Don't fear slowly moving forward. Fear standing still.

Today marks 4 months since I underwent a bilateral mastectomy. I'm so thankful to be back running strong; it's almost hard to believe that a few short months ago I couldn't even lift my arms over my head or make it through the afternoon without a 2-hr nap. I read an article last week by a medical oncologist who wrote that cancer is a chronic illness: once you are diagnosed, there is always a possibility of recurrence and the best you can hope for is to be NED, "no evidence of disease". When I was out running that day, I was reflecting on this stark statement as well as the language of breast cancer: words like "warrior", "battle", and "survivor" are so commonplace in the lexicon that people don't seem to think twice about using them. As I ran I wondered, Am I ill? A warrior? A survivor? NED? I really don't relate to any of these terms, nor do I want any of them to be used to describe me or my experience. 

For me, this past 9 months since my diagnosis has felt like navigating a strange and winding journey with a map but no compass. At times, I have ached with the frustration of not being in control of where the ride was taking me (I have heard it referred to as the "cancer train", and this I can understand). In other moments, I have felt grateful for being given the power to make informed decisions about my treatment, even though it has been a series of nearly impossible choices that I never imagined having to make. There have even been many days and weeks when I don't think about it at all. Even though I am taking medication daily as an "insurance policy" against recurrence elsewhere in my body, I do not feel like I am fighting something - instead, I choose to put my energy into being accepting and to continue, one step at a time, on this journey. And in the meantime I am living my life, no differently than I was 9 months ago, except maybe with more gratitude. Maybe with more perspective. And maybe with a renewed motivation to just keep going.
"Don't fear slowly moving forward. Fear standing still". - Unknown 
On the day I was thinking about "no evidence of disease", I was about 5k into my run when I decided that I would refuse to let that reality make me live in fear of some distant possibility - after all, life is full of those, so why let them paralyze us? Right at that moment, I looked up at the Burrard Bridge as I passed underneath it and instantly flashed back to the first time I ever bonked on a run. I was training for my first marathon and nearing the end of a 20-miler when I was faced with climbing the stairs onto that bridge - the apparent impossibility of the task was so overwhelming that I almost sat down and cried. But of course, I didn't do that: I willed myself upward, one exhausting step at a time, and made it through the remaining 3k of the run.

There have been so many "impossible" tasks since that happened some 15 years ago, but all I've needed to face them I learned on that very day: to cross the bridge, you just need to find a way to climb the stairs. For me, it's not about fighting battles or a war - it is simply about continuing to move forward.


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