On Second Chances

I realized today that this will be my second chance to complete Miami Man.  I was first registered for the 1/2 Iron distance race in 2008, but when the shit hit the fan with general health matters, I was forced to pull out - not just out of Miami Man, but out of triathlon altogether.

And yet, here I sit, at the end of my taper, looking toward my last workout before the race, and realizing that I am going to make it to this race better-trained and in better health than when I started racing 5 years ago, and almost as fit as when I first started running at 18.

It isn't very often in life that we are offered second chances. 

Cancer was mine.

I crossed the finish line at the 2010 Disney Marathon and received my preliminary cancer diagnosis just days after, on Martin Luther King Day.  When I got that call, my life instantly changed.

To tell you I wasn't terrified would be a lie, but I was actually more depressed than anything.  I cried for days. No, I wouldn't have to undergo months of chemo and weeks of radiation; the illness associated with my cancer had already manifested itself in years of sluggishness, bizarre health problems, infections and -itises, and blinding depression - all of which nearly or actually hospitalized me at different times.  Truth be told, I hadn't felt like myself in years.  As if a victim of a rabidly depressive alien abduction, the smiling, energetic and unfailingly positive woman that my friends and family had grown to love was shoved angrily out of the picture and replaced with a bitter, sorrowful, dark figure.

Then I found out about the cancer, and that I would also have to deal with surgery, radioactive iodine pills, lifelong tests and medications, and the potentially devastating effect being without a thyroid would have on my already-high weight.  After all the other personal trials I had undergone, having cancer was merely the icing on a very shitty cake.

I felt like my life was over.

The truth was, it was just beginning.

Since I was told I have cancer, many things have changed.  Some of them are organic, pyhsiological, inevitable.  For example, now that I have more suitable, stable levels of thyroid hormone in my system, my moods are stable and returned to normal - my old normal.  I'm once again the annoyingly peppy, smiley person I (and my close friends and family) know I really am.  Without major depressive disorder and bulimia trailing along behind me everywhere I go, my self-esteem and efficacy have soared.  Even my internal dialogue is different.

I've also grown a giant set of balls.  Through my 4th marathon attempt, I agreed to fundraise for the American Cancer Society, which asked me to commit to raising the most I've ever raised for a charity in my life.  I went out on a limb and introduced myself to several professors in order to find out more about potentially becoming a teaching assistant or research assistant - and ended up doing both. (Why wait to fulfill my lifelong dream of teaching and doing research?  May as well do it now!) I satisfied my desire both to start my own mini-business for extra income and to donate more to charities and interact with positive women by becoming an Independent Beauty Consultant with Mary Kay.  I made at least a half dozen phone calls and mended fences with people who played integral parts in the darker times of my life. 

And some of it was facilitated by others: for example, the B offered to sign me up for Miami Man for my birthday in November and the new job I was unexpectedly thrust into breathed new life into my quest for success and a place in academia. 

My financial life stabilized, my skin and hair improved, my stress levels fell.  And guess what?  In 6 months, not only did I return to my previous level of fitness, if not better, I lost 15 pounds.  That's all the cancer weight, and 1-2 extra.

I am not out of the woods yet.  Thyca recurs often.  I may need more radioactive iodine, even another surgery.

But I'm ok with that.

I know too many people who have received a second chance in the form of a very harsh blow: death of a loved one, cancer, foreclosure, divorce, even partial paralysis.  Some of them instead chose to make an opportunity to do things differently, see things more clearly, and appreciate even the small bits of quality in daily life.

I realized that I have been given a second chance, and I made a very conscious decision to take it - and never, ever look back.

So, no matter what happens out there on Sunday, I win.

2 tidbits of wizdom:

IronLinae, PhD said...

What an inspiring perspective! Good luck at Miami Man but more importantly way to make like happen.

Rachel said...

enjoying your blog. Good Luck!