Off the Mat

The road stretched out as we drove, first east, then north, with nothing but some duffel bags too small to carry our troubles of the last couple of years.

Beyond my windshield possibilities come into view.  Beaches calling for explorers, clams to be eaten, fun to be had, but buzzing most in my mind was not the joy ahead, but the crap left behind.

Thanks, Breast Cancer.

But I wonder, if I can’t see it or hear it or deal with it, if my responsibilities end and appointments no longer clutter my calendar, can I forget it?

Can I be someone who pushes aside the faces and words of women who died and ignore the glaring realization, the knowledge it can be me?

If it seems there’s a smidgen of chance to wipe my slate clean, it’s not for long.  I know there’s no escape.  My past travels with me.  Cancer rides along daring me to shake it off, leave it in the dust somehow and for a while I manage to do that, but as the days pass and miles to home trickle down, reality seeps thickly, slowly back through my pores reminding me my burdens are exactly where I left them.

Once home I wonder why it’s easier to focus on the bad, when the good matters as much or more.  It sometimes seems my feet root in a pile of unpleasant memories and whither rather than seek fresh ground to thrive.

Such a waste of time and I don’t want to waste any more.

Maybe if I change my thinking, approach things differently.  Since I can’t outrun my own history, perhaps I can use it to my advantage.

Renewed and encouraged by this rare positive attitude I venture off to my second ever Pilates class (because, you know, it’s good for me) only to have my mood squashed.

Pilates is hard for one out of shape and stiff from surgeries.  Moves prove difficult, limbs refuse to stretch, muscles shake with each position and then…The Plank.  Arms out, flat on my mat, lying heavily, painfully on my implants with zero strength to lift up.  It shouldn’t be this hard, but like so much for those of us diagnosed, it is.  Cancer’s roadblocks, again popping up when least expected, even here.  It’s overwhelming.  I put my forehead to the floor and nearly cry.

Staying close to the mat for a second, I mourn my lost flexibility. I’m angry I can’t lie on my stomach, disappointed by my weakness and pissed at breast cancer.  I wonder if anyone else here carries these thoughts, this story.  It can’t only be me, but at this moment it seems so.

Somehow I had to push up…I managed, not gracefully, not smoothly and definitely out of form, but I got up and finished what I had started determined to get better.

Right after struggling through Pilates, I catch a television commercial overrun with happy, smiling people, some bald, some wearing scarves, surrounded by flowing pink banners excited for a breast cancer walk.

Why are these women so happy?  Has a cure been found I don’t know about?

This really bothers me.  Those faces seem so clueless…don’t they get it?  Breast cancer is not something to smile about.  If only the other side were portrayed in these commercials for the cure.  People speaking eloquently, passionately of those lost to breast cancer, describing their own disease and proclaiming awareness and early detection are not enough. Actual angry, fed up citizens demanding their donations go directly to research so pink walks are never needed again.

That’s a commercial I’d like to see.

Maybe I’d be happier if I didn’t know better.  If I still believed in the power of hope as those in the commercial, but hope without research leaves us nowhere and nowhere, like being stuck on my mat, sucks.

We need to gather all our strength, our collective voices and push.  Maybe together, we’ll get somewhere.  Maybe hope will spin into action.  I have to believe that.

I’m starting today with Breast Cancer Action’s “Think Before You Pink” webinar and seriously considering attending the National Breast Cancer Coalition summit in Washington, DC this coming May to learn how I can help change the conversation.

It’s a start.

17 thoughts on “Off the Mat

  1. 'We need to gather all our strength, our collective voices and push. Maybe together, we'll get somewhere.'Yes, absolutely Stacey. We need each other in this. The best way to mourn those we've lost is to do things, to talk eloquently about reality, and get change to happen.


  2. Just went to the Ntl Breast Cancer Coalition's website. I was paralyzed with grief last year after James died, so I didn't go, which meant I missed my opportunity to meet Rachel. I'm seriously considering attending this year. I must wait a little longer to see how my calendar plays out. Are you really thinking about going? It would be great if we could rustle up a group of us.XOXOXO,Brenda


  3. Stacey… I am IN…..Just fyi…… We need to PUSH past the status quo. If we aren't part of the solution, we ARE part of the problem. And, that doesn't mean we MUST attend NBBC… it just means we need to share whatever part we can to advance the research. I miss Rach.xoxox


  4. Hi Brenda, I want to go and my husband is telling me to go. I'm just trying to figure out the logistics, mainly making sure my husband has the time off to be home with the boys, then I'll figure out flight vs train costs, stuff like that. But, it's coming together. I would so love if a group of us met there. I was very sorry I missed last year. Rachel had written to me then, that there would be next year. Well, next year is here, she is not. I can't stop thinking something has to change. Keep me posted of your plans and I'll do the same.


  5. AnneMarie, great to know you're going. I don't know if I feel part of the problem, but I know sitting by with my hands in my lap isn't enough. I need more. I'll keep you posted. Would love to meet you there. I miss Rachel, too. There's a huge void in our cyber world now. xoxo


  6. I most certainly do carry those thoughts and I will state for the record- Pilates is hard! I have been practicing it for a year now and I still struggle with planks or anything that I have to put pressure on my arms! I can say that I have gotten stronger because of pilates and it has helped me to get back on the bike quicker. Of course I do still dislike laying on my implants. I have been totally pissed off lately at a lot of what cancer has taken from me/us. It is hard to 'shake it'. Keep getting up off that mat and one day you will surprise yourself. I love where your energy is going now. You are right, we do need to gather our strength and push forward.


  7. Oh my goodness, I tried Pilates once and never again..I know it's good for you – but I just couldn't handle competing with myself – I have the same problem with holding some yoga poses too. Then I beat myself up for giving up so easily. It's tough for me to just let things be the way they are without judging them and wanting them to be different..I guess it's something I really have to work on…could take quite a while (I'm still not going back to Pilates though!)


  8. Stacey, those smiling, judgmental faces really get to me, too. How dare these people make everything look like a walk in the park! I do hope you can attend the NBCC summit and be heard. You can speak for us all. XOXO


  9. Stacey,This post is so packed full. As you know, I was recently on vacation too, and no, I couldn't leave cancer behind either. I never totally can. I try to \”use it\” somehow too. As for the Pilates, boy do I relate to that! I sometimes feel so weak and wimpy. I know I've lost so much strength and I know I need to work on regaining some of that. Good for you for trying Pilates. And then that commercial, well, it's just silly. Breast cancer is something so NOT to smile about… Finally, like you, I have to believe we'll get somewhere if we all keep using our collective voices. Tiny steps, but steps none-the-less.


  10. Hi Stacey,I have used alot of Eve Gentry's work in pilates.She herself had a radical mastectomy , and brought herself around. Eve was a pilates elder as the original students and teachers were called that got to study with Joseph Pilates. If you can find a teacher well versed in Eve's very restorative work, this might help. The other place to look is Pink Ribbon program It is a Post-operative workout enhancing recovery.Again another BC personality that created this program.I have been out of treatment for three years, surgeries ,chemo,rads,aromatase, etc. No rebuild, no breast, and without these programs I would have been lost. Hope this helps.Love your posts.The blog community has been a big part of my ability to keep on keeping on….De


  11. Hey, Rebecca, good to hear from you. I'm glad you understand, you're often an inspiration to me and as a matter of fact, I went back yesterday and tried not to be so hard on myself. I can see how it would benefit me in the long run. We'll see. Keep riding. Hope to see you soon.


  12. Marie, thanks for sharing. You're funny, but I totally get what you're saying. I don't know why we're so hard on ourselves. It doesn't solve anything and it's not our fault these exercises are difficult. I'll keep trying. At least you do yoga. That's not so easy either.


  13. Hi Jan, I know! Why are they smiling? It's almost like they're actors playing the role of an upbeat survivor, though I know they're real people. I'm fascinated by NBCC. It is still in my plans.


  14. Hi Nancy, you know, I think that post probably lost focus somewhere, but it's nice to learn I'm not alone with the exercise struggle and you are not weak and wimpy, though I know what you mean. We've been through alot. Think of any other person starting an exercise program, it's difficult for them and most haven't had the surgeries and reconstruction we've had. Anyway, let's keep at it. Thanks for your comment.


  15. Hi De, thanks for info. I wasn't familar with Eve Gentry. I do know one instructor who works one-on-one with breast cancer patients having gone through it herself, but she's quite a distance from me and that's been holding me back, but it may be worth a couple of sessions. I'm glad you've found our community helpful. I don't know where I'd be without it and it makes me happy knowing others are finding it valuable. That's the whole point. xoxo


  16. Beautifully written, Stacey, and so eloquent. You are not alone; there are so many things I cannot do because of friggin cancer. I have trouble getting out of bed, thanks to the surgery for my double mastectomy with reconstruction. Things are now a struggle for me physically and (sigh) therefore emotionally. And I agree that something needs to be done so there is a cure and not some pink nonsense that doesn't even amount to a cure.


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