From the Spinal Ward to the Himalayas
Cheryl Law
10th October 2016
From the Spinal Ward to the Himalayas

I’ve always been someone who thrives on being busy, both at work, as a freelance viola player, and in my spare time, so, breaking my back in April 2015 in a climbing accident, brought my life as I knew it to a crashing halt.

The next 18 months were a testing time, both physically and emotionally, with two surgeries on my spine, a recovery which involved learning to walk again, countless hours of physio and a return to a career I love. Following my final surgery in March, I resolved to do something really big, and before I knew it I had booked myself onto a 7-day trek in the Himalayas. A few weeks before I left, I set up a Justgiving page. I was astounded. Within 24 hours I had reached my £1,000 target, and when I realised how big a deal it sounded to everyone else I suddenly felt really nervous!

The trek was amazing, but so hard.  he Himalayas really are staggeringly beautiful, and the wilderness is simply incredible. The mountains dominate the skyline whichever way you look, and I have never before seen such bright starry night skies.

Despite my nerves before I left, I had never been anything other than optimistic about the trek, but in India I knew straight away that it was going to be way harder than I had anticipated.   Landing at 3,500m above sea level was a huge shock, and the trek took us up to 5,286m.  It’s hard to explain altitude, but it just makes everything so difficult; I found it impossible to get enough breath and I had a constant headache, as well as tingling and aching muscles. My legs felt like lead, and I had no energy at all. By the end of the second day of the trek I was already exhausted and I broke down in tears.  I was way behind everyone else in my group, and I had lost all faith in my ability. I felt I’d bitten off far more than I could chew, everything hurt, and I think the emotional gravity of the past 17 months landed on me all at once. It was probably my lowest point of the whole trek.

With the support of my group, I kept going. At the hardest times on the trek I just focused on one step at a time and it became like a meditation for me.  In a very strange way it reminded me of learning to walk again after my accident, when each step was so painful I could only think of what I was doing right at that moment, and I couldn’t let myself think of the next step or whether I would reach the chair, or in this case, the top of the next mountain pass. I found thinking too much about our trekking route that day, or the overall gain in altitude, was too difficult.  I could only think about the next step, and how far I would go before my next stop.  On the really steep hills I kept my head down and focused on my feet. As long as they were moving I was progressing, and somehow I got myself up every single hill, and completed the trek. I have never felt so elated (and exhausted) as I did the day after the trek. It was truly amazing to have pushed myself that far, and when I considered that just 17 months ago I worried if I’d be able to walk again I thanked every single one of those bright stars shining down on the Himalayas.

Thank you Help Musicians UK for your unforgettable support during my recovery.