I feel incredibly driven right now. Motivated. Inspired. As if juiced on shots of espresso coupled with bars of dark chocolate, I am compelled to take on the world…so to speak. But this worries me.
It worries me because I know the drive isn’t rooted entirely in a grounded perspective, but brought about by my somewhat desperate circumstance of living in limbo, not entirely sure if this cancer story has a triumphant end, complete with comeback story and all that, or gets cut short, an unfulfilled conclusion. It worries me because it does feel desperate to an extent, like I’m taking the coupling of this downtime and physical ability to make the most of it….just in case….just in case I can’t down the line.
No regrets, ya know? YOLO. (sorry, I’m on vacation at a beach)
Admittedly, part of this is the restlessness I feel with an abruptly halted life – where I’m unable to work a consistent job that would be interrupted by physical fatigue, bouts of pain, emotional stress, chemotherapy treatments, doctor’s appointments, and an upcoming surgery – and so this blank slate in front of me begs to be filled, with anything that gives me a sense of purpose. Where running once drew onto that slate at least once a day, leaving me with a sense of accomplishment at the end of every day no matter what else occurred, now I’m left wandering, often without a long-term purpose and so I feel driven to fill that space. I NEED that goal seeking, that sense of accomplishment, no matter how short term. That restlessness has me planning and scheming, trying to make the most of my days.
To that end I’ve planned a backpacking trip outside Asheville, North Carolina during the month of August. I’ve registered for a Century ride in Wisconsin with Team In Training (A cancer research fundraising organization) in September. And I want to do everything else….all the things. All. Of. Them.
I want to take the backpacking trip and complete the Century for various personal and external reasons, but everything else that enters my headspace and goes swimming around gets trapped in that more desperate space in my head, where a voice speaks quite pointedly to me.
It whispers…or more YELLS…”This could be it. This truly could be it! Your cancer may be dying…or it may not, but until you know for sure how this story ends, you better take advantage of every moment you have to make the most of it, because the last thing you want is a personal eulogy filled with last moment regrets!” It screams desperately.
Which, admittedly, feels a little weird, because I feel the furthest thing from dying. It’s not that I don’t feel the cancer, as I certainly do, but I’m getting by just fine despite it’s presence inside me, and so to concern myself with aspects of dying seems a little premature and exaggerated. That’s not the point though. The point is that it’s there and survival rates are never 100%. To be honest, I don’t know mine…the survival rate of my specific type of cancer, but I do know cancers are never 100%. Some are 80%. Some are 50%. Some are much, much worse. And until I’m told that my cancer is dying and that things are looking pretty damn good, I can’t help but feel a very immediate and continuous sense of desperation. I can’t help but feel driven to do all the things, to live the life I desire if typical obstacles didn’t stand in my way, to fill each day and take each opportunity to engage with my physical self. This is what matters to me. And so desperate motive or not, I’m going to take advantage of it.
Then today I rode my bike down the coast, pushing through the headwind on the way out and then riding the tailwind on the way back like I had sprouted wings. The rock barriers held back the sea and blew past me as one blurred unit. I rode hard up each bridge incline and even harder going down the other side. The ocean breeze was warmed by the sun, but cooled on my skin as I cut through the air. Off to my right I caught a shimmer on the surface of the water and looked over to view an expanse of various shades of blue, sliced through by the bright orange sun…and I felt incredibly small. I could see for miles. Miles of but a few elements. Water. Sky. Sun. And those miles continued past my physical abilities, all the way to the other side of the ocean…somewhere…and I continued pedaling on a blackened strip of asphalt, mostly alone. I was small. So small in the expanse of the world, a mere blip, or not even, on the radar of existence. And I realized inside me was another ocean, with another seemingly limitless expanse, and microscopic cells filled with an intense killing power.
And somehow nothing mattered so greatly anymore….in the most liberating sense imaginable. Those tiny cells inside my tiny body riding next to a tiny ocean on a tiny planet in a tiny universe cradled by another tiny, incomprehensible existence that makes up the ever growing not at all tiny everything…and suddenly my cancer was just kinda ridiculous. And the voice of my desperation, of my (potential) dying process (and living process) was quieted.
It’s not necessary to do all the things. It’s not necessary to be so concerned about missed opportunities, lessened moments and days of rest, but it does not mean one gives up either and doesn’t make the attempts, take advantage of the open space and opportunistic moments, because again, that is what matters to me. I don’t want to live my life as if I’m dying. I don’t want that sense of desperation dictating my actions. I want to live actively and live well because doing so is worth it for it’s own sake, no matter our relatively meaningless place in the expanse of existence, no matter what hardships befall our bodies. I want to live for the sake of living…not because cancer is calling the shots.
So there is the very real potential that my body is slowly dying, or being killed if you will, but I’m not going to succumb to the desperation of that potential. Because there is also the very real potential that my body is living again, killing the cancer inside of me and slowly regenerating back to it’s normative, powerful state. For now desperation can wait. Maybe it’s day will come, but for now, I’m going to live all out for the sake of living all out, as we should every chance we can create for ourselves, cancer or no cancer.
See you on the trails of the AT and the roads of Wisconsin.