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Out of the Ashes

I never had an interest in hunting, until at age 38, a medical complication to diabetes stepped out from the shadows, possibly preventing me from ever being able to try. In May of 2018, what had flown under the radar as side effects of transplant medications came to a full head. I would be diagnosed with diabetic gastroparesis several months later. I’d love to say that I always did everything by the book, and took the best care of myself, but like many of us, I didn’t always accept the situations I faced as much as I could have, or should have. I certainly accelerated the progress of complications. I dropped all the way down to 101lbs. I wasn’t able to keep much food down. Sleep was almost impossible. At one point, close to bedridden from GI discomfort and dysfunction, I was desperate for a distraction.

Truth be told, the hunting shows I discovered were a bit of an annoyance. I was essentially waiting for time to pass between fishing shows. I’ve fished since I was five years old or so, and I was desperate for some pleasant reminder of those memories. I wasn’t getting outside anytime soon, certainly without risk of having to change clothes. I’ll leave the details at that.

Over the next few weeks, annoyance turned gradually to respect. I started to realize, especially watching caribou being stalked across tundra, mule deer across sand hills, or elk across the Rockies, that this hunting thing might be much harder than I first thought. Then, I watched a couple of shows centered about cooking wild game, and started to see it for the culinary gift it could be. Suddenly, I wanted to venture beyond summer flounder, striped bass, or haddock fillets. Then it hit me.

I was going downhill physically, and I wasn’t getting out on a party boat to put fish in the cooler any time soon… or cast along a few miles of empty beach on a night tide… or bring back a whitetail deer, wild turkey, or elk from the field, if things didn’t change.

I’ve been fortunate. After several setbacks and restarts, my gastroparesis has begun to change course for the better. Gradually, I’ve been able to eat more. Keep food down. Gain precious weight. Be more physically active and experience the abdominal misery less often. The transplant issues will always be possible, and an eventuality. But that’s much more workable than discomfort to the point of little sleep, movement, and watching one’s weight melt away. I have a long, long way to go to get where I’d like to be physically, but as long as the transplant situation holds, I have a chance to get stronger, fitter, and hopefully bag my first whitetail. As I type, the fall run for stripers and blues marches on, and I’m hoping to rejoin it, as well.

This is the inspiration for The Outdoor Phoenix. There are other people that face similar circumstances. Others face far, far worse. Others, fortunate to lack the cacophony of medical discord are looking to simply increase their current potential, or get back to fields and waters they dearly miss. We all have our own stories. We all have our own goals. We all have our own ashes, from which we can rise. We will all have our own milestones to celebrate. This community is our new home. Welcome home.

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