Sunday, June 5, 2011
Here's the big update: The run is DONE! Today is my official 5-year cancerversary, but I ran my commemorative half marathon last weekend, and I consider it a success. I arrived in Boston after a traffic-less four hour drive. As I drove, I considered what the weekend meant, what it represented for me. The more I thought about it, the clearer it became.
Just like a song gets stuck in your head when you hear it too much, there are phrases that get stuck in mine when the sentiment resonates strongly with what I'm feeling. When I was first diagnosed, the phrase that kept replaying in my mind was "I feel robbed of my invincibility." Meaning that I felt a sense of great loss for the endless sea of possibilities that previously stretched before me. I feared a loss of the following when I found out I had cancer: my big plans for getting married in a few years, having a family some day, graduating from college and beginning a career- even the possibility of retiring and growing old- all were reduced to the hope of living to see my college graduation in eleven months. I contemplated whether I would stay in school if I learned I might not live far beyond that day. I wondered what the lives of those around me would look like if I were gone. Robbed of my invincibility. Those words echoed in my head for days.
As I drove North toward Boston, that familiar phrase I couldn't get out of my head began to morph into something else, and by the time we drove past Fenway, a new concept was resonating inside me: taking back my invincibility.
It seems so clear that this is what I have been working toward for the last five years. I lost so much when I got cancer; I gave up a year of my life to a questionable treatment in the hope that the torture I endured would somehow serve as penance and earn me more years to live. I spent several years after I completed treatment trying to figure out why I didn't feel well, despite being told I should be fine. I worked to get my body healthy and my heart healed from the loss of relationships I valued. I was determined not to let my past mar my future. Running 13.1 miles through the streets of Boston seemed to cement in my mind that I have completed the transformation.
Because what I realized last weekend was that I have done all of these things, and more. It seems I have earned my invincibility back. It seems that way. But in reality, I don't believe I could possibly earn back my invincibility.
The truth is, I lost a lot when I got cancer, but my invincibility wasn't one of those things. I was never invincible before I got cancer; I didn't become invincible until I fought cancer. When I decided I was going to fight, that's when I started to become invincible.
When I had three surgeries less than a month apart from one another, I became invincible.
When I went to the hospital alone five days a week for chemo, I became invincible.
When I learned how to inject the chemo at home, and did it three times a week for the next eleven months, I became invincible.
When I flew across the country to Montana in the dead of winter to meet other cancer patients my age, I became invincible.
When I decided I needed to write about my experience, I became invincible.
When I decided I needed to run, I became invincible.
Logically, I understand that no one is invincible. But to me, feeling invincible means I know, with certainty, that I can do absolutely anything. If I commit to something, anything- Running a race, earning a masters degree, writing a memoir- I can, and will do it. It's the best feeling in the world.
Cancer helped me to find my invincibility, and it is with sincerity that I hope you find yours. Take on a challenge, make a commitment, take a stand. Believe. You are invincible too, you just don't know it yet.
Hope, Love, Run!