I really feel broken right now. Physically mainly.
I have always been proud of what I’ve done with my body up until this point, the effort I put in to be able to run the miles I have and the subsequent changes that took place in my body. The muscles I built in the process. The toning of arms and legs. The eradication of any dead weight body fat. The expansion and lengthening of my genetically “long lungs” as the radiologist called them. I enjoyed watching my body transform, knowing the work I put in to run as far and as fast as I could was making that happen, day in and day out.
So right now it hurts to see that fade. But it’s more than that. It’s not just the lack of physical activity I can’t participate in that is changing my body, reverting it almost, but the foreign, outside influences that are having its effect. That is the part that is hard to reconcile. I can handle doing this to myself, because I know I can always turn it around and build my body back up, but when something out of my control is changing me, well, that’s just harder to swallow.
I feel broken when I look at the scar running up my stomach. It’s the piece of plastic wedged beneath and protruding out from my skin. It’s the blue plastic of the internal sutures pushing through my scar and snagging on my clothing. It’s the potentially permanent markings on my arms from where I broke out in an allergic rash to the medicinal tape used during surgery.
And those are just the parts I can see. There is the lack of breath, just going about my morning routines. There are the muscle spasms that viciously grip my insides every time I eat or drink. There is the overall lack of strength and energy consuming my body. And there is who knows what else going on inside me from the ravages of the surgery itself.
All of that is at the forefront of my every step, every portion of my day. It is not forgotten, not even in the land of pretend health brought on by pain pills. What I can’t feel, I can see.
But this is not the end of my physical story. These are just the parts I can’t control. On the other side, there is my determination. There is that part of me that is beyond cancer, beyond my physical body, that has driven me every day to this end. It is a part of me that will ALWAYS be there, no matter if I call upon it or not, it can’t be taken away. It is irrevocably mine, part of me, somehow coded into my DNA in a way that not even life-threatening illness can reach.
And it is this determination I draw upon to fight back against cancer, against the ravages of my physical body, against my current state of brokenness. If I can use the phrase, “fighting against cancer”, it is in this manner, not actually killing the cancer inside of me by my activities, but by drawing upon my determination to live the life I had not two months ago, to fight against every broken part of my body and live despite them…live against them.
I assure you, I do not romanticize this. When I go out for a 30 mile bike ride, it is not just an every day, casual bike ride. It is an act of great determination to live against cancer, to grasp the epic in the every day, no matter how small, how compromised, how relative. In the face of what I used to define as epic and amazing, it may seem laughable, but in relation to my broken body, it is nothing but. No matter how normative it may look, no matter how casual I may seem riding along the trail, inside my spinning legs and behind my shielding glasses is an act and appearance of great determination, that piece of me deep inside, that is no different in experience than when I was running those 30 miles instead of riding them. With each turn of my legs I’m struggling against fatigue. With each bump and shortened breath I’m fighting against my brokenness. With each completed ride I’m successfully living against cancer, refusing to give in to an entirely altered life and letting the externalities of killing the disease within me dictate my days.
I may be broken, but I’m far more determined. So no matter how hard it may be, no matter what new traumas may come when chemotherapy starts on Monday, I’m going to continue living against this cancer. You have my word on that.