Let’s get one thing straight.
I have cancer. Cancer doesn’t have me.
Which is my way of saying that no matter what may be going on in my body right now (what exactly IS going on in there?) and no matter what physical setbacks I may encounter from the treatments themselves, I’m not a sickened, weakly, bed-ridden specimen. Quite the contrary, each day away from my initial surgery, I’ve only felt stronger and stronger, feeling and watching my body regain all the capacities it had prior to going under the knife. And it’s only been just over 2 months, with an initial 6 month recovery time. If everything had gone as planned and chemo wasn’t even a thing in my life, I’d be well on my way to building strength, endurance and looking ahead towards my first race back.
Of course, everything DIDN’T go as planned, but that doesn’t mean Cancer owns me now. It doesn’t. To be honest, I’m not sure if the internal issues I experience on a daily basis are related to cancer or surgery recovery, but no matter, the important thing is that whatever I’m experiencing at this point is not hindering me from living my life and doing the things I love. If for some reason I COULDN’T get out into the world, I COULDN’T get on my bike and ride, COULDN’T lace up my shoes and run, then maybe I’d look at things a little differently, but right now Cancer does not have me. Right now, I’ve got it by the throat.
And I’m not just “surviving” cancer, I’m THRIVING against it.
Each morning I wake and go through my typical routine. Teeth. Coffee. Toast. Then I change into my cycling kit, gather my riding basics and head out the door to put in 25, 30, 35 miles on my bike, powering up the inclines, throwing down effort when the energy hits and riding my legs into the familiar weakened state that tells me I’m only getting stronger and stronger. And I am. Ever since the trail run I did in Brown County I’ve been consistent in my physical activity, getting on my bike every day and putting in work, feeling my lungs take the accelerations with a greater and greater ease, and watching my calve muscles twitch when I’ve thrown my legs up on the porch ledge to rest post-ride. I am getting stronger, but not because I’m preparing to race. Not because I’m gearing up for surgery (too far down the road for that just yet), but because the life I lived prior to cancer was the life I always sought to create and I’m not about to let a little gutting surgery and periodic poisoning put a halt to that. My cancer isn’t THAT strong….and I can only hope we keep it from building strength.
I run and I ride because I want to live AGAINST cancer. I want to live IN SPITE of cancer. And there is no reason that when physically able, anything should really change in my life if I don’t want it to. I’ve done a little cleaving of my peripheral interests here and there, but the core of my existence still stands. My attempt at healthy eating still stands. My physical efforts still stand. My vegan ethics still stand. My desire to parent still stands. My expressions to inspire others still stands. So no matter what episodic setbacks come my way, physical or emotional, I know they are very temporary and the core of my being has yet to be broken.
Every time I get on my bike and ride. Every time I hit the trails and run. Every time I continue the forward trajectory of my life, cancer exists only as a potential future obstacle and only a present annoyance instead of a force more powerful than it’s host.
Trust me that I don’t romanticize my actions. Cancer does affect me emotionally and physically, but in no way does it drag me down. In no way, at this point, does it render me weak, broken and useless. If you think otherwise….I challenge you to a race. Ok, I kid (mostly), but to be honest, it’s not lost on me that I’m able to do more physically WITH cancer and in the midst of treatment than many others I see going about their lives overweight, passive and unenthusiastic. If that doesn’t prove I have cancer and not the other way around, I don’t know what does.
Speaking of physical efforts and making the most of our days, I’ve (loosely) committed to riding with Team In Training at the Door County Century (100 miles) on September 8th. Team In Training raises money for Lymphoma and Leukemia research, both devastating forms of cancer, and I’m going to give back a little by hosting a fundraiser here in Indy the month of August before I head north and ride the Century with the team. I’ll update details about this fundraiser and ride as everything develops.