In my dream, I am riding up a steep climb on a narrow road winding through redwoods, barely able to turn the pedals. But I am happy. Ecstatic, really. I am one with my bike, an extension of my body, connected to the ground and rolling, ever so slowly, over the broken tarmac. All I hear in the dense, silent forest is my labored breathing. I am relaxed. There is no tension in my shoulders. The air smells of dampness and aromatic pine and shadows. My mind is clear and focused on the task at hand. Turn, turn, turn…
Such a pleasant dream. It could go on and on and it often does. When I wake I am happy, even though my body is not what it once was. Memories of rides past.
My cancer showed up again in December for the third time since my initial diagnosis. A scan in January revealed a lesion on my T12 vertebrae. Treatment followed, radiation and a drug regimen that robs me of muscle mass and energy.
My cancer revisits from time to time, tapping on the door. “Hey, I’m here.”
“Of course you are, old friend. I was expecting you.”
“Battling” and “fighting” are expressions often used to describe someone dealing with cancer. Obituaries of those who die from cancer often lead with, “[Name] passed away after a courageous battle with cancer.”
That phrasing has never made sense to me. My cancer is as much a part of me as my heart and lungs. The thought of battling or fighting something that is part of me seems ridiculous – and exhausting.
I have accepted my cancer. It has changed me. It has changed the way I ride. It has humbled me. But it doesn’t make me angry. It doesn’t make me want to “fight” it. I would have to be angry to fight it, wouldn’t I? I don’t have time for anger. My energy is conserved for living, not fighting.
We’re adaptable creatures. As we age, we cannot do things we did in our youth. (Thank god, because some of the stupid things I did in my youth should have rightly gotten me killed.)
So here I am, grateful for the extra gear ratio that allows me to pedal at four miles-an-hour up an eight percent grade without falling over. I am at peace on the bike. Slow can be lovely. I am out for a ride with my cancer, and we’re having a beautiful day.
I expect another knock at the door soon. “Come in,” I’ll say. “Would you like to go for a ride today? Because I would.”