by Helen Wilde
Yesterday I had an appointment at the Dentist. Groan. Yes, it was just a check up & clean, but I did end up with a new filling as well. My dental appointment had been delayed by about 6 weeks, due to a month long virus that had also resulted in the cancelling of appointments with my optometrist, chiropractor, my flu shot, my mammogram, and my podiatrist. I’m still catching up! So it’s been a bit of a marathon of the rounds of all my health checks, most of which are diabetes related. But all (most) is well, my HbA1c results are good, as was my random bgl fasting test & my urine tests for kidney health, my feet are doing well, my eyes are unchanged. My blood pressure was up on the day I finally got my flu shot, maybe I’ll have to change medication for that. Sigh. My chiropractor has previously worked miracles on my back, shoulders, hips and is now focussed on my knees. I know I need his help to keep mobile for the sake of my diabetes management as well as heart, lungs etc. My dentist is also important in terms of my oral health, as being able to eat & enjoy the fibrous & ‘healthy’ foods also helps my diabetes management.
Largely because I have diabetes, this is a never ending journey of health checks. I feel fortunate to live in Australia with its great universal healthcare system and affordable health insurance, compared to some countries. I do feel sometimes as though I’ve been going ‘the long way round’ to arrive back where I was before all these checkups. It all seems so hard to fit in, & I’m not always motivated nor sure that my results will be positive. I know I’m lucky: some people are following up these same health care checks and getting not so good news. Sometimes it’s tempting to delay or postpone or ignore the need for getting tests done. It all gets so complicated, fitting appointments into our regular life. It’s tempting to take the ‘short cut’ & ignore it all, relying on the bgl meter & how we ‘feel’. Sometimes we’re scared of getting ‘bad news’. But at the same time we know that by getting the tests it means that we can get proper advice, and at least know the best path to take to improve or maintain our health.
So in the afternoon, feeling fine after my filling, I decided to take some exercise. Normally that’s a walk in my suburban neighbourhood, which does have some pleasant options & is something I can do easily, as everywhere I go is relatively flat. I can also do some local shopping, with all staple needs & some luxury items being walkable, even the post office & my pharmacy are walkable. Some days I will do several short walks. Yesterday was another glorious warm day in Adelaide, & I decided to pop up to the local Conservation Park, at Morialta.
I parked my car under some tall gum trees, & hopped out. Usually I walk on the flat, a slow steady imperceptible incline takes me on a delightful walk, crossing the creek several times, then to the waterfall at the end. Usually I see lots of birds, butterflies, and koalas.
Most of the time I am out of mobile phone range, because of the walls of the Gorge, which is quite nice. My husband often tags along, but he climbs, heading for the Tops & walking a circular route around the ridges, crossing over the waterfall at the top, and meeting me back at the car. Yesterday he was feeling a little unwell, so I was alone.
As I hopped out of the car, ready to walk down to the creek trail, I glanced over my shoulder. I saw the beginning of the track my husband usually takes. I used to walk that track with him, but now I am too slow to keep up. I thought, ‘Oh, I might just walk partway up Hogan’s Track today’. So I started. The track is wide, & has been improved since I last walked it, but it’s still a physically demanding trail. The slope is quite steep in parts, and the sunny afternoon made me hot very quickly. I was intending to go partway, then head back for my usual flat walk. Somehow I just kept finding the motivation to keep going, with frequent stops, until I found myself at the top of the ridge. Here there are several options. I could head straight back down the broad track I had just come up. I could go to one of two lookouts. I could head up higher, to the next ridge, which provides good views of the city. I looked at the sky, and at the time on my mobile phone. I had about 30-45 minutes until the sun set. I knew I did not want to be heading down in the dark. So I took an option which was not the shortest, but which was manageable in the conditions and in the time frame. I headed along another ridge for Hogan’s Lookout, and a mad scramble down a ‘shortcut’, which would shave off about 300 metres of climbing, but I knew would be a more challenging descent. As I took the path leading to the lookout, I heard a soft grunt & a rustle. I felt a little surge of fear, you never know what creature might be about, and I’d seen no humans on my ascent. I looked off the narrow path, and there was a large echidna! Poor thing was clearly more afraid than I, and was trying to bury herself, face first, all fluffed up with her spines. I took a photo, spoke to her quietly, & headed on to the Lookout.
As I neared the Lookout, I could see there was a great view, and the sun was starting to head to the horizon.
Another decision: which way down? I could retrace the Lookout trail, & head back down the wide track I’d come up. Or I could take the scramble trail, much steeper & narrower: shorter by about 300 meters, but would probably take longer, as I would need to be more cautious. I found the start of the trail, not easy, as it is infrequently travelled and the start is steep and somewhat overgrown. I could see the track of a bicycle, muddy wheeltracks. I thought, if someone has recently gone down on a bicycle, I should be able to make it on foot. So over the edge I plunged.
I was rewarded with great views, birds, butterflies, & an ankle & knee threatening descent. The sun was going down, & the level of difficulty was every bit as challenging as I’d thought it would be. There were so many traverses of this steep descent that I lost count. The rains had gouged out little gullies in the centre of the narrow track, which of course was littered with stones & rocks. Most of the way I had fantastic views, into the Gorge & over the plains, with the low sun casting long shadows, with Adelaide spread out before me. There were feral olive trees scattered amongst the eucalypts, & animal droppings indicating wallabies or kangaroos. I started to worry about how long it was taking, but then I recognised that I was almost on the final traverse, & popped around a corner to glimpse my own car, parked below me amongst trees.
By this time I was covered in a fine film of sweat. My knees were somewhat tender, but they always are, even if all I do is sit. I’m pretty sure that the exercise endorphins & the mindfulness practice were kicking in, because what I felt was elation. I’d challenged myself, both physically & mentally. I’d made good decisions. I’d achieved something that I’d though was no longer possible for me to do. I reached the last little slippery slope, popped back down onto the road, crossed over & followed the creek back to the car. As the sun set, I drove slowly home, feeling quietly happy, and very blessed. I had done something that I thought might be too hard, but by thinking & strategising I’d achieved it.
Helen was a Senior Counsellor with Diabetes Counselling Online. She has been the parent of someone with Type 1 diabetes since 1979, and has lived with type 2 diabetes herself since 2001.