35 years…and Counting

Thyrold survivor 35 years 2

35 years ago today I opened my eyes from a hospital bed and saw my dad sitting stiffly in a plastic looking, avocado green chair with round wooden arms. His eyes were red and full of tears. I knew without asking but still had to hear it, so I asked, “Was it bad?”

“It wasn’t good, but you will be alright.” Immediately, images of my 5 and 7 year old boys flashed through my head and I began to cry. And that’s when I became a thyroid cancer survivor.

Cancer took something from me that day, but, unbelievably, gave to me as well.

It gave me the strength to leave a one-sided marriage, despite my love of our farm and the desire to keep our so-called family intact. Cancer made me realize that, if I was going to have a short life, those years, and those of my children, should be happy ones. I was eroding from the inside – and not just from hungry, malevolent cancer cells. Of course, divorce is never easy and the aftermath and emotional turmoil for my kids was worse than I could have known. Hindsight is 20-20. Looking back, I would have done things differently, but I would have still left. Otherwise, I would have lost myself, with or without cancer. Cancer gave me the power, the ability, to see what was happening to me. I just wish that somehow, the children could have been unscathed. That is my biggest regret.

Cancer reinforces my optimism for life and gives me the ability to face whatever life brings. It helps put everything into perspective, too. After all, does it really matter if someone doesn’t put their dishes in the dishwasher? Yes, it’s annoying day after day — but, in the giant picture, it’s a pretty small annoyance and not worth getting my panties in a knot.

I became a great-grandmother Feb. 19th. Me. I never thought I’d live to see my children grow up, let alone dance at their weddings…or my granddaughter’s wedding. And now, a great-grandson.

Our family picture from Jan:
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And our newest family member:
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I have been given enormous joy. Countless blessings. More love than I deserve.

I am a cancer survivor. Every moment is a gift.

My Couch Dweller

I just read a facebook post from an online friend who enjoyed a two mile run with her husband. She quipped that, for him, it was a long run. It was not long for her but she cherished every foot fall because they were together.

Following her post were a number of comments, all saying how great it is when couples run or workout together and how it helps make their relationship stronger.

I read through them all and felt the strong urge to add my perspective as the triathlete wife of a couch dweller.

But, rather than put it directly on her facebook page and reach – oh, I don’t know – the thousands of people who LIKE her page – I came here, to my personal blog, to share it in more detail with you, my nearest and dearest devotees.

In the beginning, when the world was younger and I had no need to look for hair color that ‘covers all the gray and doesn’t fade’ (which is a lie, by the way), I often thought it would be fun to have a husband who shared every interest of mine.

I pictured us laughing our way through everything together. No matter what either of us suggested, the other one would say, “Sure!” and off we would go, under cloudless skies, enjoying whatever we did in perfect harmony with no disagreements of any sort along the way.

Did I hear you snort out loud just now? It’s okay if you did – I totally understand…now.

It’s not that I really thought it would happen that way. It was just, as they say, my inner fantasy. And, from the very start, I never thought it would extend to physical activity.

After all, I married a man who was never interested in physical fitness. I knew that going in. This is the man who joined the health club nearest to our home simply to enjoy the sauna, steam room and hot tub. Seriously. When he went there one day and found all three of those “CLOSED FOR REPAIRS” he marched out of the men’s locker room and asked the buffed young athlete behind the front desk how long they’d be out of commission. When the man told him it would be indefinitely, my husband asked whether or not they planned to issue any refunds for that time. Why would we, the man asked my husband? You didn’t join just to use those, did you? My husband took a step back from the desk. He stood there in all his glory, extending his arms out and down, and said, “Look at me. Take a good look at this body. Do I LOOK like I work out? YES, I joined just to use those.” And, while you are coughing through your laughter, I will add this footnote: he DID get a refund.

I worked with a woman whose husband was/is totally devoted to healthy eating and fitness. We ended up seated across from them at a company Christmas party and the man listened as my husband ordered a medium rare steak and cheesy potatoes and watched him devour a roll slathered in butter. I watched the man’s face and knew he thought he could/should try to enlighten my husband. He was known for trying to change people’s lives and eating habits – and my husband presented him with a great opportunity! Within minutes, it began. He told my husband the benefits of healthier eating and then boldly told him he wouldn’t live a long life if he kept his current eating habits. You want to live longer, right? he asked. “Listen,” my husband answered in between bites. “Living longer doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better’. It doesn’t mean you’re going to live more years like you are 20 years old. It probably means you’ll have more years sitting in a wheel chair, drooling on yourself. So, no, I don’t want more of those years. I’ll go out younger, knowing I savored every bite instead of eating tasteless food and sacrificing that for a couple of extra years.”

As you can see, he’s pretty set in his ways and more than willing to be vocal about it.

He’s overweight and knows it. He’d like to lose weight, but also wants to find that magic pill, the magic potion that will make it easy to do that. (Boy, don’t we all?) He’d like to have our doctor “just liposuction it all out of me, ok, doc?” Again, if it were only that easy…

Then there’s me. My fitness and health goals are fueled by self betterment and the need to stay physically active because I know, for myself, how much better I feel and how much I need to be active and healthy to maintain my well-being. That’s me. That’s how I roll. I want to be a great example for my children, grand children and great-grandchildren. I want to be able to do things with them rather than just watch them from the side lines. That’s just me.

Two divergent lines, to be sure.

I do not try to change him. He does not try to change me. I do not push him, although I will always invite him to go with me on a walk, snowshoeing, swimming, whatever. He does not rudely refuse – and, in fact, sometimes he does join me. I cherish those times, but I don’t resent him if he doesn’t go. It’s not his ‘thing’. He doesn’t like it. Why would I try to force him to do something he doesn’t like?

Do I think he’d feel better if he were more active? Absolutely. Do I think he’d lose weight and ultimately have less health issues? Without a doubt.

But I also realize he needs to do what he needs to do because HE wants it, not because someone else tells him he should. It’s like quitting smoking or any other unhealthy habit/lifestyle – a person has to want to change to make that change.

I also have to say that he is, without a doubt, my biggest fan and supporter. He is my sounding board – the person I can go to and express my inner most fears – whether it’s training related, race related, job related or something else in life. He is the one who buoys me, tells me how strong I am, tells me I am an inspiration to him and to our family. He rubs my back at night, lulling me to sleep, telling me he loves me. He kisses me as I head out for training and says, “Have fun!” and smiles at me when I return, always asking how it went. And when I tell him…he listens…really listens.

Can I ask for more than that?

Truth be told, yes, I probably can ask, but it probably won’t change the outcome. So, we move forward. I know I am very, very blessed to have this eclectic soul as my partner through life. My biggest fear is that he will be taken from me too soon. In the meantime, I just love him.