We passed acres of greenhouse plants growing under their white domes, soon ready to be revealed. We passed over bridges that carried us across swollen brooks from the melted snow - some areas babbled while others were still frozen in a barely-there layer of ice. We passed decrepit barns and thin, stoic birch trees.
We ran North toward Mass and this section of the trail was very quiet. It gave me the freedom to sing out loud with only the birds to wince at me. A solid mix of Dave Matthews Band, Tom Petty, Jack Johnson and Kings of Leon provided the perfect soundtrack to a perfect afternoon.
My legs and lungs felt strong is ever - stronger than they've felt in a very long time. To the delight of Sammy, who loathes having to keep at leash length on my walking pace, I ran more than I have in a year - alternating with walk periods - for five miles. It felt so good to feel like everything was together again - mind, body, spirit. My cancer treatments make it rare for it all to sync up, usually one piece of me is lagging behind. But today, we were one.
In Lance Armstrong's memoir, he recalls another cancer patient who wrote him a letter when he was first diagnosed. In it he wrote: "You don't know it yet, but we are the lucky ones." It's so true. Though there are the really dark days when I get angry and I get frustrated and I feel like my body is giving up on me, they're balanced by days like today filled with deep happiness and deep appreciation of and respect for life and everything in it.
People often say that this is just a bump in the road and that it'll soon be forgotten when it's all over and I can get back to living my life. But this is my life and though it may not be a life that I ever imagined, it's mine, and I embrace that and I'm living fully in every moment of it. Will I look back on the moments of pain, hurt, and helplessness with longing and fond memories? No, of course not. But everything I am going through right now is shaping me for the rest of my life. I've watched this TED talk by Aimee Mullins several times over and think she nails the essence of dealing with any kind of adversity. As she paraphrases Darwin, "It's not the strongest or the most intelligent of species that survives, it's the one that's able to adapt." Having gone through the diagnosis, the chemo treatments, the side effects, the celebration of remission once before, I've certainly learned to adapt, and that's what's been carrying me through this second round with Hodgkin's. Embrace and adapt to what life hands you or die. To me, it's that black and white. You manifest your own destiny, to quote Garth Stein. There is no time for excuses, only time to make the most of what you're given. And if you want to make something happen, make it happen.
Battling cancer isn't something that I ever want to forget. It's facing the adversity it poses that has taught me so much about myself, about my relationships with others, and has opened so many doors for me. I have a newfound self-love and am in awe at the capabilities of my body, of modern medicine, and most importantly of the human power of empathy and love. Having cancer has brought me closer to so many people, it's taught me new and amazing things about people I've known forever, and it's introduced me to strangers that have stepped into my life at this crucial time that I would not have otherwise had the honor to meet.
I don't pity myself. I don't feel sorry for myself. I feel so lucky that I am able to feel things so deeply - whether it's pain, fear, or love, and that I have become so familiar with this strength inside of me. It's always been there, but now I know just where to look to draw upon it and I have the confidence to know that it will rise to meet any challenge.