Despite Debilitating Muscular Dystrophy, I Climbed A Hill…One Step At A Time!

I huffed, puffed and panted up the hill, taking many rest breaks along the way. My calf muscles pained, my heart protested, and my breathing became heavy at one stage.

“Let’s turn back,” my husband remarked. We stood at the foot of Shravanbelagola – one of the most revered Jain pilgrimage centres. “We will not climb the hill,” he continued.

The sanctum destination

My husband and I were vacationing in Karnataka. It was the month of May, and even at the early hour of 8 am in the morning, the sun scorched our backs. After visiting Bangalore and Mysore, we had made a planned stop at this holy site in the Southern part of the state en route to Hosur. Even while planning our vacation, my husband was very excited at the prospect of visiting this place and the 18 m high statue of Lord Gometeshwara, considered one of the world’s tallest free-standing monolithic statues.

What we hadn’t bargained for was there would be 1001 granite steps that needed to be climbed to have a close-up view of this colossal magic three thousand feet above sea level on a hilltop. It would be an understatement to term it as an arduous climb.

I knew that my husband wanted to visit the place. I was also aware that he was undaunted by the steep climb, being a physically active person. He was contemplating turning back out of his concern for me.

I had physical limitations

I have my strengths, but physical activity is not one of them. In fact, I tend to avoid physical activity to the extent I can.

My journey with physical limitations began during my first year of MBA when I was abruptly struck by a severe bout of dermatomyositis that later transformed into muscular dystrophy, confining me to a hospital bed for an agonizing month, almost making me miss my third-semester exams. The recovery period stretched over six months, marked by heavy steroid treatments to regain my usual physical semblance.

The echoes of that testing time eighteen years ago persist to this day.

Walking even a kilometre induces huffing and puffing, and my muscles protest with pain. Climbing a mere two-story flight of stairs sets my heart racing. “The dermatomyositis can come back in a time in the future – whether near future or far future, we can’t say now.” The ominous words of my treatment doctor linger in my memory.

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Fortunately, I haven’t experienced a relapse since the period. Yet, those words reverberate in my mind. I assiduously avoid strenuous physical activity, favouring a slow-paced walk, detesting the notion of jogging, and opting for elevators over stairs for any ascent beyond two levels.

Beyond the physical limitations, my mindset imposed further constraints. Though I don’t think twice about going beyond my comfort zone regarding intellectual and professional pursuits, the story is the opposite when it comes to stretching myself in the physical realm.

My husband, a witness to my physical struggles during our MBA days, is privy to my apprehensions and fears. He didn’t even consider the thought of me embarking on this steep, tortuous climb.

I decided not to turn back

But something inside me was determined not to turn back. Of course, I didn’t want my husband to turn back without paying homage to the deity because of me. Another reason was that, as a life coach, I firmly believe that the power of mindset can overcome any limitations, and wanted to practice what I preached. But the most important reason was that I didn’t want my fears to limit me and play spoilsport in our vacation plans.

I remember not thinking so much. “We will not turn back. Let me start and see how far I can go,” I remarked to my husband.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied, not pausing to think. For some reason, I didn’t want to allow myself the opportunity to change my mind.

So I started. And what a walk, nee climb, it was. In searing heat, without shoes. The more I climbed the steps, the more steps there were to climb.

I huffed, puffed and panted up the hill, taking many rest breaks along the way. My calf muscles pained, my heart protested, and my breathing became heavy at one stage.

I was taking forever to reach the deity while my husband was climbing up the hill without breaking a sweat – an addition to the list of things I admire about him. He was by my side, cheering me every step of the way.

Nevertheless, reaching the summit appeared an insurmountable feat for my non-athletic body. I almost gave up at one point in time.

I climbed the hill…one step at a time

And then, to force myself not to abandon course, I approached the climb the same way I approach my coaching business and writing career – taking it one step at a time. Instead of focusing on the far-reaching top, I concentrated on the next step ahead. It kept me going.

Guess what? A full two hours after I commenced my climb, I reached the summit and bowed down in front of the deity. Carved out of a single block of granite, Lord Gometeshwara loomed large on the horizon.

I felt an incredible sense of achievement while reciting my prayers, an accomplishment that I consider right up there with some of my significant career milestones. I had overcome the limitations of my body and mind to achieve something that I thought was way beyond me.

And to think I wouldn’t have been able to experience that exhilarating feeling if I had given up undertaking without even trying!

I did it, so can you

Don’t give up on your dreams without trying. Until you try, you don’t know what you can’t do.

Start small and focus on the next step. Instead of overwhelming yourself with the ultimate goal, break it down into manageable tasks. Take it one step at a time. This principle has helped me pivot from my corporate job and grow my coaching practice into a flourishing business. And attain many personal milestones, like climbing that hill.

Surround yourself with authentic cheerleaders who support and motivate you. Their presence can make a world of difference in your pursuit. Would I have been able to do it without my husband? Maybe, maybe not. But the journey would have been damn harder without him.

Dreams are worth pursuing, even if they seem impossible at first. Don’t give up on them easily.

Embrace your challenges with determination. Like me, you will reach incredible heights you never thought possible.

Bahubali Gomateshwara image source: Getty Images Free for Canva Pro. Other images Smita Das Jain

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About the Author

Smita Das Jain

Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...

39 Posts | 48,159 Views

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