Nick Kucharew hiking in Norway

A Little Off Balance but Not Out of Step, Part 1: Hiking in Norway

Submitted by admin on Mon, 12/19/2016 - 07:52
Nick Kucharew is an ANAC board member. He elected to have complete surgical removal of his tumour in 2013. Although he still experiences minor balance issues, Nick is grateful for the support he received from ANAC through his diagnosis and treatment.
Nick Kucharew hiking in Norway

Over three years ago I had acoustic neuroma surgery to remove a moderately large tumour. The surgery was very successful with complete removal of the growth and only some minor issues afterwards. Aside from hearing difficulties that I continue to struggle with, I also have issues with my balance. Sometimes my balance seems normal, while other times I wonder why I just don't go lie down!

I keep persevering with my balance issues although it is somewhat scary at times. I bump into walls, miss steps, stumble, and fall the odd time, but I do keep on going. A year or so ago, I was up on the extension ladder and my wife said I started to sway backwards suddenly. She thought I was going to fall. It scared the dickens out of her, but I managed to grab the rung before anything happened. Scared me a bit too!

So about my trip to Norway...

My wife and I began planning a three-week trip. The first week was going to be spent driving from Oslo to Bergen. The next two weeks would be a cruise along the Norwegian coast - all the way to the top and back. Pretty nice, huh?

As we were figuring out our trip in more detail such as driving routes, accommodations, and sights along the way, we became really interested in going to Pulpit’s Rock (Preikestolen). This is a very famous mountain location in Ryfylke that towers 604 meters over the Lysefjord. People come from all over the world just to see this place. It is a huge flat plateau, just over 2,000 feet above the fjords with water below, and the only way to get there is to hike up the mountain. The view would be amazing.

The view of Pulpit's Rock. Photo by Nick Kucharew.
The view of Pulpit's Rock. Photo by Nick Kucharew.

So we began planning our own once in a lifetime visit. Early on, my wife asked me if I was okay to do something like this. I conveniently forgot about my balance issues and replied, "Sure, why not?"

As our trip was planned for the off-season when there was the potential for cold and wet weather, we thought a guide was the only way to do this safely. We hired a guide from a company in Norway that specialises in this kind of thing. It wasn’t cheap, but we didn't want to go on our own. We knew this made the most sense since we were not familiar with the area or the terrain.

Getting closer to our departure date, I started to investigate Pulpit’s Rock more and more. I watched videos and tried to get a good feel for what I was getting into. When I saw the pictures and the videos, I started having second thoughts! What the heck was I thinking! It looked dangerous in many parts, and I was really getting concerned about my balance. I only had to make one small misstep, and I'd be in big trouble!

One section near the top appeared very narrow with a steep drop-off all the way down. And I couldn't see in the pictures and videos if there are any supports! My mind was racing as I tried to imagine if I would be able to pass that spot. I was getting more and more worried and contemplated cancelling this dream of a hike. I worried about it for days. I spoke with my wife and eventually she agreed to cancel, even though we would lose the upfront payments.

It would hurt me to disappoint her. This was a dream for her too! So we decided that we would figure out some sort of solution!