How I Found Inspiration to Work Out
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For the last twelve years of my life, I’ve been told to be careful. Be careful not to over-do it, to not be too active, to not do activities that involve long distances or high impact or anything that could risk irreversible damage to my reconstructed left leg. Combine with the chronic pain from a total left knee replacement on a donor bone, the energy capacity of a teaspoon and a bitter resentment towards a body that betrayed me by growing a tumor in the first place, I was convinced I would never be healthy or strong again and that any type of exercise beyond walking around the mall would be too much for me to handle.
I’ve been so hung up and bent out of shape about what cancer did to my body that I’ve refused to find a way to fight it. I simply accepted that I would never be strong, I would never be fit, and I would never be “healthy.” After all, I was “as healthy as a horse” when I was diagnosed and that turned out to be a big fat lie when my tumor popped up on my MRI. So, for all intents and purposes, I’ve always believed that it was impossible for me to be healthy or to be able to take care of my body. It’s only been the last year that I’ve learned to really challenge that self-limiting belief. My doctors and surgeons are right – there ARE certain activities I should avoid to keep pain levels at a minimum (and to help my knee replacement last as long as possible.) However, that doesn’t mean I CAN’T be active or work out or take care of my body.
It wasn’t until the end of last year (after suffering the devastating loss of our first pregnancy) and I felt the familiar feelings of betrayal and hate towards my body that I realized something profound: maybe, I was looking at it all wrong. Maybe, my body wasn’t out to get me. Maybe it was just waiting for me to love it. What would happen if I stopped wasting energy on being angry towards it and focused on loving it instead?
I decided to look for some examples in my life to give me a final push to give it a try and before I knew it, I was feeling all kinds of inspired to take action and to take a chance on my body. Turns out, the very people who fought alongside me on the pediatric cancer floor of Boston Children’s Hospital were the people I needed to look to all along.
I have to note that Inspiration & Motivation are two very different things (at least for me.) I’m still working on finding and keeping the motivation to stick to a workout schedule and routine, but before I could even find the motivation, I needed the inspiration.
First, there’s Valerie, who was diagnosed with the same kind of cancer in the same place in her leg as I was, about 5 months after I was diagnosed. Valerie’s surgeries were different than mine because of size and placement of her tumor, but she’s been through the ringer with reconstructive surgeries and has never let them slow her down. I mean, this girl rode her bike on her reconstructed left leg in the Pan-Mass Challenge (a two-day bike-a-thon to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute where we were treated,) has hiked mountains in Iceland, and is currently going to school in England. She’s the bee’s knees and I am inspired by her grit and determination to truly live a vibrant life and to do everything she can to not let her leg slow her down.
And then there’s Kelly, who diagnosed with a different kind of cancer but at the same age as I was, around the same time. Guys. Kelly became a pediatric oncology nurse and now helps children on the SAME floor at the SAME hospital that we were treated at. If that isn’t amazing enough, this girl freaking rode the Pan-Mass challenge this last summer as well. She’s taken every hard thing thrown at her and has found a way to make it beautiful.
I look at these two ladies, who were kids fighting for their lives in the beds beside me 12 years ago, and am amazed and inspired by the way they have overcome the physical limitations cancer tried to place on them. While we all have had different procedures and prognosis from our cancers, they have both done everything they can to take care of their bodies post-treatment.
So, on days that I feel down or discouraged or bitter towards my body, I look to them. To my sisters and fellow survivors, to some of the only people in the world who truly knows what it’s like to be on the other side of treatment, and take strength from them. I pull up my bootstraps, put my fighting face on, and know that if they can do crazy things, like ride the Pan-Mass Challenge or have the stamina to be a nurse on the pediatric cancer floor where we were treated, I can get my butt out of bed and go to the gym. I can work hard to change my self-limiting beliefs because yes, I CAN be healthy.
Do you have someone who inspires you to work out? Let me know in the comments below!