Slowly but ever so steadily my life seems to be return to the pre cancer pace I used to once thrive on. I would like to claim I wasn’t fatigued or feeling older than I used to but that would be a lie. I will admit that I will continue to try and put on the impression that I am actually fighting back to a level of energy I had a few years ago. I think it is healthy to keep pushing myself but I have learned that I am not really going to win any race I enter. If there ever was a race to begin with. My mentality of late has been very in line with one of the years I really did pretty well at the 50 kilometer Tour of Anchorage race (thoughts of ski races whirl around my head as my body can sense the creep of the chill air and the impeding white blanket which is coming). There was a year about 7 years ago when I hadn’t really been able to train or ski that much because I had just finished residency, Liam (my oldest son) was just born and I was just overall stressed by being an attending. I had been skiing which was a given to keep myself aligned but not nearly as much as I had hoped as I moved into the role of real doctor and not a lackie resident.
A week before the race I left the fog of work long enough to realize I would have the day off to do the race. Given the lack of preparedness I had for a long ski race I actually, for the first time in my life, thought I would not go into the elite wave but took a start position in the second wave of skiers. Now I am clearly an anxious guy and I can over think myself out of a good deal of positive situations. Ski racing is one of those situations. I am good, it is the one sport I could truly do in my sleep. I can however analyze myself into an poor skier if given enough time before a race. On this occasion I didn’t really care. I showed up and went for a ski. It was a hard race, as it usually is but I felt great. I left the entire second wave behind in about 40 seconds. I caught the elite women by about 5 kilometers and was already working through some of the elite men who had started about 5 minutes ahead by 10 kilometers.
Yet, my skiing fast and catching people was not that important. Back then the way the race was run the fast 50 K skiers ran into the 40 K skiers around halfway. This meant we spent a good deal of time weaving in and out of slower less experienced skiers who were pushing their limits and taking part in a wonderful community event. As I started passing people I just made it a point to be extra nice, say excuse me as I whipped by, tell people they looked good (the eternal ski racer lie), smile at all the aid stations and thank the volunteers. I forced myself when I was getting tired and searching for a reason to slow down to just tell the next few people to “keep it up, were almost there”. I didn’t win and I may not have even been the most jovial out there that day as it was a pretty nice sunny winter day. I bet though that if there was a combined score for place and positivity towards others, I would have been in the top ten.
Lately I sort of feel that way about where I am at in my cancer struggle. I still can’t go more than a few minutes without thinking about leukemia and why my cells have created such havoc. At the same time, the more I push myself to do the more I feel like I am just cruising along like I have been a pro at this. I know I am not as pleasant as I was that day, and clearly not as fast but given my position in life I think I am doing okay. This last week I have been skiing with the kids for the first time this year, ice skating on marshes and earthquake made ponds, volunteered as a story coach, dragged my dad to a med student class, interviewed for a return trip to Med X, argued with kids about icy streets as we bike ride to school, hung Christmas lights, cooked meals I forced my kids to eat, and all the other daddy stuff I struggled with a year ago. I am sure I didn’t always have a smile but overall I can keep the appearance that I am enjoying it.
Realistically, just like that day in the Tour of Anchorage, I am not acting, I am not faking, I am doing good just because I am enjoying where I am at. I have said that before but so often with cancer you just have to tell yourself that and put on a smile to keep moving forward. Maybe I am still just convincing myself to keep the worry at bay. I will admit I don’t want to jinks the way I feel. But I am not going to over think it right now. Slowly and steadily I am regaining the pace I want.
Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure.