I think being an athlete is what saved my life.
It's a little early in the season to be running in the woods here in New Hampshire, after what has been a snowy March and a very rainy/sleety April. I know it's going to be muddy, and it was not that long ago that there was significant snow still on the ground, despite the warmer temperatures now. There quite possibly may be some difficult parts to cross where the woods and the seacoast intertwine, but it is well worth the wet feet; it is my happy place. I love the physical awareness it takes to run through these paths — the way you need to take note of your surroundings, and sometimes, slow down and look around to make sure you are heading in the right direction or not going to sink yourself in a pool of mud.
I think being an athlete is what saved my life. You see, there is a certain awareness we have with our bodies when we have spent a lifetime in sport. Sometimes, we are probably too in tune and can have moments of behaving like a hypochondriac. In my case, as I began the progress of running down that windy road of a cancer diagnosis, each doctor was taken by surprise. Not one of my doctors or surgeons was expecting a 40-year-old fit woman who had literally just ran the Boston Marathon to be diagnosed with such an advanced-staged cancer.
There are some days, especially right around this time of the year, when I relive those moments that brought me to where I am today, and I thank god I did act on my awareness, and I kick myself and wonder why I took so long to act on my gut. Why, when I needed it most, did I choose to ignore my sense of awareness and wait it out?
If there is one thing cancer has taught me (trust me there are several, but that's for another time) it is to go with my gut even, when everyone else is not in agreement. Every single doctor I saw was shocked by each step we took towards an advanced staging of cancer —right from that first biopsy, down to the lymph node biopsy that would lead us to several other surgeries to remove all the cancer.
As I sit down to finally finish this piece, I recently found out two more people I know and care about have been diagnosed with cancer. Thank God they either followed their instinct or followed their yearly check-up plan. They will have to follow their own treatment and plan and hopefully, kick its butt while heading towards health. For myself, I'll always wonder if I should have, could have, would have acted sooner if my diagnosis would have been different. For now, all I can do is continue to run, sometimes stumble, and continue to do the things I need to do to maintain my health.