Kicking Cancer’s Butt
The world is full of inspirational stories. Across the globe, people are going through horrible ordeals and coming out on the other side stronger, more confident, and still smiling. I’ve always wondered how they do it. How do you keep smiling while the world takes a crap on your life for no good reason? Often people who have exhibited such strength seem to say something along the lines of: “I had a choice to make. I chose to live.”
This September, having just learned of my diagnosis of cervical cancer, I sat sobbing in a parking lot, wondering how to be one of those people. I was intimately familiar with what lay ahead for me; my cousin survived this disease five years ago with far more grace than I felt capable of mustering. Now it was my turn to choose life. Was it really that simple?
A few short hours later I found myself at my CrossFit box, gathering my composure to coach and work out, because that’s what I’d planned to do; and I didn’t feel like crying anymore. It was a surreal experience, watching everyone around me carry on as though their world hadn’t just stopped spinning . . . because for them, it hadn’t. I have a new appreciation for this: you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Be kind, always.
Later, I wrote a blog post to myself:
CrossFit has trained me to accept what I can’t control. I don’t pick the daily WOD, I don’t influence who else shows up to compete, and I certainly can’t do much about their performance and eventual score. . .
I am entirely in charge of my own actions and attitude. I can’t control what the treatment will do to my body, but I can do my best to prepare it with good food and sleep, and I can manage my stress by staying as positive as possible.
I am approaching this cancer as I would approach a heavy bar; determined, ready, and convinced that it will go overhead, because I trust that I have trained sufficiently. I know that my body is in the best shape it’s ever been in, and I trust that CrossFit and Paleo have made my body as strong as it possibly can be.
Sitting in the parking lot, I wasn’t sure if I could be one of those strong people that I respect so much. I wrote the blog post to convince myself that I could be, desperately hoping that it was true. I was aiming just to pull myself together and ended up inspiring others. The response has been overwhelming. In what became a beautiful positive feedback loop, the belief of others empowered me, and gave me the courage to believe in my own words.
The conviction I wrote of in that post has not been easy to maintain. I’ve found myself sobbing in the back lot more than once over double-unders, loss, and difficult decisions. But I also feel certain that I could not have written that post three years ago; CrossFit, and the people I have met along the way, have shaped the journey I am now facing and ultimately, I believe, will determine its outcome for the better.
One month into treatment, my daily dose of lemons-turned-lemonade seems to be working (I’m actually pumped to pull off a legit G.I. Jane Halloween costume. Hair loss ain’t no thang!) The choice is a daily one. It isn’t easy, but it is simple: just live.