What do people see when they look at you? How do you stand out? Before all of this happened to me, I used to go to the gym without anyone barely noticing me. I used to walk around in the grocery store without a glance. When you have a disability people can't help but notice you. Knowing this makes it all the more important to have a smile on my face. To have determination in my eyes and to not let the staring get me down.
I was swimming for the first time since last year in open water. It was quite the challenge to walk down the steep hill to get to the water. Then I needed help getting my wetsuit on while I was standing on a bunch of rocks. About 20 minutes later I was ready to go. I crawled on my hands and foot through the shallow part of the water so I wouldn't fall. I learned this by watching Jonathon Bik in Temecula. It worked really well. Once I got out into the deep water it felt so nice to just float.
It was different swimming without being able to use my legs. I tried to kick but it just wasn't working so I put my good foot underneath my bad foot and off I went. Courtney was of course swimming circles around me like always but I was holding my own. I was out there for about 34 minutes before calling it quits. I was getting a little chilled! As I got out of the water there was a couple nearby. They kept looking at me as I was carried out of the water on Courtney's back then carefully placed on a rock to take my wetsuit off. They tried not to stare but they were somehow drawn to keep looking. I dried off and put my prosthetic boot on and then grabbed my cane. The couple continued to look. Then we made our way up the steep hill, my cane in one hand and tightly holding onto Courtney with the other.
I couldn't really make sense of why this couple was so fascinated by us. Then Courtney piped up, it's because people don't expect to see people like you doing things that extreme. He's right you know! People don't expect to see people with disabilities living life. I guess some folks think we crawl into holes and feel sorry for ourselves. I refuse to feel sorry for myself. I am not going to just stop everything and let this disease or this disability stop me from moving forward.
All my days are not easy. Most of them have been pretty good. I have met such wonderful people because of cancer. Everyday when I go to my radiation treatments I get to hang out with some amazing women and we just talk. Mostly about getting cancer, what kind, and how radiation is going. One lady has been battling cancer for 14 years. And everyday I see her she is so full of life. She truly inspires me not to give up. Another lady had a very similar experience with a sarcoma. Although mine was a nerve tumor, hers was a vascular tumor that caused her almost the exact same pain in the exact same area. What are the chances of that? There are so many other stories and they all have one thing in common . . . Fighting cancer. Most of the women have already gone through chemo so I ask a lot of questions. I like to know what I am up against. Thankfully they are all happy to share with me. 5 more days. That's all I have left of radiation. 5 more days!
I forgot to mention the elliptical trainer. I have been working out on the elliptical trainer almost everyday last week. I started with 15 minutes then worked my way up to 25. It is a little tricky because my left leg wanders in and I have to keep picking up my foot and moving it back to where it started. This happens about every 45seconds to a minute. If I pay attention I can hold it off for about 3 minutes but then there it is moving to the inside of the machine. It is the closest thing to running right now so I will take what I can get. I do have dreams where I am running along the trails near my house but then I always wake up. They seem so real!
About a month after my surgery I was in the pool for the second time and I ran into a friend. He races Ironman and is a top notch athlete. He was happy to see me in the pool. As we were talking he said, "I don't know what I would do if that happened to me." I didn't know how to respond to the comment so I just smiled. Later that day as I thought about it, I knew the answer . . . YOU JUST DO IT! You wake up one day, you realize your foot doesn't work and may never work and you just do it. You just get up everyday, you go to the gym, you go to radiation, you go to physical therapy, you go to the store, you go to the movies, and you carry on with life. I can't change my situation but I can make the most of it.
When people see me, I want them to see someone who is happy to be alive. I want them to see a fighter. I want them to see my determination and strength. I want them to see God through me.
Next Monday is the big day, my second surgery. Please pray that they get the tumor and stop the cancer from coming back. Please pray that there is no further damage to my body. There is a chance my bladder can be affected and there is a greater chance of further nerve damage from the high dose of radiation. And most of all please pray that I wake up!
Thank you so much for all of your continued support through this difficult time. It has meant so much to me and to Courtney. We are so incredibly blessed by such wonderful friends and family!
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