Pacific Crest Midlife Crisis/My Why

My PCT journey began with back pain and a dreaded problem mothers everywhere joke about quietly and middle-aged women ramp up the courage to seek help for.  Here is a hint, ladies… don’t sneeze/cough/jump without squeezing your pelvic floor. Yeah. My PCT journey started with surgery for bladder prolapse and urinary incontinence.

I knew from my experiences as a midwife and several decades as a mother of three that this problem was not going away no matter how many Kegel exercises I did.  When my surgeon went to fix the bladder issue, she found another small problem: a rectocele.  Essentially a rectocele is a small hernia unique to the female anatomy.  She fixed it.

The moment I woke after a night in my own bed without a searing back pain I knew something really amazing had happened because for the previous seven years I had been suffering from chronic back pain.  When the pain first started, I could not sit down for THREE MONTHS.  I went nowhere. Using the toilet was excruciating and I laid down 70% of my day because I could only stand stooped over with pain.

No one could identify the problem. All the tests suggested my back was normal. I felt like I was going insane, and the doctors assumed it was in my head.  Just as an aside, this is how women’s bodies are treated: like they never read the user manual and some other person is more capable of telling us how to use the thing.

And now—the morning after a random surgical repair having nothing to do with my back—I felt AMAZING! I was a 43-year-old woman, and I could suddenly imagine doing the things I couldn’t have in my 30s.  My longtime dream of hiking the PCT suddenly seemed viable and I was on fire to do it!

I live on the outskirts of Yosemite National Park, and I began day hiking five to ten miles several times a week and read voraciously about the PCT. Eventually, I told my husband, who is 100% adoring and 100% supportive of everything I do, but he wasn’t entirely sure about me hiking ALONE for four months straight.  He was terrified.  Slowly (so slowly) he began to see how I could do it safely and how we could keep in contact with each other while I am living in a tent for months.  He day hiked with me and we went on backpacking trips into the backcountry.

And so it begins. I am 44, and for me, it is now or never.  I am going to do it!

2022 is my year.

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Comments 3

  • Leila : Feb 19th

    Awesome!! What an inspiration. I’m in my late 30s and aspire to tackle the PCT around age 40. I’m in good shape but I do have chronic back problems like you described (mine is spinal stenosis, among other things). I hope to work up my strength and stamina over the next couple of years. Will you be posting updates on your adventure somewhere? I’d love to follow along. Best wishes and good luck on your journey!

    • Joanna Palmer : Feb 22nd

      Thank you! I will be blogging exclusively here so you are already in the right place for deeper posts but I will be posting my art and plenty of updates on my IG @JoannaPalmerArt

  • Lorraine Smith : Oct 19th

    Hi Joanne

    It gives me hope to read your story… I’m 58 and about to have prolapse surgery in 6 weeks. I’m almost considering cancelling as I have been given the impression that my active lifestyle (ie hiking and gym) will be severely restricted afterwards (long term). I cant bear the thought of giving up multi-day hikes which is one of my true loves. How did you manage the weight your carrying? Do you have a weight that you know you can’t go over (in regards to your repair)? Were you ever advised not to carry a backpack?
    Thanks for any feedback.



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