All photos by Bre Mirynech.
Cold hands, warm heart. Four words that my mother always recited to me as a kid when I said my hands were cold, yet accurately describe me as an adult today. My hands are always cold (and my feet too). Living in Canada this is a reality for everyone, however, in the last few years, it changed dramatically for me.
Weirdly enough, the first time I noticed something different was happening to my fingers was during the summer month of July. I was out for a hike with some friends and it was a cooler start to the day with not much sun. I had my gloves packed, however, it wasn’t unbearably cold and it looked like the sun would come out soon so I kept them in my backpack. Soon enough my hands were numb. Not just cold, but lacked any feeling at all. I looked down at them and noticed they had turned completely white. I was shocked! I mean, this was summer after all. I immediately started rubbing my fingers one at a time and watched as the blood slowly crept back to my fingertips. The process to get them back to normal took quite a while and was quite painful. As they warmed up, my fingers felt tingly and throbbed painfully.
I didn’t think much of it, to be honest. I figured it was a one-time, odd, event. Surely enough, a couple of weeks later as I was headed out rock climbing, the same thing happened again. The weather was similar and as we were gearing up for our climb I felt that same feeling, or should I say lack of feeling. I immediately got to work warming up my fingers so that I would be able to climb. The same painful re-warming occurred, but after a good twenty minutes my fingers were their normal colour and feeling again.
It wasn’t long after this that I found out I have something called Raynaud’s. Raynaud’s is a disease that causes an interruption of blood flow to parts of the body, most commonly fingers and toes, due to smaller arteries narrowing that supply blood to your skin. This happens most often when exposed to cold weather, however, some people have it occur during times of stress as well. The affected area typically turns white, then blue, and then red over the course of the event. Upon warming, many experience a tingly, prickly, stinging, or throbbing pain. The area may swell as well.
As an avid outdoors individual, I was pretty upset. I love to ice climb, snowboard, split board, and get outside a lot even in the cold weather. I was scared about how this may limit my passions, so I immediately started researching the disease and ways to handle it and keep it under control. For some, they experience it very severely, so in that sense, I think I got lucky. One of my close friends has it as well, and her spasms are triggered much more easily than mine. In talking to her and a family member (turns out it runs in my family), I was able to start trying different things to help.
The biggest thing I found that helps me is keeping my core temperature up. If my core is warm, I am generally going to be fine. If my core temperature drops, it doesn’t take long for a spasm to occur. For example, I found I could still ice climb and go split boarding, I just need to dress in more layers than the average person. However, if I enter the freezer aisle in the grocery store on a summer day in my shorts and t-shirt, I will probably experience a spasm. During my winter activities, I always have to hand warmers on me and in my pack, a hot thermos to keep my core warm, layers and layers and layers, and I have a warming cream. All of these little tricks used together has allowed me to be able to still keep up with my winter passions. The other incredibly important thing for me is having good, warm gloves. On an average winter day, I have my -30 gloves with me. They are great and probably excessive, but it makes a world of difference.
Along with doing my winter activities, I love capturing them. I love shooting my friends in their element- pushing their limits, testing themselves, and exploring new places. My warm gloves are too hard to work a camera with, so I find myself taking my gloves on and off frequently. This posed a problem as it leaves me exposing my hands to the cold quite often. When I came across Vallerret gloves, I was intrigued as these could be a potential solution to my problem. I would be able to take photos in my gloves, while only exposing a limited part of a couple of fingers to the cold.
I received my gloves and immediately had to put them to the test. I took them out ice climbing right away, and my first time using them was a success. I was able to capture my friends climbing and keep my hands warm. I didn’t have a spasm. I then took them to Ontario on my adventures up north in the cold, then to Japan on a snowboarding trip.
I have to say, these gloves are a game changer for me. I am able to keep my hands warm in my gloves and still capture the people I love doing the things they love. They are a very exciting and welcome addition to my toolkit for managing my Raynaud’s.
Raynaud’s affects more people than I realized. Although people may have different severities of the disease, way more people struggle with it to some degree than I thought. Thanks to friends and family who I have it as well, I was able to come up with my own solutions to help manage it and not lose out on my love for winter activities. Everyone is unique. Everyone is individual. Dealing with this disease is your own journey, and you need to find what works for you. If your Raynaud’s is severe, I highly recommend seeking medical advice.
Cold hands, warm heart. Thanks to Vallerret gloves and my little tricks as well, my winter days now include warms hands instead. If you struggle with Raynaud’s, I recommend trying them out and I hope they help you as much as they have helped me. It’s scary when you are faced with challenges that may limit you in the things you love. Luckily, our world is big. There are so many options, solutions, people to talk to, and ways of dealing with health challenges. Get out there, find what works for you, then keep chasing your passions and soak up all the beauty that the world offers. The world is your playground. Do whatever you can to keep exploring it.
Bre Mirynech is a full-time lover of the outdoors and life. You can find her adventuring in Banff, Alberta, Canada where she spends most of her free time outside climbing, hiking, skiing and exploring. You can follower her adventure on Instagram @bremirynech
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