“When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.” ~G.K. Chesterton
Have you ever had one of those moments, when talking to someone you haven’t seen in a long time, where you realize that while you’ve been complaining about mundane things in life (stress, bills, gas prices, work)…
…that this person has been fighting for their life?
I did just recently.
One of my students had been gone from Spinning class for a couple of years and I finally saw her back in class. I smiled and waved at "Lady X" as we will call her. She waved back.
Another night she was back in class again. This time, as I was walking around the room before class started, I stopped to ask how she had been doing. “Fine, now,” was her reply.
Thinking nothing more of it, I taught class and then left the Spinning room. On my way towards the front door I saw her again and stop to chat for a moment.
"Lady X" told me that her doctor had finally cleared her to exercise again. (Uhm...)
She told me that her latest MRI had come back good (Uhm...).
And I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
As "Lady X" began to tell me about her ordeal, I started to take in details I should have noticed the previous week: The bandana over her short hair and her now-breastless chest.
True to her nature, "Lady X" was factual and honest, but also in good spirits. She never complained and never wavered in her energy. She told me she had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer that had also spread to her lymph nodes, her liver and three of her vertebrae.
"Lady X" had had both breasts and some lymph nodes removed, and had received radiation (I am also assuming chemotherapy, but I was too numb—and dumb—to ask. The bandana clued me in).
She showed me the irradiated skin where her right breast used to be and—once again—never complained. She simply told me her story.
We talked about Lady X’s future breast reconstruction (she is facing several more surgeries). She also explained how she had felt a lump a year before but her doctor had “poo pooed” it so she had let it go. She reiterated to me if I felt anything—anything—out of the ordinary to insist on a mammogram (oh, and I am past due for one myself.)
As I was getting into the car I realized that this woman—a “regular” woman, and one who had once been a consistent participant in class—had been through the unimaginable.
• "Lady X" had both breasts removed.
• She had her lymph nodes removed.
• She had received radiation.
• And chemotherapy.
• With lots of medication.
But as soon as her doctor cleared her she was back at the gym…for her health and her sanity. With a smile on her face.
So when I am too tired to work out or I just don’t feel like it, I will think back to "Lady X" and remember—if she can show up at the gym after all she has been through, I can do it, too.
I am grateful that I can still ride.