My chest tightened as I fought for each breath, climbing up the precipitous, rocky slope of the active Pacaya Volcano in Antigua, Guatemala. Not only did my chest tighten with each step, but my breathing grew louder and heavier as I inhaled dirt and volcanic ash. Thinking I might not be able to make it to the top, tears began to form in my light brown eyes.

Before the hike, I worried more about possibly getting altitude sickness – not one of my biggest health problems – asthma. I knew hiking a volcano wouldn’t be easy, but I was excited and if Rafa’s grandma could do it – I sure as hell could.

After what felt like an hour, but had to of been only about 30 minutes of dragging one foot in front of the other, my asthma began to become a problem.

Our group finally stopped and I quickly pulled out my inhaler to take two puffs. Wondering how far we had left to go – I overheard we weren’t even half way.

Battling against my emotions, my wheezing and exhausted respiratory system I held my head high and began the climb once again.

“If you ever need a break,” Kendall and Nataly said. “I’ll stop and wait with you.”

Throughout the next hour or so, I had to make four or five stops to catch my breath. During my last rest stop, I looked up half-smiling with hands on my hips, to see the last slope before reaching the top of Pacaya. Pulling together the last bit of energy I had left, I scaled to the top.

Hair crazily blowing around, hands over my head and smile on my face, I breathed in the fresh chilled air and the landscape surrounding me.

I made it.