It is often said that laughter is the best medicine. I was able to test this theory when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 44 years old. Going through this experience, I chose humor as my drug of choice.
My chemo was dose-dense, meaning fast and furious, leaving no time to recover in between visits, but had a shorter treatment cycle. I was also given a high dose Prednisone drip, to help with nausea, and my immediate side effects were Superman-like. They created a short-term sense of having super power and endurance.
Having the Superman-like side effects, along with being healthy and my passion for fitness, I was confident this was going to be a piece of cake.
In addition, I just finished reading Lance Armstrong’s Memoir “It’s Not AboutThe Bike: My Journey Back To Life.” That book inspired me on so many levels. It was then that I decided I was not going to play victim to this cancer thing, and instead, become a fearless warrior just like Lance.
I made a visit to Quad Cycles, a local bike shop in Arlington, to purchase a bike. While the sales clerk was educating me, I was busy visualizing winning the next Tour de France. I was going to ride and conquer just like Lance! I also purchased a pair of bike shoes as they would help increase my performance.
What I didn’t consider is although there is a good reason those shoes lock into the pedals, there’s also another good reason to know how to get out of them quickly. My ride tour took me about 200 feet from the bike shop, when I crash landed on Massachusetts Avenue, shoes still clamped in the pedals, leaving a broken, shattered and detached mirror from the fall. As I brushed myself off, with some minor bruises, I realized I would have to put my riding career on hold for now.
After my crash landing, I was being more careful as I was experiencing way more sick days than good days. I proceeded to rent as many funny movies and chick flicks as I could. I find a movie that inspires you to feel good can be so humbling, and as you immerse yourself in laughter and positive emotion, you get to redirect your thoughts and feelings from fear and hopelessness towards a more joyful, hopeful place.
Today, as I watched Lance’s admission of using performance-enhancing drugs, bullying people who dared to tell the truth and saying “It was all one big lie”, on Oprah, I got this acute queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, proceeded by a deep sadness. I soon realized I was taking this way too personal. But Lance’s successes and triumphs motivated me to, instead of lying down to the disease; I became a courageous warrior, a warrior who fought to live and to live all out.
My illness was seven years ago, and I still believe in my warrior path. But this time, I will have to set Lance’s pedestal free. The warrior who is ego-driven, is a warrior of weakness and control. That kind of warrior promotes greed-like power, regardless of the cost to others, rather than a warrior of empowerment and love.
So, while I’m not looking at Lance Armstrong with admiration these days, what I know for sure is cancer continues to teach me how important it is to be true to yourself and others.
Cancer, as well as any life-changing event, causes you to pause, to wake up to what is most important. These experiences are powerful motivators to reach your highest self. Knowing that everything happens for a grander reason, and is there to teach us, to grow us, while leading us closer to where we are supposed to be. It also doesn’t hurt to keep a good sense of humor.