I spent my morning today down by the river, just like I did one year ago. The Dragon Boat races are back in RVA and one of the organizations I love had boats out on the water. Last year, I rowed hard in three races and loved every second of it.
Today, I knew all I had in me was cheering. But I was shocked to discover how difficult even that was. The walk to our tent forced me to stop several times to catch my breath. I was light headed and woozy. Weak in the knees.
I couldn't help but think back to a year ago. To a time when I could run a half marathon without training for it. When I could breeze through back-to-back yoga classes. When I didn't just go to spin class multiple times a week, but rode my bike there.
None of those things are possible right now. Not a single one.
* * *
I know most of my frustration today is over something temporary. On Thursday my platelets came back low enough that they are having me back on Monday to recheck them - and a transfusion is pretty likely. I was up all night last night with a nosebleed that wouldn't stop and currently I can't make it up a flight of stairs without panting. I bruise at the slightest touch and I am incredibly weak. This is temporary. Just until my counts rebound. And at less than a week out from finishing chemotherapy - its to be expected.
But there is the larger concern of the strain chemotherapy puts on your heart. I have to start thinking more seriously about the things that are safe for me to do and how to safely get back to the things I love and miss - to running and cycling and yoga.
Its frustrating. I want to be able to do all those things they way I could a year ago. But the simple truth is that I can't. I am back to square one and need to start from there. Running one mile. Biking the flat route. Using my knees in chaturanga.
* * *
"How long has it been?" she asks me from the pretty upholstered chair where she is curled under strings of lights. "Six months?"
"Four and a half," I correct her. We spend the next five minutes confirming this is true. That this whole adventure started a mere four and a half months ago.
She then proceeded to list for me not every thing I have been through in that time, but every thing I have accomplished from her perspective.
Recovered from a hysterectomy.
Survived six brutal rounds of chemotherapy.
Reached one year of sobriety.
Flipped nearly the entirety of my house.
Adopted a puppy.
Kept up my step work.
Continued to serve others where I could.
"You have done all that in four and a half months. That is amazing!"
As she rattled off her list, I realized she was right. In a relatively short span of time, I had taken leaps in the direction of my new life.
* * *
Its days like today when I start to think back to before. Was the cancer already there a year ago? Six months ago? Will I ever be able to do the things I did back then again? I find myself picking apart my life's timeline to try to solve the puzzle of when things went sideways and when they will right themselves again.
But I know that I will never be able to pinpoint the moment when the wheels fell off. And I know that things will never actually be righted. At least not in the way they were before. The shards of my prior life are slowly being pieced into a beautiful new mosaic, but I don't yet know what the final picture will look like.
Even knowing this, on days like today, I long for my old life. The longing is visceral. Its enough to send you retreating to your puppy and hiding your head.
But given the chance, I wouldn't go back. I wouldn't trade who I am now for who I was 14 years ago - before lymphoma. I wouldn't trade who I am becoming for who I was five months ago.
* * *
I had to leave the water far earlier than expected. The heat and the walking and, honestly, just the standing around were too much for my chemo-weary body. As I slowly made my way to the car - stopping to catch my breath halfway through the flight of stairs - the frustration welled up inside of me. Would it even be possible to get back to where I once was? I was fighting back tears as I saw a woman I had just met hours before walking toward me, returning to our tent from her car.
As we were waiting for our first race, she had noticed my bald head and asked if I was undergoing treatment. I shared a bit about about my journey and where I am now. It was a short conversation - we didn't even exchange names.
After I wearily hugged her, still fighting back tears, she told me she owns a pilates studio in town. Could she give me some free sessions one-on-one to help me on my way back into my body. We quickly exchanged contact information, hugged again, and parted ways.
As I drove home, I cried. It continues to amaze me how blatantly God is providing reassurance - how clearly He is answering my prayers these days. Maybe not the big ones - for children and a partner and financial security - but He continues to hand me what I need in this moment. To get through this day.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And this is where I need to continue to turn to fuel my trust in His plan. As I place one foot in front of the other, He continues to sneak me little clues as to what He is doing and where we are going and what all this was for. But patience was not a virtue I was born with, and my prayers still devolve into begging Him to speed things along a touch more than I'd like to admit.
But God does not promise us a sneak preview and He isn't into spoilers. The only things we are guaranteed are that He loves us, He has plans far greater than we can imagine on our own, and that He will give us what we need to get through this day. This day. Today and nothing more. God isn't into long-term projections or letting us unwrap His gifts the night before the actual holiday. If I have learned nothing else from these four and a half months that is it - God requires us to be patient, to trust, and to keep walking despite all we do not yet know.
He does not promise us all of His gifts in one gluttonous meal
He simply promises us our daily bread.
No more. And certainly no less.