It started three years ago, back in 2015, at a time when my symptoms were often overwhelming.

Due to unrelenting fatigue, I needed substantial rest and was spending the majority of my days in bed. As my concentration was so poor, I would pass the time by watching vlogs on Youtube.

As someone who loves to travel, I particularly liked watching travel vlogs. I enjoyed seeing the world through others’ adventures.

It was classic escapism.

Something In The Travel Vlogs Caught My Eye

And, it was in one of those travel vlogs that I saw something my mind totally latched on to; snowboarding.

Wow“, I thought. “I would give anything to be able to do that!

It was incredible to watch as these vloggers effortlessly glided down the mountain. The elation on their faces said it all.

I am a dreamer and I immediately decided if I ever reclaimed my health, this was what I wanted to do. Learning to snowboard became my overarching goal.

I was enthralled by the idea.

A Symbol of Complete Freedom

How incredible would it be to spend time out on the mountain snowboarding? To me, it symbolised complete freedom and the epitome of recovery.

Admittedly, there was a part of me that was upset by this sudden desire to snowboard. Because, deep down, considering my health challenges, I knew it was highly unlikely I’d ever be able to do it.

However, I parked that and instead chose to use it to my advantage.

Using Visualisations In My Healing

I started using snowboarding as a visualisation to help get me through the dark, difficult days. I’d visualise myself snowboarding and imagine the elation and joy I’d feel doing it.

I can’t even begin to explain how much this helped me mentally. It was incredibly healing.

And, I was content with this up until a couple of years ago when things changed.

My Friends Started Snowboarding

My friend met someone who was really into board sports and he encouraged her to learn to snowboard. She loved it and, soon after this, my husband Ross and a few more friends took lessons and were hooked!

I hadn’t told a soul about my dream to snowboard. It felt so out of reach and the visualisations were my private coping mechanism.

I’m not going to lie, initially, I was jealous and I was bitter. I had grown used to missing out on things but being left out of this stung deep.

It’s one thing to dream of doing something and it’s another thing to actively be missing out.

I kept those negative emotions to myself, though. And, I found a way to be happy for them.

Missing out Hurt

However, that didn’t take away from the hurt I felt every time I missed out. It sucks to be left in on your own when your friends are off doing something you long to do.

And, it wasn’t just snowboarding sessions it was holidays too. Admittedly, I could have maybe joined them but I didn’t for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it was a big expense for me to go and just hang around a cabin. Secondly, I knew it would result in my husband missing out on time on the slope because he would choose to spend part of the day with me.

More than anything though, I knew it would hurt more to be there and see what I was missing out on.

Heading To Infusio Frankfurt

In October 2017, I headed off to Infusio in Frankfurt for my stem cell treatment. I hoped that this would be the step I needed to regain my health.

However, I had no idea if it would work.

It took until February of this year until I allowed myself to believe that snowboarding may truly be a possibility for me.

When I was at Infusio for my follow-up and ACT treatment, Ross got to talking to Dr Bijan about snowboarding. It turned out that Dr Bijan loved to snowboard too.

I said to him that it was my dream to be able to do it. Dr Bijan followed this by placing a bet with me.

He bet that I would be snowboarding by the following February.

I Started To Believe Snowboarding Could Be A Possibility

To have the doctor who is treating you say that they believe you will be able to do something… well it means a heck of a lot!

I took him up on his bet and I set my sights on learning to snowboard.

I worked as best as I could on improving my leg strength. Starting by doing just 5 squats every other day and building from there.

In addition to that, I was getting out for walks with my dog Oscar and I began playing a virtual reality game called Beat Saber, which is an excellent and fun workout!

It wasn’t a linear path by any means and there were days I couldn’t do any exercise.

Booking In For My First Lesson

However, I saw a big improvement in my health in June. At the end of the month, I decided it was time to book my first lesson.

Glasgow has the UK’s longest indoor real snow slope and this is where I went to learn how to snowboard.

I booked my lesson a few days before it happened and I just hoped that my health would be good on the day. Fortunately, it was!

My first lesson was fun but incredibly challenging. Snowboarding is not easy to start with but, more than anything, I wasn’t really fit enough to be doing it if I’m being totally honest!

Photo is taken from behind Donna at the top of the indoor snow slope. The photo is cropped at her waist and Donna is looking ahead, down the slope. Donna wears a teal hoodie with black sleeves and a white helmet.

Pushing Myself To Learn To Snowboard

I pushed myself to the absolute limit and was physically shaking at points due to the exertion. My quads felt like they were on fire pretty much the entire time.

But, I loved every minute and I was surprised by how quickly I picked it up.

A huge positive was that, despite feeling very unfit, I didn’t feel like I was behind or struggling more than anyone else in my lesson. Which, gave me a boost.

My lesson was a huge test on my health but I was amazed at how resilient my body was and how I recovered afterwards.

The Fatigue & Pain Afterwards Felt Completely Different

Don’t get me wrong, I hurt like hell and my energy was down for a good while afterwards. However, I feel this was a “normal” response that anyone at my level of fitness would have experienced.

Given I used to suffer from exercise intolerance and post-exertion malaise from doing everyday activities… this was huge for me!

I want to explain that how I felt after snowboarding was completely different to the suffering I experienced every day with chronic illness. It just didn’t compare.

The pain and fatigue from living with Lyme, Fibro & CFS is on a totally different scale. I believe it’s something you won’t fully understand unless you have lived through it.

Further Lessons

It took me over five weeks until I felt ready to take on lesson 2 and I absolutely smashed it. I think I put even more effort into this lesson as I literally couldn’t move from my bed the next day without my husband’s help!

Again, I was amazed by the fact my muscles recovered in a few days.

A couple of weeks later, I had my third lesson. This turned out to be a bit too ambitious and I hadn’t given myself enough time to recover in between.

During lesson three my body gave out on me before the end. It’s funny how you know when you can push and when you have to call quits.

I stopped before the end of the lesson but I was happy with how I had progressed.

Photo shows Donna stood at the top of the indoor snow slope. She has turned her body towards the camera and is smiling. The photograph is cropped at her knee so you cannot see the snowboard attached to her feet. Donna wears a teal hoodie with black sleeves and a white helmet. Her dark hair is braided.

Hitting The Slope By Myself

From that point on, I’ve been able to hit the slopes by myself and this has been much better for me. It removes me from the pressures of trying to keep up with a lesson.

I can pace myself and snowboard for as long (or as little) as I want to. And, I can take rest breaks in between runs for as long as I need.

I can also go from the half-way point on the slope when I need to (which takes less exertion than riding the poma/button lift all of the way and snowboarding from the top).

It’s not come easily though. I learned very quickly that snowboarding isn’t an activity I can do whenever I want to.

As much as I’d like to plan when to go snowboarding, it’s really a decision dictated by my body and energy levels.

Having My confidence Knocked

After my third lesson, I went snowboarding because my friends were going and I didn’t want to miss out. But my body just wasn’t up to it and I completely crashed after about 20 minutes, injuring myself in the process.

This really knocked my confidence. I decided I needed to take a break for a few months to build up my strength and fitness before I tried again.

I returned on the 2nd of November and had a great session, which I show in the video at the top of this post.

It went well and was a great confidence boost. I have been a couple of times since and each time my confidence continues to grow.

That said, it’s taking time for me to trust my body and my ability to do this. Not from a skill point-of-view, I hasten to add, but from trusting that I am physically able to do it.

After years of chronic illness, it’s almost mind-boggling that I am able to snowboard. Especially given my health can still fluctuate up and down.

The NExt Step

Hopefully, as time goes on, my new found health will become more stable and my fitness will continue to improve. Until then, I am just taking things as they come and enjoying life as much as I can.

When I decide to go snowboarding, it’s a very last-minute decision based on how I am feeling that day.

That said, I have set my sights high. This all started with the dream of snowboarding down a mountain and, for me, that’s the next step.

Watch this space…

Author

Hello, I'm Donna. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013 and started this blog shortly after. After my health declined significantly the following year, I decided to become my own advocate and searched for answers. It took two years but, in 2016, I finally discovered I had Lyme Disease. On February Stars, I share my personal journey back to better health; discussing what has helped me and the mistakes I've made along the way. I also cover topics on self-improvement, managing symptoms and living life to the fullest with chronic illness.

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