The Camino calls. This time I’ll be walking to Rome. When I heard there was a walk to Rome, I knew I wanted to do it, but I just didn’t know when it would be. I didn’t think it would be this soon. I figured the next time I’d be able to go I’d be in my 60s, and then would my body even be able to handle it? Will it be able to handle it now? Something I suspected when I did my first Camino, but didn’t know for sure, is that I have fibromyalgia. I first suspected it 21 years ago, but I ignored it. Maybe if I ignored it long enough, it would go away, or it wouldn’t be true. Confirming it would be admitting I would live with it for the rest of my life. There is no cure, because doctors don’t really know what it is, which means they also don’t know how to treat it.
My first camino was incredibly painful, for multiple reasons. Besides the fibro, my arches fell. Every step was painful. When I got back, I waited for my feet to heal. I thought all they needed was rest and time. Over a year after I got back, I finally went to a podiatrist and got custom orthotics. They worked and I’m walking again with very little pain. I’m sure another camino will still be painful, but not as much. My feet will be better prepared.
The camino sent my fibro into overdrive, which finally sent me to the doctor, but nothing approved for treating fibro did anything for me. I did find something on my own that works, but that’s another story for another time.
The point is, I didn’t think I’d be going on another camino this soon. I’ve even had friends and family members ask, “Is that a good idea?” The answer is, No! It’s probably really not a very good idea at all. It’s probably a very bad idea, but I’m going anyway. I can’t let my pain hold me back, and this is something I want to do. I have to do it.
My parents both died this year. My dad was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer on February 5th, 2018. His funeral was February 16th, 2019. My mother, who had a chronic lung condition for over 55 years, died four months later. We didn’t expect her to outlive my dad by even 30 days, so 4 months was a blessing.
I started thinking about the Via Francigena in March. I told my mom that if she passed away soon, I’d be going this summer. She said she would come with me. Walking is the best therapy.
Traditionally, the VF starts in Canterbury, England, but it’s a little difficult to complete the whole thing in just the 90 days that are allowed by American Visas in the Schengen region. So, then I realized, the perfect solution would be to start in Le Puy, again, but this time go the other direction to Geneva, through Switzerland, and down through Italy. But I’ve also come up with an alternative route through the Alps that I’m hoping I can take instead. I’ll make the decision once I’m there depending on my knees. I’m spending the full 90 days this time, but I’ll have some leeway to take rest days and change things up a bit.
My dad had this picture hanging by his desk at work. This will be my spirit animal from now on. My dad was quiet. He was strong. He was a good man and a good provider. He took care of his family. He didn’t talk much about his dreams. He spent his life taking care of a disabled wife and daughter, and another daughter with a lot of health problems. I know he had dreams; things he would like to do, but he put them aside to take care of his family. I remember talking to him about the Appalachian Trail and how he had always wanted to do it, but he wouldn’t be able to leave Mom alone to do it. After he retired, he said he would come hiking in the Tetons with me after mom died. We always thought she would go first. Less than a year after he retired came the cancer. I found this picture in his work boxes while we were cleaning out the house. It hung by his desk. I can only speculate how it made him feel. Maybe he was this dog on the inside. But on the outside, he stayed close to home. Now, the gate is open.
And me, I’m a different person now than I was in 2015. When I started, I was looking for answers. I found answers, just not the ones I was looking for. And the biggest camino lesson didn’t come until 20 months after I got home. The camino is an amazing teacher. I’m looking forward to what this version of me is going to learn, and what version of me that will lead to.