis, where six of his seven neck vertebrae were already fused together due to this painful inflammatory disease, its physically impossible for Kevin to look up.

He walked in with his head down, yet when he spoke, his sarcasm had a way of making me laugh.

“I can parallel park better than anyone I know…. and I can’t even turn my neck.” 

Doing anything hurts, but he doesn’t want to keep that from living life and refused to feel sorry for himself.

Hiking to Blue Lake

We met up last week to hike a favorite trail of his called Blue Lake, which is about 30-45 minutes west of Boulder, Colorado.  Sadly, my husband couldn’t join in hikes due to ACL and meniscus surgery, so it was just Kevin and I.

The warning sign posted on the trail in case we would need to fight off a lion.
The warning sign posted on the trail in case we would need to fight off a lion.

I wanted to take advantage of this six hour hike hearing more of Kevin’s story to share with the world because truthfully, his story is inspiring.  I love sharing inspiring stories, because it encourages us all to keep moving forward and persevering.

We stopped to read this sign on what to do if we encountered a mountain lion. Glad they have a phone number listed, however there is absolutely no cell service for a few miles in case we would need to call.   Interesting things to know for a worse-case scenario right?

“I feel like I’m not inspiring because this IS my life.  And the only other option is to give up.”

He bent over to tie his shoe and continued his thoughts aloud.  We both know giving up is not an option.

“You know, many people have problems and issues that they can fix.  But what I have, I can’t fix.”

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I was reminded of the first chapter in my nutrition certification course. Many people use genetics as an excuse not to exercise or make healthier choices, when in all reality, everyone really can improve their health.

“Each of us has certain, very real, genetic limitations.  For instance, most of your clients will not be equipped to play quarterback for the Patriots, play center for the Lakers, or win the Tour de France.  In other words, they may not have the genetic makeup to reach the upper limit of elite human performance.  Despite this limiting factor, all clients can still improve their health, lose fat, and/or gain muscle by getting the right advice and implementing it.  In fifteen years of working with all kinds of people, from office managers to elite athletes, we’ve yet to see a single case where we couldn’t improve their body composition, health profile and performance, significantly.”–  John Berardi, PhD

Another reason I find Kevin inspiring, by not letting his genetics keep him from experiencing life.

Kevin didn’t want excuses and didn’t want to feel sorry for himself. So he hiked and it was painful for him with his fusing spine, walking hunched over. In the beginning of his diagnosis, he admitted to being self-conscious while people always stared at him.

“I felt judged because everyone was staring at me.  That’s why I started wearing funny shirts.  At least then if someone was looking at me and laughing, it was because of my shirt…. and not me.”

Kevin said he wasn’t self-conscious anymore after dealing with this for 7 years. The most painful part was his identity in sports was taken away. Faith stirred him to leave Ohio and move to Colorado.

Extremely active, having the high school record in soccer for most goals saved in a game. And then his doctor told him he will never play again.

That news shattered his identity. It was humbling and depressing to get the news that there is no cure.  He experiences pain everyday, but he learns how to live with it in natural ways and taking Rhulief Plus instead of medication.

We stopped to overlook the first lake on our way to our destination:  Blue Lake.
We stopped to overlook the first lake on our way to our destination: Blue Lake.

When we stopped at the very first lake in the photo above, Kevin shared that he visited here three years ago, but thought he was going to die because he was in so much pain then.

“Ya know, I am getting better than where I was.  I was ready to die by the time we got to this exact spot last time… but I kept going.”

I was smiling with him and for him.

It is monumental to move forward and make progress. While most people give up before making progress, it’s worthy to be celebrated when they persevere. And in my eyes, I believe God wants that for us, and it’s not always going to be easy, nor will it be the path most traveled. Everyone of us is unique, with our own aches, pains, and struggles.  The sweet part is how He shows us ways to work though and persevere. And importantly, to celebrate and praise Him along the way.

We continued on the six mile round trip hike full of steps, boulders, dirt, hot, cold, snow, and wind.  Stopping every mile or so for a short rest and water. But once we arrived to Blue Lake itself, it was quite beautiful to see the waterfall on the opposite side as all the ice was melting from the mountain tops filling the lake.

Blue Lake is frigid temperatures from the melting snow and ice.  Even though it was 99 degrees that day in Denver, at the 11,250 foot elevation we were, climate was completely different. (When you hike, wear layers, water, and hiking boots!)

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Kevin daring to do a yoga pose on the boulders surrounding Blue Lake.
Me doing a back bend at one of the highest points of the hike.
Doing a back bend at one of the highest points of the hike. My husband says my ‘risk meter’ is broken. Blue Lake is actually below us and to the left of this photo that you can’t see.
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Still hiking higher and higher to 11,250 feet.

I was thankful to not have any lion encounters on this hike while hearing more of Kevin’s inspiring story.  I hope this also encourages you as it did me.  Like I said above, we ALL have things we are working through and struggling with.

I love how God meets us exactly where we are and patiently waits for us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves so we can take our next step.  I mean, without a step we aren’t walking.  And not making progress for anybody is downright frustrating. I know I don’t want to be in the same place everyday, nor do I want to be the same person.  I pray to grow each day, so that I am not the same today as I was yesterday, or the same person tomorrow as I am today.

My daily prayer.
My daily prayer.

So take your step and live thankfully, always being kind to others.  We know nothing of what someone may be struggling with, or what war they may be fighting.

I took a picture of a cougar here.  Just kidding.  It's me.  But my husband is 6 months younger than me, so I guess that means this is a pic of a cougar. Ha!
I took a picture of a cougar here. Just kidding. It’s me. But my husband is 6 months younger than me, so I guess that means this is a pic of a cougar. Ha! Get out there and LIVE!
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