“It must feel terrible being confined by your own body.”
I couldn’t find the words to put it so succinctly, but that was it. She expressed it exactly.
It feels terrible…to have a physical force acting back upon you. That physical force being your own body, the one thing that is supposed to be on your side, working with you. But it’s not. Just over a year ago this was not the case. My body was everything. It was the realm I lived in, the existence I concentrated on, the other teammate helping me get where I wanted to go in a way I never had before. Where I once concentrated on so many cerebral pursuits, now I was consumed by the physical world, not giving so much attention to shifting concepts of morality, abstract constructs, maybes and might be’s, but feeling what can be felt. I measured success by very definitive and rigid standards applied to physical actions. I built physical strength and lived in physical worlds. I chose forests over philosophical essays. Built capillaries instead of capital.
What could be known, could be felt, could be experienced is all that mattered. And living by this new consideration was serving me quite well. Success was measured in minutes and seconds. Larger lungs and stronger hearts. Podiums. Progression. New frontiers of my body’s capabilities.
Until I wasn’t. Until cancer….and then chemo.
Now I’m left trying to reconcile this new physical existence, where I simply can’t progress like I want to, like I’ve learned to, like I know how. I can’t build muscle without it breaking back down. I can’t breathe deeper and deeper, but am left sucking in air that feels thinned and sensing my body grasping for more. I can’t run without great preparation and consideration of my physical abilities. My feet are in constant pain, as if someone has snuck sandpaper into the soles of my shoes and each morning my feet are worn raw from the friction. My hands look as if they have swollen again and again, stretching the skin at my fingertips like over-inflated balloons. The creases in my fingers and hands dry and crack, opening wounds that stare back at me like reddened eyes, bleeding out at their worst moments. The passages in my nose wear thin in the cold and shock me with a deep red expulsion every morning, reminding me that no matter how I look on the outside, something is dying within. And then there is the cold, working in concert with the chemotherapy, and ruining the ease and comfort I seek throughout the day. A side effect being of great temperature sensitivity, I can’t so much as sit around too long in any environment under 70 degrees or else the cooling effect filters into my hands and sends what feels like electrical shocks into my fingers with every movement. Let the cold sit for too long and an anxiety builds that sends me quickly packing and running out to the car for a desperate warmth. Eating is no relief. When I can actually work through the subtle, but persistent, nausea I often go long periods without food, then am suddenly hit by a weakness that demands sustenance, but I then have difficulty not eating too quickly out of hunger, sending a different sort of food-induced nausea into my system. It’s only after the long period of slowed digestion do I experience some sort of calm and comfort, only to start the process again.
It is wearing on me. Slowly but surely, it is wearing on me.
It has been 9 of 12 scheduled treatments and though my body’s ability to fight through this slow deterioration continues to amaze me, building after breaking, the accumulation of this experience on my mental state isn’t so easily repaired. I’m tired of breaking down and not being able to build back up. I push and it pushes back even harder now. My days of running 3 to 4 days consistently are now broken into one day on/one day off…if I’m lucky. I go one day on and 2 to 3 days off sometimes. My feet give me little relief and though I experience moments of inspiration that compel me to knock out 10 or so miles, I’m often relegated to 5 tops. That doesn’t sit well with me.
I simply feel confined by my own body. It feels terrible.
There is a great power in my physical self, that in the past has allowed me to accomplish things others simply can not, and even today allows me to work through this experience in ways that others can not. That is not lost on me. I have a genetic fortune, honed and maximized through an obsessive drive…and to have that fortune wither away, put up against a chemical enemy more powerful than an inspired mind, feels absolutely terrible. My body is supposed to be on my side, allowing me to live a life as passionate and free as I possibly can, but right now it is only confining, keeping me from achieving utopian goals, or simply experiencing the life I’ve tried to create to this point.
That feels terrible. That is my present.
But…but all is not lost. This is my present, but the future is still unwritten. I do recognize that although I am confined by my body, it is the chemicals that flood it that are truly to blame, and those chemicals aren’t forever. They can’t be. For better or for worse, they are temporary. I know this and with my 10th scheduled treatment coming on Xmas Eve, I can see a perceived, potential end to this flooding…this deterioration…this confinement.
Right now, this feels terrible. Right NOW, this is my present.
But I still have the potential of my future….(post to come next)