If the 30+ minute conversation I had with a lady tonight was the reason I got metastatic melanoma, it was worth everything I’ve gone through.
The lady I talked with tonight has had several cancer diagnoses and was told her cancer is terminal. She’s already lived beyond what they first told her and she’s not sad about the prognosis, but as we talked, I watched hope light in her face.
She shared her story. I shared mine. She told me she wished she had started a fitness journey with her first diagnosis years ago. (She’s part of the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program. Great program!) She doesn’t like the weight she’s at now, but is going through treatment and doctors tell her to not worry about her weight.
I told her what I did after my diagnosis – taking control of the things I could that might help in this battle – diet, exercise, rest, stress. I told her focus on being active and eating healthy and everything else will fall into place.
It’s true. Being active helps us sleep better, helps us function easier, helps us feel better overall. And even if her time is limited as the doctors say, isn’t making each day the best, most enjoyable day it can be, worthwhile?
I looked at her and I saw someone who could prove them wrong. That’s what I encouraged her to do – prove every doctor wrong. In the process she will make each day the best it can be, and that’s the most we can ask out of life.
Even before I talked with her alone at the end of class, I watched how the group of 11 hung on every word I said – because I have walked the walk they are taking now. And I’m still walking, still running, still exercising, still not giving up. Even as our time for the night was over, they seemed to want to listen and I wanted to fill that cup as best I could. As I watched their gazes hang on me, I couldn’t help but want to fuel their desire to beat this horrible disease.
There was the young father with colon cancer. His gaze never seemed to leave my face. Inside, I knew what he was feeling. He has young children. It doesn’t take much to understand that.
There is the woman with breast cancer that just had the lymphedema relieved by her physical therapist and has better range of motion and has seen the swelling go down in her arm so she doesn’t have to wear a compression sleeve.
There is the women whose balance is off and marvels at how I can stand on one leg.
I challenge all of them to keep trying and some day, they too, will succeed.
Success for them may come in many levels – walking the stairs with ease, doing daily functional activities without getting tired, running a 5K faster, proving every doctor wrong.
Never have I believed in people more than the cancer patients I come into contact with through my different fitness groups. Because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
As I talked with this lady tonight, she said that for a while, she had drive, motivation, to go out and do things – it almost sounded like a bucket list type of drive – but recently, that drive had diminished. Everything she really wanted to do before she died was too expensive. I reminded her there is untold value to small things in life.
These are the types of conversations cancer patients can have with each other, because we know what it is like. We are walking the walk.
You see, God seems to have this weird way of placing us where we need to be, but if we chose our own path, we’d never reach our full potential. I know I wouldn’t have.
Given the choice I wouldn’t have said, “Oh yeah, give me one dose of melanoma – make it metastatic in the lymph nodes while you’re at it.” Who the hell would ever ask for that because I clearly remember the dread that coursed through my body when I heard those words.
But God knew better. He knew I would be here, in front of this LIVESTRONG group, in front of the Beat Cancer Boot Camp group, in front of every fitness class I teach. I wouldn’t be here if I never had cancer. I couldn’t be a role model. I couldn’t be an inspiration. Not that I think I am, but it kind of seems to happen that way.
As I wipe a tear from my eye, I wipe away the irony that life reaches its highest potential when you are challenged the most – like a diamond.
So to all cancer patients I say – Shine! To anyone going through adversity of any kind – Shine!