From wheelchair to walking across England!

Hi! I am Karen Lock Kolp, and some of you know me as Kay! In 2011 I lost the ability to walk more than a few steps. I needed a wheelchair whenever I left the house!
Now I am in training to walk across the Coast to Coast path in northern England. 182 miles!

This is my story. Thank you for reading <3

As a child I loved exploring the outdoors behind my home.

I rambled through the woods and down to the brook in all weather and at all times of day, simply for love of being outside and moving my body.

I would run there when I was sad or upset. Nature never failed to give solace.
The solitude and simply being in tune with nature spoke to me, then as now.

Back then I first read the book All Creatures Great and Small, a memoir by large-animal veterinarian James Herriot about his life in England's Yorkshire Dales. Herriot's world captivated me starting from when I was 10 years old and still does today.

In 2011 when I lost the ability to walk more than a few steps, I was deprived of my precious outdoors. It felt like losing a piece of myself.

I couldn't go into the woods anymore, couldn't explore with my children or by myself; I was in so much pain.

There was fear, too, because I didn't know what was happening or why.

Now we know that needed medicine I took in June 2011 caused the tendon condition that I still live with.
Here's what happened…
I tried to be the perfect homemaker and mom, providing the perfect environment for my family.

I pushed my mind and body beyond safe limits, going without sleep, becoming dehydrated and malnourished in my quest for perfection.
The irony of making myself sick while seeking wellness for my loved ones is not lost on me!
One July day in 2011 – for no reason I could discern – my leg became so overcome with pain that I had to stop using it.

In the following months my leg muscles atrophied and my condition baffled the doctors and physical therapists.
In early 2012, I had given up hope that I would ever be pain-free, or walk more than a few steps.
My parents and my husband Ben convinced me to visit a new doctor.

A specialist in sports medicine, he understood my condition like no one else had. He brought hope and heart and new tools to try!
The first step in my body's rehabilitation was aquatic physical therapy.
My first day in the pool I had to push my leg with my hands to make it go backwards. The resistance of the water was too much for it to move on its own!
That's how atrophied my muscles were.
On the spring 2012 day when I first stood on my leg without holding onto anything, and I cried tears of joy and gratitude.

Next this team of doctors and physical therapists saved my thumb tendons, and thus my hands and forearms!

Imagine being able to do only 5% of what your hands normally do in a day.
That was my life for a long, long time.

Over these last 11 years – and with LOTS of support – I have rehabilitated my body.

With proper care I can get outside and hike and ski and be! Also, on a good day I have about 50% use of my hands! That's so much better than I'd ever thought could happen for me.

It really took a village... my loved ones (lots of you reading this : ) and an amazing team of medical professionals were a huge part of that…. I learned that I could live a good life despite these challenges.

Now I feel well enough to train for something big!

I want to run away to the great outdoors as I used to do when I was a kid.

A few years ago I learned of the coast-to-coast path that travels across the north of England.
And guess what! This path goes right through the Yorkshire Dales, the place James Herriot wrote about in All Creatures Great and Small!

Traversing this special trail – enjoying nature as I used to do when I was a kid – would feel like getting a part of myself back.
Exploring in a place I've dreamed about since childhood is the icing on the cake!

The training to walk 8 to 10 miles per day for 21 days in a row will demand that I be in the best physical shape of my life.

I know I can do this.

I want to go on this adventure with all my heart.

And I'd really appreciate your help!

The flight from where I live in the US and my lodging while I'm on the trip will be thousands of dollars.

Then there's…
– The art supplies I will bring along: pastels, pastel paper, a small easel, and storage for finished work
– Equipment like proper boots and a backpack that works for me and won't cause tendon problems. (One with both hip and chest belts, but not very big to fit my small frame.)
– Support from coaches, doctors, fitness professionals, and others to help my mindset, and keep me focused and get to the fitness level I'll need to succeed in my walk
Any help you can give would be so, so appreciated!
Thank you for reading! And for your consideration. The fact that you are reading this means the world to me!
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Karen Lock Kolp 
Bellingham, MA