I began walking for exercise almost nine years ago, when my youngest son was still in a stroller. I’m not a ‘going to the gym’ sorta gal, so any exercise I get is from what I do on my own. I won’t lie, at the beginning, I had to force myself to do the whole walking thing. I was a busy mom with two small children, so taking time out for myself was a challenge. Not to mention, I didn’t really want to walk. So really, I’m surprised I ever got out the door.
But I did.
These walks started as leisurely jaunts around the neighborhood. I’d push my son as he gurgled in his stroller and chat with him about all the things we’d see. Sometimes a neighbor would join us and I’d get to enjoy some friendly adult conversation. It was pleasant.
But as time progressed, my walks morphed into something very different. Knowing that I do really well with routine, I began getting up early before the kids were awake. I’d do a set of ab exercises and stretches on our living room floor and then out the door for what eventually turned into a regular two and a half mile walk. I’d be back before the kids woke. It was the perfect crime!
I began to pick up the pace, focus on myself and look forward to this cherished alone time. Sometimes I’d chat on the phone or listen to music or an audiobook. But a lot of the time, I just walked. And thought. This was such precious time when I could be quiet in my head and ponder all the things I didn’t have time to consider during the hectic day that would follow. As I walked faster, my mind slowed down. I began using the time to center myself. To call in the light and ground myself.
And somewhere along the line, these walks became the highlight of my day. I walked every morning, seven days a week, in the rain, cold, and heat. And if I missed a day, my body and soul yelled out. I yearned for this routine where my soul could flourish and thrive.
So when my walking came to a screeching halt a few months ago, it was tough. After my surgery, I knew it would take some time to get back into the swing of things, so I didn’t beat myself up. But I missed my walks.
And then when the chemo news came, I tried to set realistic expectations, hoping to claim a walk every once in a while. And when the treatments came, I surrendered. During those first chemo treatments, walking was tantamount to running a marathon. I was so weak I could barely manage the most menial tasks, so a walk was not even a consideration. (Actually, many times I did consider it and then amused myself picturing this bald woman huffing and puffing as she tried to take a few steps away from her house!)
And then a miracle! My chemo treatments changed. So long ‘red devil’ and hello Taxol. I was wary of the doctors and nurses who said it was going to be a much more manageable treatment. I figured they had to tell me that or else I may not come back! They warned me of the possible side effects and as I started this new regiment and the drugs entered my body through my port, I held my breath.
Two treatments into this chemo and I’m so happy to share that these treatments are indeed MUCH more manageable! Sure, I have some unpleasant side effects. My stomach is always upset, I have a horrible metal taste in my mouth that makes all food and drink unappealing, and I’m showing signs of neuropathy, numbness in my fingers and toes. Not to mention this steroids can make me C R A N K Y. BUT, I can walk!
That first morning I returned to my walk, I got out the door a little later than usual. And even though we’re still in the heat of summer, the overcast sky allowed the temperatures to drop enough for me to wear my regular walking jacket. And when I stepped outside, the air was familiar.
This walk wasn’t nearly as long or at the same pace as what I was used to, but for the first time, in a very long time, I took a deep breath and felt the Los Angeles fresh air (ha, I know!) fill my lungs. And it was all too much; I was overwhelmed and began to weep.
Because I do remember. I remember what it was like before. Before cancer showed up. Before taking deep breaths was hard. Before my breasts weren’t my own. As I took that deep breath, the realization of how much I’d changed was glaring. It wasn’t just the external, but my inner landscape had also shifted.
And it’s not just getting rid of the cancer cells. As introspective and conscious as I am, it became abundantly clear that I am different in ways I can’t quite articulate yet.
My weeping shifted to pure joy. I can walk! I can take deep breaths, smell the air, hear the birds, see my friends, love my boys, care for myself. I can feel the world around me. I know that I’m participating. And I am happy.
Out of habit I reached into my jacket pocket searching for a tissue. I found strange comfort in locating an old tattered tissue. One from before. Sure, lots has changed, but some things, some comfortable things, remain. I am blessed.
I take another step and then another. Life goes on and I get to be part of it. I pass walking buddies who I haven’t seen in months and smile. Life is good.
So if you happen to be passing by one of those early mornings and you see me with a big, cheesy smile on my face, you’ll know why. I can walk!