But today I was shaken out of my insular world by some very sad news about a friend. She is a relative newcomer to my life, but in a short time, she took up residence in a very dear part of my heart. And her cancer has come back, and spread.
I was crushed by the news, heartbroken. I was saddened beyond words.
And I had that familiar feeling of betrayal and anger. Some of you have heard this story before….In my darkest moments during treatment – for me, it was midway through radiation – when I doubted my strength to continue, I made a deal. Not for me – that horse was already out of the barn. I already had cancer, had surgery, was having treatment – no point in bargaining for my life….it was whatever it would be. I bargained for all the other people who had never had cancer. I agreed to persevere through all of my treatments – any that were offered – if no one else ever had to go through it. I didn’t want anyone else to ever have to tell their child, or parent, or lover that they had cancer; to see the look in their eyes; to hear the sadness in their voice as they tried desperately to sound comforting. I didn’t want anyone else to ever feel all strength drain from their legs as they walk to the doctor’s office; to smell the fear in the infusion suite each time they go for chemotherapy; to know the feel of burning flesh. I bargained with the universe that no one would have to know any of those things again.
And it didn’t work.
Of course, none of us can bargain away someone else’s suffering. But I had meant it. For many years, every time I heard about someone’s diagnosis or recurrence, I would get so angry. I took it personally – I had made a deal and acted in good faith. I would spiral into darkness.
But this time, I am not content to sit in the dark – and have no doubt, this is a very dark night, despite the full moon. This time, I am filled with determination. Making some desperate bargain with the universe is not the answer, but doing whatever I can to make the world better and healthier is at least closer to an answer. As I felt after the loss earlier this year of Rachel and Susan, this is a call to action, a call to arms.
I am determined to redouble my efforts to make the world a bit better. Whenever I can, I will fill it with beauty and love. And as often as I can, and in as many venues and ways possible, I will continue to encourage people to lead healthier lives. No, this isn’t the same as the end of cancer, but it’s the best I can do.
And it does matter.
According to the American Cancer Society, 1/3 of all cancer deaths are attributable to smoking. And 1/3 of all cancer deaths are attributable to obesity and lack of physical activity. (American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2012. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2012. p.48) There is so much about our health that we really have no control over, but these are two things that are completely in our control.
So, rather than sit here in the dark, over the next few weeks, I’m getting back to basics – what do we know about exercise and cancer, and why does exercise matter? I’ll be writing about the science, and offering practical ideas to help. This is why I started Life-Cise and write this blog – because I believe exercise can make a difference in people’s lives. But, I have gotten wrapped up in my little cocoon lately….Back to basics.
Is this a magic pill? No, of course not – that pill does not exist. But it’s what I can do. It’s what I know. And it does matter.
So, tomorrow or today (depending on when you read this), I hope you will think about the people you care about and go for a walk…or a bike ride…or dance…or clean the house vigorously…or do jumping jacks every time there’s a commercial on TV….
Better yet, take one of those people you care about with you on your walk.