Highlighting the ‘ability’ in disability: Long Walk 2018 and a word about New Hampshire Challenge

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Note: Manchester Ink Link is pleased to enter into a news-sharing collaboration with the New Hampshire Challenge, an organization dedicated to raising awareness around disability issues in our state.

In our Medical Matters column, we’ll highlight important disability news and share stories of how advocates in New Hampshire are working to support those in need. Readers of the New Hampshire Challenge newspaper will also be able to access key articles from Manchester Ink Link.

To kick off this partnership, Manchester Ink Link readers can catch up with New Hampshire Challenge’s Executive Director – Wendy Thomas – who is completing a five-day trek across Cape Cod today. A longtime disability rights champion and health and wellness advocate, as well as a candidate for the NH House of Representatives, Wendy chronicled her journey and the people she’s met along the way.

These long walks are a passion of Wendy’s with past walks across various New England locales. You can read all about Thomas’ adventure on her blog site,www.simplethrift.wordpress.com.

Her day-one piece is posted below to get you started.

And as always, we invite our readers comments, questions and story ideas.

Yours in good health,

Chris Dugan


 

Wendy Thomas on Oct. 2, the last leg of her five-day trek across Cape Cod. Courtesy Photo

A few years ago I was feeling a little sorry for myself. Between my orthopedic injuries (hit by a car when I was a teen which has resulted in over two-dozen operations) and my muscle and nerve damage from Lyme Disease, it was difficult to get up every day let alone chase my goal to climb each of New Hampshire’s big 4K mountains.

But then I realized that although I couldn’t hike New Hampshire, I could certainly walk it.

In 2016 my son (who also has muscle and joint issues) and I walked the length of New Hampshire. We started at the New Hampshire/Canadian border near the top and over the next 16 days we walked on our state’s roads. We ended at the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border.

At the end of the walk, we both has blisters and joint injuries. But we also had smiles as wide as our state because we had made it. A goal reached.

In 2017 my son and I walked across New Hampshire starting in Vermont and ending up in Portsmouth. It took us nine days, and while my son did better with his feet, I ended up with painful blisters.

Was it worth it? You bet. We proved to ourselves that even with physical disabilities we can still literally go the extra mile.

Why do I do this?

The answer sounds a little Zen, but I do it because I can. I know that I only have so much time left on my knees (my docs have been talking about total knees for years.) I walk and will continue to walk because, for now anyway, I am able to.

This year’s walk starts Sept. 28 at the tip of Cape Cod and over the course of the next five days I intend to walk to the Sagamore Bridge at the base.

I’ll be walking alone for this year’s walk (not worried, there aren’t too many roads on the Cape so people will see me) but I’m also not going to be stupid. Yesterday I purchased a whistle and I’m going to be carrying a metal walking stick. (I’d like to say that it’s for protection but I’m also sure that I’ll be using it on hills and at the end of the day.)

I went back and forth on shoes. For the 2016 walk I wore sneaks and I shredded the tendon on the top of my foot (from walking on the roads’ inclines for so many miles.)

For 2017 I switched to hiking boots and ended up with 9 of the most painful blisters I’ve ever had.

The Cape is relatively flat. I’ve decided to go back to sneakers for this one (Saucony) and I’ll be packing bandages for any blisters that may occur. The goal is to walk 14 miles a day.

And even though there has only been one bear ever sighted on the Cape (people think it swam over) I will keep the bear bells on my pack.

One can never be too careful when it comes to bears.

You can follow updates from my walk here and on my blog at www.simplethrift.wordpress.com


Wendy E. N. Thomas is a candidate for the New Hampshire House of Representatives Hillsborough County, District 21. She is also in the NH Therapeutic Cannabis program. Thomas agrees with the State-wide Democratic platform of legalizing cannabis in New Hampshire, she would also like to see the Therapeutic Cannabis program expanded to include Anxiety, Lyme Disease, and insomnia (for starters.)

All opinions reflected in this article and any future articles on the Democratic cannabis platform are the opinions of Candidate Thomas and do not reflect any company or industry.

Thomas works at Prime ATC in Merrimack as a Patient Liaison. The contents of this article are not sanctioned by Prime ATC or any of its affiliates.