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When I was 18 years old, I did the most incredible on-sight. An on-sight is the term for completing a climb, from top to bottom, without falling or taking advice from anyone. I remember it was a 5.11a, a relatively difficult level. I was always good climber, easily scrambling 10s and low 11s but there was something different about “Putty in my Hands”. Maybe I was on a high because it was my birthday, maybe I had to prove I was the best climber on the team or maybe it was just my kind of climb. Regardless of the reason, up until that point, I never before felt  like I did on this climb.

I was completely at ease. I was steady, stable and energy efficient. I did not needlessly clench holds and I moved quickly before I tired. I felt like I was floating. An incredible sensation. I was always a good climber. Now, I was a GREAT one.

My coaches used to say “if you make a climb look easy you have full control over your movement” and apparently, I made it look like an introductory climb. If you were a climber you understood the constant search for perfect equilibrium throughout the body. I was a balance, static climber which meant I did not rely on muscles or strength to ascend. I could not just “power through” moves. So, when I accomplished weightlessness, I knew I reached my full potential.

Last week, I climbed three days in a row. Since my diagnosis, I only dreamed of this kind of stamina. I flared up towards the third day but I felt stir-crazy at home so I still climbed.

Even with my flare (or maybe because of it) I climbed flawlessly. My fingertips connected perfectly with each hold, energy surged equally throughout my body and I completed every move without strain. I felt lighter than air and completely fluid.

I hadn’t felt that way in years. Actually, since my diagnosis five years ago. I didn’t know my body could still feel this way especially since everyday actions were a strain. I reveled in this able-bodied sensation; one I knew my body wouldn’t always remember. It was a nice reminder that the great climber was still in me.


Hi, my name is Monica and I have RA.