This blog was originally published in 2017
“I never look back, darling! It distracts from the now.” ~ Edna “E” Mode from The Incredibles
I totally agree with Edna, but it’s October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s one of those annual things where I allow myself to look back for a bit so that I can truly appreciate my “now.” Plus, it’s really hard not to look back when everywhere I turn I see pink!
About this time eight years ago, I was in the midst of chemotherapy and 3 months removed from a bilateral mastectomy performed to treat my Stage III breast cancer diagnosis. I had been training for the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon when I was diagnosed. I thought for sure I could still train and do the race. A short run between chemo treatments three and four that left me breathless and in tears of frustration told me otherwise, and I had to defer my entry.
At a recent annual visit to my oncologist, she ended our appointment saying “You are the only patient I’ve ever had who looks exactly the same now as you did before your cancer.” I told her that she was the reason why. When I was going through active treatment years earlier, and complaining about how I felt, she encouraged me to be more accepting of my new normal: a bit of extra weight, stiff joints and limited energy to exercise the way I wanted to. I explained to her that that was the moment I decided I would not accept the “standard list of limitations for cancer patients.” I wasn’t happy to survive my cancer; I intended to thrive while having cancer! Running is a big part of who I am. It’s during my runs that I scheme and dream. I was not going to accept a normal that didn’t include running.
After those dark days of active treatment ended in 2010, I worked hard to get back to my normal. It took me a while but I returned to my training routine and have completed four marathons over the years. In 2014 I turned 50 and set a goal to run 50 miles for one week each month of that year. What a sense of accomplishment I had when I realized that goal!
Cancer treatment was hard; anyone who has gone through it will tell you so. But I wouldn’t trade the experience. It taught me a lot about myself and what I’m capable of. And with that, I think it’s time I get back to appreciating the now.
Christine Brophy, Director, mother of three incredible young men, cancer survivor thriver and eternal optimist. When not found at her desk, she’s likely to be off on a run.