Lance Armstrong, Big Bruiser and Me
Posted August 24, 2009on:
I have no idea how I am able to walk as much as I do so soon after surgery, particularly because it’s not like I’ve been an athlete all my life. But, “I coulda been a contender,” as Marlon Brando said in the 1954 movie, “On the Waterfront.”
At Old Bonhomme Elementary School in suburban St. Louis in the 1950s and early 1960s, I took to gym class with relish. I was so aggressive playing kickball, tag or Red Rover that I was called “Big Bruiser.” It was not a compliment but a reference to the then advertised, Marx Toy Company’s Big Bruiser wrecker truck. (The image does not quite fit today or then).
I also loved to play “war” on the playground – girls against boys – and baseball in my backyard. My dad created a small version of a baseball field for my brother with a pitcher’s mound and backstop. I was pretty good, too.
But then it all came to a halt when I dislocated my kneecap in fifth grade gym class, which took me out of phy ed for the rest of the year. When I did it again in sixth grade playing tennis against the wall of our house, I was given a permanent pass for phy ed, something that would not happen today.
Over the last 18 years or so, I’ve walked most mornings except when I’ve come up with excuses not to get up or there is snow or ice on the sidewalks. (I have long said my most creative time of day is after the alarm goes off and I have to come up with a reason not to go out. I always thought ice on the sidewalks in June was a pretty good one, although not always believed by some of my walking buddies, even though I live in Wisconsin).
In the weeks leading to my breast cancer diagnosis and surgery, I found that when my heart would race with fear or I’d feel that creeping anxiety in my upper chest, walking made all the difference. It helped me cope.
My surgeon told me that I would probably be worn out after a block. The first day after I came home I walked with my husband and son about .5 mile and the next day went about .6 mile and then I started to really keep track and report in. My arms and their range of motion are more functional than I expected with the loss of muscles from the double mastectomy.
It’s not like I’m Lance Armstrong and the athlete he was before or after his fight with cancer.
But moving my body makes me feel less anxious and even euphoric, although at times I worry about whether I am pushing myself too far still less than two weeks after surgery. Walking is a reminder that I am alive and can handle what comes ahead. But watch it cancer, Big Bruiser is on her way.
P.S. Have ideas for what kind of cultural icon I should work into my blog, please email me or post it as a comment. Sorry, I’ve already used Tevye, Clint Eastwood, Chuck Connors, Emelda Marcos and more. If you make suggestions, I’ll try to work them into my blog just for the fun of it.