One Step at a Time

After Vandie’s fitness class was over today, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry.   I was doing the final calf stretch and the tears welled up.  I didn’t know whether to let ’em rip or hold them back.  I didn’t know where they were coming from:  fear or hope.  “And switch legs”, coached Vandie.  I heard her.  I obeyed. (We must always obey Vandie!) “Move your feet in and slowly stand up”, she continued.  “Egad” I thought.  “I’m not going to make it through this without bursting the tear dam.  What the hell is wrong with me?  Am I sad, or am I happy?”

I have known Vandie for going on 12 years now and she has been a driving force in my life in many ways.  When I first met her I was struggling with my after-the-child-birth weight.  Within several months of meeting her and attending her classes, I was a machine.  I was fit.  I felt fantastic about myself.  I slept better, I ate better, I lived better.

I was not the only one who benefited from Vandie’s classes.  It seemed that Vandie attracted “real women” who had “real bodies” and “real stories to tell”.  There was never a time when any one of the fitness ladies engaged in gossip or unfriendly banter.  We were indelibly supportive of one another.  Even when the fitness studio closed, we remained fitness fiends.  Vandie simply moved us from one location to another.  Of course, no one questioned whether her classes would work in her house – we knew they would.  And they did.  Our location had no bearing on the quality of Vandie’s classes or the collegiality of fitness crew.  Is that a testimony to the woman herself?  I think so!

I was “Vandie – fit” this fall when I received my diagnosis.  Oddly enough, I had been trying to get into shape to be more resilient when the challenges of work descended on me.  Little did I know that my fitness would be to face the challenged of chemo and cancer treatments.   Nonetheless, I felt I had to stop attending Vandie’s classes when I learned how chemo compromised my immune system.  I just didn’t think that sweating with a group of sweating woman would be in my best interests at that time.  Hence, Kevin began walking with me instead.  “Don’t worry, Stacey”, re-assured Vandie.  “You will return when you are up for it.”

“I hope so, Vandie.”

It was painful to be a non-participant in Vandie’s classes.  I knew how missing one week would demand a price when returning.  The steps in the step class always seemed to be bigger.  The weights seemed heavier.  The elastics provided more resistance.  I missed the challenge.  I missed the ladies.  I missed Vandie.  I feared myself going down-hill.

I don’t know how a body best recovers from chemo.  And I don’t know if it is wise to try to “sweat” it out?  I know the Neulasta continues to haunt me – while it helps me.  And I don’t know how long the dye from my CT circulates in my blood.  But I’ll be damned if I am not going to move.  Fitness has to help!  I get angry thinking about how much damage this cancer has done to my body.  I think that anger is a good thing – I know it makes me “do” rather than “give up”.  It frustrates me to know that I have to start all over again.  I don’t know how stroke patients don’t blow a gasket when they are re-learning to speak or walk.  I have an entire new respect for those in physio-therapy.  Bravo to them!

My anger fuelled my drive to return to fitness classes – hopeful that getting in shape would better prepare me for surgery.  I knew it had been a long time away from Vandie, but it would one step at a time would bring me back to where I wanted to be. I hoped.

I returned to Vandie today.  My heart raced as I walked through her door.  I stood in front of my step vacillating between fear and hope.  I feared my level of fitness had plummeted beyond my forgiveness and I hoped, at the same time, that my fitness would show results after “one” class.  “Just do what you can, Stacey”, Vandie re-assured me.

I was the first one to class.  Shortly after I arrived, in walked fire-ball Carol.  “Stacey! It is so good to see you!”  She gave me a big hug.  We chatted, we caught up on life, we faced our step.  It was time.  Fear.  Hope.  Fear.  Hope.  Carol had been gone from fitness for three years while she dealt with a health issue.  “If Carol could do this,”  I thought, “… so could I!”

The music began and so did we.  March, march, march.  Side-step, side-step, side-step.  I was winded already.  “Oh, this is not going to be pretty”, I thought.  March, march, march. Step touch, step touch, step touch.  I was tentative.  Could I do it?  Could I continue?  March, march, march.

In walked Janet.  “Sorry I’m late, Vandie.  The traffic on 400 was horrible.”

Janet scurried to her step and prepared to “step”.  A quick glance and wink towards me gave me reassurance that she knew I was back.  Janet was in my corner too.  March, march, march.

“And step up with the left”, directed Vandie.  Up. Down. Up. Down.  Arms up.  Arms down.  Fear. Hope. Fear. Hope.

Nearly 50 minutes and countless gasps later, we rose to close the class.  Fear.  Hope.  Fear.  Hope.  How did it go?  How did I feel?  “Stacey, you rocked this class!  You did it”, exclaimed Vandie.  Her boundless, unmitigated support was echoed by Janet and Carol.  I couldn’t take it!  The flood-gates opened.  I cried.  “I don’t know why I am crying.  I’m sorry”, I explained.

“Stacey, I am proud of you.  Many in your position would lay on the couch and eat chips and make any excuse they could to not do anything – but not you”, professed head-coach Vandie.

“Yes.  That is so true”, affirmed the ladies.  “You did well!”

Fear – or hope?  What had caused the tears?  Maybe a bit of both.  I left Vandie’s this morning feeling almost giddy, light-headed, optimistic.  I finished the class.  Vandie and my fitness friends were back in my corner once again.  The fear washed away in my tears.  I had hope.  I had support.  I had courage to do this fitness thing – one step at a time.

Thanks, Kenny ( for helping me find my direction for today’s post!  (

About inmycorner

This blog began as an opportunity to tell my Dad's stories. I sat with him and the computer and together we told stories. It was a wonderful way to get to know Dad. He was 9. He and Mom had a wonderful life together and since she passed away a year and a half before him - Dad was ready to join her. I no longer tell his stories but have found stories of my own. The impetus to resume this blog was the discovery that I had stage 4 ovarian cancer. Since blogging had been so therapeutic for my dad and I to get through our grief, I felt maybe this would be a good outlet to process my situation. I also hoped it may serve as an outreach to anyone else who is facing this very ominous journey. So far, so good.
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10 Responses to One Step at a Time

  1. Gwen K. says:

    You never cease to amaze me, my friend. So proud of you and your fitness friends.

    • inmycorner says:

      Shucks, Gwen. Thank-you. I think my Mom would have called me a pig-headed Scott and my Dad would have called me a stubborn Russian. Either way – I like your way of thinking better! Grin.

  2. I would have cried, laughed, cried, laughed, and cried some more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Gallivanta says:

    Those were good healthy tears by the sound of it. 🙂

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