Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mortality and Vitality

Mortality is a subject that I have not thought much about during this cancer journey. When I first was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I did not think about death. Perhaps, I put it out of my mind. I tried to focus on other stuff. I remember at Christmas feeling the need to buy the nicest presents for my family members and I totally blew my budget. I felt this compulsion to give them the nicest gifts because, "I didn't know what would happen after my surgery..." At that time, I couldn't see beyond the surgery. I had never had a surgery before and so the idea of surgery terrified me. Now that I have had surgery and radiation and hopefully, nearing the end of cancer treatment, I have been thinking about mortality. It's come up a few times. Mortality is something that we humans face each day. However, some of us don't think about the fact that we will die one day. I know that mortality didn't become a thought again for me until the last few weeks. Despite all the things that I have gone through with my cancer treatment, I am still alive. I still live. I defy the odds that although there was this malignant thing growing in my body, I choose life and I live. In some ways, cancer is a gift for me especially at such a young age. Cancer forced me to soberly look at my life so I began to assess whether I was pleased with it. I was happy to know that I am satisfied with my professional accomplishments. Now that I am looking forward on the other side of my diagnosis (and surgery and radiation), there is so much that I want to do, feel, and be even though it will all come to an end one day, as it will for all of us and we don't know when that will be. For a young person to get cancer, it is like you are being given a serious reality check that you are not immortal. I didn't have to wait until my retirement, looking at my grandchildren or senior years to learn this, but instead during my early thirties. And although thyroid cancer has a 95-99% chance of recovery, you become aware that it, life, can all end one day. Thankfully, I have been given an early "wake up call" that I have only one life to live and I need to make the most of it. So in the face of mortality, I have life. I have vitality on my side and life is temporary. I am reminded of this during my Cancer Exercise group. Today is my second day and I am appreciating it. The first session helped me to feel more confidence in my ability to do physical activity again and that it can be this easy and manageable to get into shape again. I don't have to be so hard on myself. Although I ran a half-marathon (21 km) two years ago, I still can do that again one day but for now I am taking it slow. And today, I felt that I could begin to trust my body again that it will do what it is supposed to do, that my limbs and my heart are doing what they are meant to do. My body still works. As I look around at the other cancer patients and survivors completing their exercise programs, I feel like they are expressing victories over death, laughing in the face of cancer. Despite their mortality, they are living vitally and I am inspired. So I have attached this photograph of my feet standing on a trampoline. My favourite thing to do in the whole exercise space is to jump on this trampoline and feel the vitality in my legs launch me into the air and then back down to the surface. I am vital! I am alive!

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