Living with purpose

Long before I knew I would be battling cancer, I heard about Beat Cancer Boot Camp. I remember thinking how cool boot camp would be, but I was glad I didn’t qualify for this particular one. Be careful what you wish for.

When I was going through physical therapy after my surgery, I noticed a pamphlet in my therapist’s office – for Beat Cancer Boot Camp. My physical therapist, Colleen Sonderman, brought the boot camp, which was founded in Tucson, Arizona, to Wisconsin a couple of years ago. Even though I was in fairly good physical condition despite recovering from surgery, I joined. It’s the only time in my life I’ve considered wearing camo clothing.

Exercise wasn’t a foreign land to me, but since surgery, I discovered the importance of total-body fitness, of gaining strength, both physically and mentally.┬áLike any boot camp, the instructors push us and that’s exactly what I wanted. But unlike other boot camps, that push is followed by a reminder that this is our workout and each of us determines our own level of difficulty for each exercise. “Listen to your body,” became the thread of each session. It was a message I needed to hear often since I tend to push myself too hard, and going through treatment is not a time for that I quickly learned.

I joined boot camp to gain strength. I joined for camaraderie. I joined for survival. However, I never expected one lesson from camp.

Along with reminders to listen to our bodies as we pushed as far as we dare, came the message – do everything with purpose. Walk with purpose. Jump with purpose. Exercise with purpose. Rest with purpose. Live with purpose. “People are counting on you,” the instructor said.

It’s one of the biggest messages I’ve taken from the camp.

I used to be a pro at multi-tasking. Often I would grab bites of meals between doing other tasks to cram more into my already packed day. However, when you are flat on your back with fatigue from treatment, life takes on a new purpose. I learned to rest with purpose because I know it is vital to my energy level and to my survival. No longer do I see it as a sign of laziness. I see it as a necessity for longevity.

Now I look forward to nights when I can come home, sit quietly with a glass of wine and enjoy my food. Each bite has become a treat to savor. Exercise holds more purpose than ever before as I focus on each set of muscles that will keep me strong for running and for the fight of my life.

Living with purpose makes the fall colors brighter, soft blankets warmer, a good book more delightful, visits with friends more heart-warming and every minute with family a thousand times more precious.

Cancer may rob us of many things, but it brings a clarity and purpose many would not achieve on their own. I would trade this diagnosis for anything, but not the lessons it brought along the way. Living with purpose opened my eyes and opened my heart. I will never be the same – for that I am truly blessed.