The Hard Pill

To be clear, I know this is a hyperbole, but I am starting to feel a little bit like Job. And before you jump down my throat, I do realize that my situation is not remotely as dire as his. But I can’t help but feel like I’m being tested. Every time that I feel like things are settling, every time I start to feel a little bit happy or at least that life is under control – wham. Something "challenging" happens. And I’m getting just a wee bit tired of people telling me that my body is sending a message or teaching me a lesson. How many life lessons is one person meant to learn? (My son’s answer: infinity!! Wise kid.)

Now, I am not starting a “woe is me” post, don’t worry. Because maybe that is just life. Maybe these things happen so I will never run out of stuff to write about. Maybe it’s nothing special to me and all these hiccups (and explosions) are to be expected. Everyone has upheavals and illness and injuries to deal with. I'm nothing special. I've started to feel like cancer is a normal part of everyone's life - until I tell my story to someone new and they are utterly shocked. And when friends start saying, “Wow, you have the worst luck!” And, “I can’t believe that happened to you again!” And, “You need a break, lady!” Then you start to wonder if it is indeed you, and not life, that is attracting calamity.

Example number one: at the end of April, I was finally feeling like I had things on track. My parenting was improving (no more yelling), my kids were healthy, my professional life was going well, my business was growing and I had planned to use my “extra” time in the first few weeks of May to finally set up a proper website (you thought I didn’t know that I need a proper non-blogspot website, didn’t you? Well, I know).

My first mistake? Looking at my calendar and thinking I’d have “extra time.” You moms out there know that is code for the universe to give you a sick or injured child, right? Never even think it.

I went to pick up my daughter from her part-time daycare and allowed her and my son to jump on the trampoline while I spoke to our lovely daycare provider (you can see where this is going). Well, there is a reason why gymnastics centres only allow one kid at a time on trampolines – you ER nurses know what I mean. There I was, happily chatting, when…BAM. A fall, a shriek, a trip to the children’s hospital, a fractured tibia, and a thigh-to-toe cast. Fantastic.

So, as you likely can guess, my “extra time” was completely sucked up with doctor’s visits and carrying my broken baby around, as she certainly could not go to daycare or anywhere else. But, as with all calamities, there is usually some sort of upside. I had more quiet time with my daughter, and I had more rest, as I had to skip those second workouts that I try to squeeze in.

And children are incredibly resilient. Ten days later she got a weight-bearing cast, and within a few days she was up and walking on it. Dancing, even. I had to plead with her to please not jump on her casted leg.

Then I went to Las Vegas. Yes, I gleefully kissed my family goodbye to have three days with friends at a work conference in Sin City. The pool and sun and friends and training were all amazing, and I came back inspired, though definitely not rested, to jump into life full-force (as if I ever do anything else).

Example number two: exactly five days after my happy return from Vegas, I started to get a pain in my neck. I thought it was from swimming, so I merrily continued on. I did a ninety-minute trail run, my neck sore but my legs strong, and the next day I did a two hour bike ride followed by a twenty minute run (the famed triathlete “brick” workout – because that’s what you feel like afterwards). That night I noticed a rash on my neck – I thought it was from the heat of my magic bag and ignored it. The day after that was my rest day, but we decided to do a bunch of digging and gardening, so it was not exactly “restful.” My neck was getting increasingly sore and that’s when I noticed the blisters. Somehow I immediately knew.

Shingles.

The dreaded adult version of chicken pox. If you’ve had it, you know that the pain is some sort of cross between spikes being jammed into your body and someone holding a lighter to your skin. I have a really high pain threshold and I am still taking the strongest pain medication they can give me. (So if this post makes no sense, just blame the drugs.)

The irony of this tale is that I’d been on antivirals to prevent shingles for nearly two years. I just stopped taking them two weeks ago, against advice from my transplant doctor. He said I was free to stop taking them at any time, but he’d recommend I stay on them indefinitely. I figured it was nearly two years post transplant, so my immune system should be rocking, and I didn’t want to take any medication “indefinitely.” Like many, many other things in life, I was so very wrong.

Am I sick of being knocked down? Of course! I have my first running race this weekend and have no idea if I will be at the start line. I am tired of always having something to “fight,” of always pulling myself up and staying positive, of always digging deep to “rally” against whatever is bringing me down.

But am I angry about it? Not really. It seems like a perfectly logical consequence to my own actions – training hard, going off the prophylactic medication, not enough yoga, and not enough sleep.

The bigger question is: am I going to do anything differently? As much as I want to inspire, as much as I want to achieve, it’s high time to recognize that I just cannot perform at the same level that I used to.

This is a hard pill. I am not the athlete I once was. I may never be. And I might just have to be okay with that.

So here is what I’ve decided. I might not be what I want to be, but if one person, just one person with a cancer battle or other life struggle, reads my story and is inspired not to give up because I didn’t, then it will all have been worth it. Right?

As for today, I’m just going back to bed.

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