I have a friend whose name sounds like Mandy. She is a warrior. She’s a couple decades my senior, but you would never know it looking at her, or walking with her. Several months ago, when I was in remission and she was nearing the one year mark of chemo to treat a particularly stubborn recurrence of ovarian cancer, we went for a walk. She lives south of Sugartown, in a beautiful neighborhood by the water.
Halfway through the walk, I was getting pooped.
“We can sit down and rest if you like,” she offered, pointing to a bench.
“I’d better not,” I answered, “if I sit down, I won’t want to get back up.”
Mandy is still getting chemo for her recurrence, and it’s been over a year. She’s doing better. The treatment is working, and she has the upper-hand.
We talk often. She’s one of my greatest inspirations. She’s so strong, positive, and is lucky enough to have a pain threshold the likes of which I can’t even imagine. During my treatments in 2009, some of you might remember I had intrapertioneal chemo, which goes straight into your abdominal cavity and sits there, bathing the organs and tissues. I barely made it through two treatments. Mandy did six treatments with no pain, and very few side effects.
“Everyone is different,” she offered me kindly when I was making the difficult decision to stop the IP chemo and to go back to IV infusions.
“Yes, you are superhuman, Mandy, a warrior.”
Recently Mandy called me to check in on how I was doing with my treatments.
“They’re going well,” I told her. “My numbers are dropping and the chemo itself is not as hard to bear as I thought it would be. “But there’s the pain, always the pain. It seems like I can feel each cancer cell dying.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. Pain has been your thing with these treatments.”
“Yes, that’s for sure. And how about you? How are you doing?” I ask her.
“Me? I’m slowing down. Instead of walking three miles a day, I’m only walking two.”
That’s right. Over one year of chemo treatments, and walking two miles a day, or nearly every day. I don’t know about you, but I find that inspiring.
At the BBQ the other night at Heather’s, I was telling Bob and Debbie this story. Debbie was as impressed as I was. Bob was impressed, too. But when I said, “I couldn’t do that,” he answered, “It’s all in your head.” Then he told the story of running the New York Marathon at age 60, nine months after running the LA marathon at 59.
I was inspired by this to walk Little J to Preschool the next day. It’s about a mile total, there and back, and I was exhausted. Baby steps. Baby steps. And don’t you worry, mom and Ms. Miller, I will be taking it slowly, a little bit each day, remembering the strength of the Bobs and Mandies out there who are ignoring obstacles every day.