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Perseverance

I started this blog yesterday, with the title only, so, here
we go again.
I’ve been reading the Lance Armstrong book It’s Not about
the Bike
, which someone leant me when I got
into the hospital. Whatever might be happening in the world with him and his
accolades, I’m more interested in the story of a man who overcame long-shot
odds against cancer.
And the book is quite good, thanks, I’m sure, to his writer.
But, as I was reading it, he writes about getting on his
bike even as he begins chemotherapy. That if he can just get on his bike, he
can beat it. If he maintains some semblance of his old life, and his old sense
of control, then he can control cancer. That if he can persevere through this
by sheer will alone, all is not lost.
And, healthy or not, deluded or not – I like his line.
It’s only the first few days for me being back in hospital
on my second round of chemo, and the first week is usually quite easy (she says
with all her experience). It’s the second week when all your blood counts go
down that you get that pallor and weakness we associate with cancer patients.
So, I’ve been walking around the veranda in the morning. My
perseverance. I remember the first time I was here, there was a woman who I saw
flaming past each day, pulling or pushing her IV pole, but each day, as I sat
sick and listless in bed, I watched her fly past my door on the veranda, and
was judgmental and jealous. Who does she think she is – outrunning this thing –
how come I can’t do that – here she comes around again, the show-off. But, now,
having the energy that I do, I get it.
There is a sense that if I can only move, I won’t be caught.
If I can get my street clothes on, I’m not as bad as all that.
But, more what I wanted to say about perseverance was this:
I have never had to persevere in anything. As a relatively
intelligent person with no real encouragement to excel from home, I have skated
along on half-steam for the majority of my life, and done well enough.
Adequately, as my friend would say. My life has been adequate. Nothing
extraordinary, I haven’t pushed through any barriers or boundaries, and have
generally continued to plod along for as long as I’ve been alive.
I haven’t needed to excel. I haven’t needed to persevere.
Until now.
With each creative endeavor, as you know by now, I pull back
at some point. Painting, acting, writing, singing. I will spend a few months
active in pursuance of these interests, and then wane. I will talk myself back
from it, in any number of ways, and move back into my mediocrity.
It’s not about being outstanding, mind you; it’s about being
authentic. And, simply, being in the middle of a pack for me is not authentic. Having a plodding life is not adequate
for me. I am and have more than that.
But, I have never needed to push through the fear that keeps
me hidden. I have never been forced before to make the choice to go past the
threshold, and continue on.
With cancer, I don’t have a choice. I simply have to push
through, past the fear, past anything – because there is nothing but the choice
for life. I simply have no other option except to persevere, except to push
myself into excellence, out of the dark.
I have never had to fight for anything the way that I am
having to fight for my life now. Nothing has ever been more precious. To be out
of options for how to proceed is a gift at this point. There are choices that
I’m going to have to make, and I’ve been presented with the concept of the
“burden of choice.”, But with my life, there is no choice. There is no option
to recede, to play down, to retreat, to ignore. I am being given the
opportunity to persevere in a way I never had.
And, as I’ve said, this knowledge has become my talisman and
my lighthouse. I will do everything in my power to be as healthy as I can for
as long as I can, simply because I must. Simply because it’s the only thing
that is.
I’m, in fact, glad for this opportunity, having never had it
before, having before had the option to tap out, and say this is too hard or
too scary. This, THIS, cancer, IS hard
and scary. It is by far the most hard and scary thing I’ve ever had to do, yet
in this situation, there is only one way forward, and that presents freedom. 

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