My first thought this morning was, “maybe I just won’t go”.
I had a good excuse; I thought I cracked a rib yesterday. It was a silly thing – I leaned over the console in the car to reach my purse in the back seat. I felt something. And it hurt! Of course, I was glad to be by myself as a thunderous, “SHIT!” came out of me. I sat in the car. Alone. Stunned. Terrified my guts would somehow spill out onto the floor. I waited. I didn’t pass out. The world kept going. No one stopped to ask me if I was okay. No one passed by. Another day. Then, I cried. All I needed was another tier of trouble. Living with cancer was enough. Do I now have to deal with healing a cracked rib?
I rolled over to test the limits of my rib. It felt pretty good. Maybe it wasn’t broken? Maybe I strained a muscle. Of course, my mind wandered even further… maybe my cancer from the liver grew out through my ribs and I ripped a piece of it off and it has spread to all other parts of my body – and I’ll be dead in an hour? Yeah. Well – if I’m to be honest, this kind of thinking just seems to happen when you live with cancer.
I sat up. Okay. Not bad. I thought, “If I go to fitness at least I’ll be able to test my limits and know what I can and cannot do.”
So, I drank the coffee Kevin had served me earlier (which I thought I wouldn’t be able to reach, let alone drink), got David ready for school, and away I went. I must also add, I moved throughout this process ever so gingerly as I did have twinges when I moved the wrong way.
“How are you feeling, Stacey?” asked Vandie as soon as I arrived. Did I mention she greeted me at her front door with a concerned look on her face?
“Good to go, Vandie”, I responded hoping my words would define my health.
Laura, who just went through cancer herself, and I were soon positioned behind our steps and ready to go.
“Step touch,” Vandie began.
We all chatted as we do at the beginning of the class. We have energy and enough breath to breathe at the beginning. The conversation was casual. We chat about life, kids, food… Always, interspersed between the chatter, is Vandie’s, “you gals okay?” and “Laura, do this instead of that for your arm”, and “Stacey – do this instead so you don’t strain your rib”. Always. There are always accommodations made to our routines.
How would I fare in a regular fitness class, I sometimes wonder. Exercising with 30 other women with no issues would not give me the assurance I need to move through. I’d be broken by now. I know it. I push too hard and I would not give in to my injuries. I still get dizzy on occasion and Vandie gives me Gatorade. I get winded and Vandie modified my work-out. I want to get rid of these muffin – tops I have since chemo – and damn it – we work on that. “Be careful what you ask for, Stacey, you know you are going to get it!” Vandie laughs.
I look at Laura, she looks at me. We smile through gritted teeth. This happens when we are using elastics to firm up our butts. We aren’t really smiling and we both know it – we know it is the smile of a woman in pain who knows she needs to give it! But while Laura moves, so do I. And while I move, so does she. We motivate each other – and this is good. Neither can get away with anything as Vandie watches us. “Get those legs higher, girls,” she’ll say. “We can do 8 more, can’t we?” she will ask er… demand.
I got through the class. Oh, how those stretches felt so good at the end. “This will help stretch out those ribs, Stacey.” And they did. I felt relief. I felt better. I felt great – both mentally and physically.
As we parted from one another, we all affirmed how important fitness has been in our lives. It pushed us to know our limits. Without that, we’d be wallowing in self -pity and getting weaker by the day. I don’t know how people recover from illness without fitness. How do you know your abilities? How do you challenge your limits? I know I’m a shadow of the fit person I once was – but I am so much better than I would have been had I not had Vandie in my life. I know Laura agrees. We all need a push. We all need inspiration. We all need to be reminded of our current limits – to respect them. Oh, if we could all have a Vandie.