Today was the second day running in my new running shoes. I had worn my others out in seven months. Seven months. I could not believe I had ran so much in those months that I had to buy new ones. I am proud of that because it means I have returned to my pre-breast cancer diagnosis fitness level. I am back to running four miles, four days per week.
And, it feels amazing!
Running has been a part of my life for so long. It has helped me through so many things. When I would come home stressed from a day at work, I put on my running shoes and hit the pavement. When I was working out a problem in head, I put on my running shoes and hit the pavement. Once I got back to my place after the run, I had a solution — or at least I realized the problem or the stress was not anything to worry about.
And, when I wanted to simply enjoy the sunshine and the views of the lake while getting an endorphin high I put on my running shoes and hit the pavement. Really, the weather didn't matter. I've run in snow, rain and wind. All that mattered was I got out there and enjoyed the mental health breath. Running made me feel alive.
That's why it was so hard to be sidelined during active treatment for cancer. i heard about people who ran during chemo and for a fleeting moment wondered if my lack of energy to run meant that I was not strong enough. Then, I realized healing was the most important thing in my life at that time. And, I would not run without my doctor's clearance to do so.
I asked for and received that clearance when I was in my final weeks of chemo. I was so excited to hit the pavement! My body quickly showed me just how out of shape it was. I could barely run/walk one mile. It was so depressing. This had been such a part of my life pre-chemo, and it showed me once again that I was not in control of my life. My body was not where I wanted or expected it to be. I thought I could get through at least one mile of solid running. I was wrong.
In reality, the chemo had broken down my muscles. But, that is what it is supposed to do. It kills cells. It kills cancer cells. And, in the meantime, it does not discriminate which cells it kills. I knew that my weakened body was a part of the process – something that I was grateful for, as it saved my life (in addition to surgery to remove my tumor and radiation to zap away any remaining cancer cells).
The year after active treatment – I say active treatment because I will be on medication to prevent a recurrence for the next five or 10 years – I focused on reconstructive surgery. I had a total of three surgeries, and one more is to come this year. I am so sick of surgery, but it is part of the process. And, I am grateful for the doctors who help me become whole again.
But that year of surgery meant starting to run, then being sidelined for one month to recover. Now that I have had a break in surgeries, I took that as a good reason to get out and run once again. I started slow, and built up my mileage. Bit by bit, I realized I could go longer distances and I felt energized rather than tired after running my initial distance. I was gaining endurance and strength.
I slowly built up to running four miles, four days per week. I am so grateful to be back to where I was before cancer. It means I can rebuild my body. I can – and have – gotten stronger.
I realized my shoes were starting to get holes in them and at first thought they must have been cheap shoes – they weren't, as I spent about $180 on them. Then, I realized the tread looked horrible. How could I have been running in shoes that were in such poor shape?
Then, it came to me that I had simply ran so much that I wore them out. It was such a triumph! I was so proud of myself. Now, as I put on my new shoes to head out for a run, I remember how far I've come and I am motivated to keep adding distance to my runs. I do it to fight cancer. I do it to become stronger. Because I can. Cancer didn't take that from me.
The body -- and mind -- are powerful things. We can shape them however we want to. I chose to make both strong.