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.