Getting Off the Cancer Couch


I hadn’t done aerobics in decades, but it was time to be off the cancer couch.

cartoon drawing of blogger and breast cancer survivor, Laura Yeager

In the summer of 1987, I was in my second year of graduate school in the Department of English at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. We were having a heat wave; every day, it was over 100 degrees. To top it off, the apartment where I was living didn’t have any air conditioning. The heat was excruciating. I was 23.

I dealt with the sweltering heat by finding water, lots of it. The nearest outdoor pool was situated by a local motel. I would ride my bike over every day and jump in the pool. I’m sure the management sensed I was there, but they let me be. My hunch is this was because I looked good by their pool, where I’d lie in a lounge chair until I jumped in the water again.

During that three-month period, I had the best tan of my life. I’d smother my skin with SPF 4 suntan lotion. Back then, they didn’t have 30 SPF sunscreen, and I wouldn’t have wanted it anyway.

This was about 20 years before I’d ever think of cancer.

I kept my body thin for decades by doing aerobics, first “live” in a gym. I exercised with a beautiful woman. We made it a contest to see who could kick the highest or stretch the farthest. These were times of great fun for me, and it was great to be in shape.

Then, when gyms became too expensive, I aerobicized “virtually,” but we didn’t call it that back then. I bought videos and then DVDs and danced to the music, keeping myself trim.

Cancer hit in 2011. All exercise stopped. With chemo and radiation and surgery, I was too tired to work out. And the pounds came on. No more aerobics.

Until yesterday, the last day of 2023. I got my old DVD out, hoping to hop and march my way to my old body from those days by the pool. My husband of 28 years watched me. It wasn’t pretty, or was it? All my weight had landed in my stomach which bounced up and down as I moved. My husband seemed to be happy that I was off the cancer couch, which I hadn’t left for over a decade.

The cancer couch is a dismal place. You sit there so long that your behind falls asleep. It’s hard to get up, but you do, even if it’s just to take your meds.

Off the cancer couch, it was difficult to keep up with the aerobics teacher on the DVD. I did a modified version of the movements, at times simply swaying to the music. But I lasted the half hour; I did the whole tape, and I was vindicated. Now, if I could do this every day, I’d be 120 pounds again. Ha! Fat chance. (No pun intended.) I wouldn’t be ultra-skinny, but I’d be lucky to drop 20 pounds.

Dropping 20 was my 2024 New Year’s resolution.

It was good to be off the cancer couch.

I hoped it was for good.

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