For all of the plans we’ve made,
There isn’t a flag I’d wave,
Don’t care if we bend,
I’d sink us to swim,
We’re marching on,
– Marching On by One Republic
As I watched Olympic skater carry the Canadian flag tonight the words to the One Republic song, Marching On, came to my mind. The courage of the young lady from Canada who performed her best just days after her mother died captured the heart of the whole world. Marching on….. People ask how she did it. When asked, she replied that she was able to get into a zone and for those few minutes on the ice her focus was on competition and not on her own personal grief. For Joannie, it was her 3 minutes of outer body experience. The focus and determination needed to compete consumed her. The same was for Lindsay Vonn suffereing days earlier from a shin injury. As soon as her run was completed, she collapsed. These stories repeated themselves over and over again. There was the story of the cross-country skier who pulled herself out of the hospital to compete and get a bronze medal only to collapse at the finish line and be taken back to the hospital.
With these stories, you can very much understand where Joannie is coming from. Finding that place to escape has been what has helped my wife and I move on past her cancer. Escaping the day to day worries and immersing ourselves in other tasks has driven us for the last 18 months. Yes there still are the monthly shots, the black and blue marks, the pills, etc. which remind you every day. Monthly I catch a glance at her abdomen which is bandaged from her monthly shot and am reminded of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.
Tonight it hit me when I logged in and saw that I had reached 2500 miles. That is 2500 miles I’ve run since my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m not sure why, but I decided early on that this was going to be my own cause and I was going to use our pain and will to survive to drive my exercise. I remember being so grateful to her doctors that I vowed to personally contribute $.50 for every mile I ran to the hospital’s foundation. I didn’t want to be part of a large walkathon or other event for a national plan, but I needed to make this my own personal journey, my own run for my health and for my wife. This battle with my wife’s cancer was personal although I valued the community of survivors who gave words of encouragement and wisdom.
I can’t remember half those miles run. I was running numb and hiding from my pain and my fears. I remember some of those nights right after her surgery when I would put her to sleep and then just go for a run fighting back the tears at first and then those fears turned into energy fueled by my passion to not feel sorry and to start wanting to make a difference. I understand where Joannie Rochette was mentally when she skated this past week. Her inner strength and will to do her best under such extreme scrutiny and pressure in the face of such heartache was fueled by her passion and her will.
When we finished a recent vacation with our kids to our favorite resort, the hotel staff told us how they missed us. We missed them too. We had gone almost every year until we were given my wife’s diagnosis. Why hadn’t we returned earlier? I guess we just weren’t ready to truly resume our lives in a care free manner. It has taken us that long to feel like we can celebrate our opportunity to move on in life. We almost wondered if we had waited too long. We sat out on our lanai as our children slept at night and felt the sea breezes on our faces and asked that question. It didn’t matter. We were just happy to enjoy our wonderful spot again together. It was good to be in our happy place.
Cancer sites can be a very great resource for community therapy. In fact we have made so many friends and are especially grateful to a friend in Hawaii who showers us with gifts and has really truly helped my wife as a personal confidante on many recovery issues. Other than that, though, there has been a separate private struggle to return to normalcy. The struggle is to keep busy, do the things you love and get on with the things you always wanted to do, yet find the balance to give back and show your gratitude to those who helped along the way. My personal donation of running for my own charity and benefit for my wife’s cancer is not a poke against the Susan G. Komen walk or the Avon walk. For me, my wife’s battle with cancer was a personal matter and I wanted to give it back on my own time and my own terms and for my own personal battle with the pavement.