The Traveling Cripple

In 2001, I Traveled with a Cane—In Considerable Pain

In 2001, I Traveled with a Cane—In Considerable Pain

When I went to Iceland in 2001 (and yes, this will be the last you will hear about my 2001 trip), I was in considerable pain from a severe case of osteoarthritis in my left femoral head. I had hobbled around with that arthritis ever since 1967, the year after I had my brain surgery. Once my pituitary gland was removed and I started taking hormones, I began to grow again. Unfortunately, my left hip joint did not take too kindly to the changes taking place to my body.

By the year 1997 or 1998, I was using a cane. People would constantly ask me why I was standing up when there was a nearby chair. I would answer them by saying because the pain of getting up was far worse than the mere inconvenience of standing. (I can still stand still for long periods of time without discomfort)

Things got worse when I landed in Iceland in August 2001. Of course, pain or no pain, it didn’t stop me from being active. The only effect was, on the two days of touring with my guide Illugi, I had to avoid climbing a particular hill and taking a trail around lava formations near Dettifoss. Otherwise, I was still pretty game.

Pain is one of those things which I can tolerate in fairly high doses. Not that I want to, but it is usually better than the alternative. Now that Martine is in pain from fibromyalgia (or something that looks and behaves very much like fibromyalgia), I tried to explain this to her; but she wasn’t buying it. Every person has his or her own acceptable threshold of pain, and mine just happens to be higher. Is it because I have been in fairly acute physical pain ever since my childhood—first from a pituitary tumor pressing on my optic nerve, and then from osteoarthritis? Only in the last ten years or so have I been as free of pain as I was when I was ten.

The photo above shows Lake Mÿvatn from my window at the Ferðaþjónustan Bjarg. (Don’t try to pronounce this without a Icelander present … or I should say don’t try to pronounce this with an Icelander present.) Notice the tents between the guesthouse and the lake’s edge.

Many campers don’t like the Bjarg and regard the management as unfriendly. I gained points when registering for one of the two rooms in the guesthouse by asking, “Wasn’t the name of Grettir Asmundarsson’s family home in West Iceland called Bjarg?” Not only was the owner shocked that an American knew this, but I quickly found that he was a big time fan of Grettir’s Saga and named his son Illugi (my guide) after Grettir’s youngest brother.

I loved the Bjarg Guesthouse. It had only two bedrooms, but a big kitchen, where I sat eating harðfiskur with fresh Icelandic butter spread on it. There was also a nice living room which I had to myself when I stayed there.