Friday, July 16, 2010

#228: What Keeps Your Heart Beating?

I finished Lance Armstrong's book today. It's given me a lot to think about. What is the purpose of cancer? How will it change me? What will I do with the rest of my life, once this part of the battle is over? Maybe more important than any of those, how do I hold on to what really matters, now that I've been given a second chance at life?

This is all a little premature, I guess. I do have four more radiation treatments left, then a year before I can be declared "cancer free," but it does feel as if something is coming to a close in the next few days.

He used the phrase "cancer fighter" to describe first a little child he met, then himself. I like that. I will fight the cancer in me, and I have an obligation to the people who come after me to fight for them, too. Maybe that will mean raising money. Maybe giving motivational speeches or rides to the grocery store. But somehow, I need to repay the kindness that has been shown me - the kindness that has saved my life.

There are two things in my life that I love more than anything - my wife and the theatre. I have devoted far too much of myself to other things in the past few years. Things I guess I thought I should. Being good at jobs. Being a good provider. Being a good Christian. Now I look back, I'm not sure what any of those things means. I know I want to love my wife, and I want to make theatre. That's who I really am, and it's probably the best way to do all those other things, too.

The thing is, Lance Armstrong's journey back to life is still going on, even after all those Tour victories, all these years. My own journey back is just beginning. I know now that it will never be over. No matter what the CT scans say. No matter if I spend the next twenty years cancer free or the next twenty weeks waiting to die, my journey goes on. So does yours. I know what it took to make me change course. I wish there were some way to convince folks that they don't have to wait for cancer to decide to start living. It took a death sentence to get my attention. The man gave me even odds that I would not live to be 55. I decided to take the bet. I decided to start living that day.

Will I succeed? Depends what you mean. If success means outliving that number, well yeah, I'm gonna do that. But that isn't really success, not to me. The question is will I be really alive for the rest of my days? No matter how many there are. That will be the test of my success. Every day that I'm as alive as I can be will be a success. That's how I'll know I've beaten cancer. Not just if my heart keeps beating, but why.

I did something that surprised me today. I dug out the resistance bands. It's pretty hot for walking, and my throat is pretty gummy for breathing hard, so I tried another way to move. I did some upper body exercises, curls and presses and things. Nothing strenuous. Just enough to get my heart pumping a little. Mrs P has pointed out that my weight is just about where it was when I was performing at my best back before I lost my job. I don't pretend that my fitness is back there yet. I can't squat my weight or run a 5K just yet, but I am a lot closer to the size I need to be than I was before I got sick. Who knows. Maybe it won't be long before Fat Man Running is an exercise blog again. That will be great.

But it won't be a blog about losing weight. It will be a blog about gaining life.

Just like it should have been all along.



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