My body knows. When on my game of fitness I am tuned. My body is balanced. I can take the blows that a hard ride delivers, and know the familiar feel of recovery that follows. My normal level of fitness diffuses the stress that comes with a regular day. The thing that amazes me is how, when as aware of my physical-self that I am, stress can sneak up and scream itself out in some physical manifestation when I think (operative word here, THINK: a conscious and intellectual exercise) that I am so meticulously aware of my physical-self that I know my stressed-out self well enough (another conscious exercise) that I have the power to keep those physical manifestations at bay.
But currently I am definitely not at the top of my game. Since January commuting to work and our weekend group rides have dwindled. For the first three months of 2018, with ten hour days each weekend and four-to-six hour stints after each workday, we blasted through our home from top to bottom in preparation to sell. We closed escrow in March at a satisfying high of a seller’s market. That, along with becoming a grandma, the increasing needs of my aging eight-seven year old mom still living on her own, and settling happily into our temporary home had put our riding life on hold. We are only now barely getting back to our weekend group rides.
My brother, who ran a 2:35 marathon in his day says not to worry – that my base will see me through this time. Although I wonder how I’d be “seeing” had I still been on top, another extremely important aspect of an athlete’s life is to accept one’s present conditioning without beating one’s self up for what is not. So, I will trust my brother’s wisdom and the flow of my own fitness history (yet another conscious and intellectual exercise) and believe that I will be back there sometime in the near future.
Years ago I remember thinking I was very self-aware when I realized that stress was what I didn’t consciously know was brewing. Little did I know the extreme of what I had surmised with the age-appropriate philosophical mind of most twenty-something young adults. Now, these thirty years later I’m struck with the idea that not even these years since, with all that I’ve been through, have given me the experience to be able to think stress away. This just validates that even the mental strength to push through that 200th mile of the Hemet Double Century and the 124 degree heat my Garmin read on the Tollhouse Century and the 15,000th foot of climbing and 129th mile of The Death Ride did not prepare me for the stress of this new ride I have just begun.
After a routine mammogram on May 31st, a followup mammogram and ultrasound on June 14th, and a biopsy on June 25th; on June 27th of this year I received confirmation from my new surgeon that I have Stage 1B ER+ HER2- Breast Cancer.
On July 13 I came down with my first-ever cold sore. It has been brutal. I had no idea that the innocuous pimple I felt developing on my upper lip, the random tingles, nerve shots of zinging pain, nor the metallic whiffs I kept getting in my mouth would turn into a full-on attack. Thankfully I was meeting with my new oncologist the day after I felt the first twinges and had started using a topical medicine. He prescribed the medicine that would kick down the symptoms systemically. Though it has done its job, the course of this infection has been as bad as a flu. I have felt like crap since. Only now, after ten days of the medicine am I feeling like I may get back to normal in the next few days.
I don’t think I need any more validation that my innocent twenty-something moment of philosophical brilliance was spot-on. Our athlete minds can get us up and over any mountain. Our athlete bodies tell us when to listen. Our athlete grace reminds us when it’s time take notice so that we can gather our inner troops to attack and heal.
On July 30th I will meet with one more of my team of doctors to solidify my plan of treatment. This team is at the top of their game and my WBF and I are confident that their level of care is unmatched. And, in this very short whirlwind of time that this has all transpired, I have learned that I have a team of amazing family and friends at my side that have already begun to see me through the emotional ride on which I have just embarked.