Hi Everyone! I want to share with you a very personal story about a health challenge – which we all face inevitably, and how exercise and a positive attitude helped me navigate through.
In March of 2017, my husband and I were eagerly looking forward to a move from New Mexico to West Virginia. I was excited about the prospect of getting my personal training business and running career going again in an area that was beautiful, challenging and supportive. (cue John Denver belting out Country Roads!)
And in total accordance with the old saying – “When man (and woman) makes plans, the gods laugh,” I was diagnosed with breast cancer a mere three weeks before our scheduled move. And of course, with a total sense of logic, my primary concern was not that I had cancer, but how the diagnosis would affect our move and my running comeback. Talk about about priorities, right?
After a quickly-scheduled and successful surgery, we hit the road with three cats and as much optimism as we could muster. Our main task once we arrived in WV was to meet with our new oncologist and schedule chemotherapy treatments. Still in semi-shock over the pace of developments, I made a promise to myself that throughout the process, I would get out and move whenever I could, whether it be walking, running, climbing stairs, etc. Part of my identity is my running and I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of giving that up. I also have a strong internalized belief in the healing power of exercise and positive thinking. That belief was about to be put to the test.
Barely a week after we arrived, I heard about the Women’s Distance Festival 5K in Frederick MD, scheduled for the first weekend in August. I had just started my chemotherapy and I immediately set myself the goal of running, jogging and walking my way through this race.
So on Saturday August 5, 2017 I stood among a group of nearly 400 women at the starting line of the WDF 5K. I was only three weeks into my chemo, and although I was feeling some side affects i.e. fatigue and achiness in the joints, I felt determined to give it a go. It was important to be able to prove to myself that I could still enjoy a sense of movement. The treatments were not going to stop me. I felt confident that my residual fitness level was still good enough to pull me thorough. I need to make a statement to myself. Although I struggled a bit, I drew strength from all the other women around me. I finished feeling good about myself and my ability to get through my chemo. The race wasn’t easy, but it was so worth it.
Fast forward a full year, to Saturday August 4, 2018. I was now a mere three weeks out from my final chemo treatment as I lined up once again at the starting line of the WDF 5K. After a full year of treatments, and adjusting to a new body and the affects that chemo had on it, it was again important for me to run this race to prove to myself that after everything I’d gone through, I was still strong, I was still a runner and I could still do this. It was a hot humid morning, and sometimes I felt like I was running in quicksand. But once again I drew strength and encouragement from the women around me, and I crossed the finish line and celebrated!
Fast forward once again to Saturday August 3, 2019. Now, a full year removed from my chemotherapy treatments, I toed the starting line of the WDF 5K for a third time, ready to see where I stood, after having battled and survived the most serious threat to my health I’d ever faced. A full year of adjusting to the new “normal” of my body, which included loss of fitness and endurance, and the weakening of my self image as an indestructible athlete, had left me feeling both grateful and a bit wary.
In the end I can testify that my unwillingness to give up the gift of exercise and movement played a tremendous role in my recovery. There were certainly many days where my treatments had left me weakened and discouraged. But I had vowed to take each day one at a time. I took what I could. Instead of conceding the pleasures I’d experienced as a runner, I discovered that getting out on the roads for a jog or a walk around the neighborhood allowed me to reconnect with my true self. Upon crossing the finish line for the third time in a race that has become an annual touchstone event for me, I felt a sense of accomplishment that far exceeded what I had felt after running most of my races in my previous experiences. I have a new appreciation of just how much the body and spirit are intertwined.
If you have a story, of personal challenge that you would like to share, please feel free to email me. I’d love to hear your experiences. All communications remain confidential.
with love and encouragement,