Yesterday I went for a swim. My second workout since going under the knife in December. It's important for me to stay active in order to get better.
Some people like to do yoga, others like to run. I like to swim. It's the only activity that truly feels second nature to me. (I started at 7 for Pete's sake, swam competitively through college, then for years after.) Running makes me crampy and achy and I last about 1 mile. Boag.
I felt amazing, completely energized, and really happy. My goal was to swim a mile. I hoped to work out for 45 minutes. (A note to you swimmers out there, you'll see that the two goals don't really jive. Yes, I had some time to kill after my 1,650). So I just started to make up ridiculous sets. Like "2X25s, easy, half backstroke, half underwater". I started bouncing up and down in the shallow end between "sets". I just felt like doing it and I couldn't stop. I caught the eyes of the women on the stairmasters up in the windows above, and I gave 'em all the thumbs up! They waved back. I felt like a 9-year-old at a slumber party who'd had too much Mountain Dew. I was acting like an age-grouper in practice when the coach steps off the deck to take a phone call and all the kids flip out and completely ignore the workout.
Actually, it was very much like how I occasionally behaved in lane 5 at Kenyon. Some of you probably remember. We kept a nice balance of "work" and "fun" in Lane 5. "The slow lane" to some, perhaps, but I thought of it more as a sort of 24/7 Aqua Fiesta. I entered Kenyon at the end of lane 5, graduated at the end of Lane 5, and we knew how to party. Plus, it was a great way to meet all the freshman.
So back in the pool, I got an idea. A serious idea. One that scared me a little. I thought, "If I feel so freaking good in the water, how could I have a stinking piece of cancer in my lung? Huh? Wouldn't a bad spot compromise my lung capacity?" I decided to conduct a short non-scientific test.
I challenged myself to do a simple "no-breather". (This is normally a piece of cake for a sprinter, swimming the length of the pool without breathing). And I considered just for a moment that less than two months ago my guts were literally splayed out on the OR table, and that it took weeks for me to be able to sit up without searing gut pain, and that I'm in the middle of chemo, and...OK, that I technically have "an issue" with my lower left lung.
So I started to get scared. If I couldn't make the no-breather, I'd feel like maybe the disease had more of a stronghold on me than I wished to admit. Suddenly, i didn't really want to do the challenge.
But then I remember a passage from a book I read. It talked about how, once you're told you have THE C-WORD, there's a tendency to step back a bit from life, to withdraw from people and commitments, to no longer establish long-term goals for yourself. But if you never challenge yourself or set goals, you're essentially slowly prepping yourself for your own demise. You're more or less admitting you don't expect to make it through to the other side. So you CAN'T DO THAT.
I thus had no choice, so I set off.
AND: Not only did I reach the end, sans l'oxygen, but I DID A FLIP TURN AND SWAM HALFWAY BACK, too. I wasn't even breathing hard! I stopped, satisfied, and chuckled to myself, recognizing that my competitive streak has hardly faded, I just haven't seen it in a while. It made me feel quietly confident and slightly proud, knowing with certainty I am going to be a serious adversary in this fight. I knew it all along, of course, but now I felt like I had some physical proof of my "strength".
Next week: bench press contests at the Pioneer Square pubs.
-Shelly "putting the HELL in SHELL" Baker Butler