Hair’s To A Better Year

20140216_163504Here I am in all my 2014 glory. Post-chemo, post-radiation, post-double mastectomy. My hair has come back in silvery gray with a lot more curl than it used to have. But you’ll never hear me complain. Any hair is good  hair. I’m not sure if I’m going to be staying gray for much longer. I get a lot of compliments on the color, but I’m just feeling a tad too young to be permanently gray.

This picture was taken yesterday after I completed my first race since enduring 9 months of breast cancer treatment. It’s called the Frostbite 5K, and it was also the first race I ever attempted, in 2011. My time in that race was 32:25, and I was very excited, as that was much faster than my practice runs had been.

Yesterday, I had a bad cold and cough and struggled to breathe well. I only found out last week that they had changed the course of this race to include more than a mile up a steep mountain road. I thought about backing out and waiting for the next 5K to come around, but I wouldn’t let myself give up that easily. I felt the absurdity of the situation and did it anyway. If worse came to worse, I could walk part of the way.

So how did my great adventure turn out? I’m proud to say that I beat that original time by 8 seconds, 32:17, in spite of the steep climb and the snot rags in my waistband. I placed 4th in my age group. Not bad for a puny, post-cancer girl! So am I satisfied now to hang up my running shoes and be happy in the knowledge that I can still run a race after all that’s happened? Really? You know me better than that. I left the venue thinking, “Now all I have to do is shave 90 seconds off that time and I can win a medal.” Game on.

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The Love I Never Expected

80’S CANCER JAM OF THE DAY:

I know this is going to seem strange to some of you, but others will have an immediate spark of recognition, perhaps nodding your head or even shedding a tear as you see yourself in what I am about to write.

Breast cancer has certainly brought a lot of changes into my life. Most of them have been unwelcome and frightening, forcing me to find strength I never knew I had in the face of my own mortality. Yet, it hasn’t all been negative.

Being stripped of my comfortable outward identity has forced me to relate in a more raw, honest way with others, as I described in “Can Breast Cancer Make You More Beautiful?”. Having this disease has given me the opportunity to meet and interact with a host of Earth angels who have restored my faith in humanity. And now, the most unexpected thing has happened. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been having what could almost be described as an out-of-body experience.

As I ran along a wooded path yesterday, I held back sobs. I felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation for my body as it chugged along for 3 miles, doing what I asked of it once again despite the suffering it has endured. I could almost hear a small voice begin to speak.

“I couldn’t help it that this happened, you know. I tried so hard to keep the cancer away. I fought so long and so hard, but I got too tired. It’s not my fault. I don’t understand why you keep letting them hurt me. Please let it be done. Don’t let them burn me. I’m feeling so much better and stronger now. Please protect me.”

It nearly took my breath as I listened. My heart ached. I felt the guilt of a mother who holds her child down while a wound is stitched. Tears stream down her face as her child’s eyes beg the question, “Why are you doing this to me?”

“It’s for your own good, to make you better” I thought. “What else can I do? It’s all so confusing and the choices are terrible. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

In that moment, I felt a fiercely protective love. For the first time in my life, I cherished myself like a toddler with bouncing golden curls and huge, trusting blue eyes. I vowed to spoil myself and show my tremendous appreciation for the body and soul that have bounced back with relentless courage and spirit after each insult.

As I finished my run, I said to that little voice, “I love you. You are my hero.”