The Road Back

I started running on my 13th birthday. Please don’t do the math for me – I know that was a long time ago. The point is, I fell in love with the sport from the very first step and since then I’ve run at least 40 miles a week, every week.

Except for the two months after I was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

When my doctor broke the news to me that I was sick I felt my face immediately go all hot and red. I am after all “Lizzyfit” the girl who runs everywhere; the girl who can do more REAL push ups than anyone else in the gym; and the girl who breezes through a boot camp class without breaking a sweat.  I mean seriously — I am the girl who has co-written some of the bestselling fitness books of all time. Cancer simply did not fit into my self-image.

What I realized pretty quickly though, is that cancer doesn’t care how many miles you’ve run. It certainly doesn’t care about your carefully constructed self-image. Once it enters your body, all this belligerent invader wants to do is wreak havoc and kill you if it can. So I knew I had to get past my emotions and focus on getting well again.

Because of my particular issues – which also included a sizable aneurism in the artery leading to one of my kidneys – my doctors told me I’d have to sit still for the duration of my treatment.  Even so, I can tell you that my relationship with physical activity in general and running in particular is what got me through – even during the period of time I never took a step.

Looking back on this experience now about three years after the fact, I really do know that I am one of the lucky ones. My illness included two trips to the ER, three major surgeries, a month worth of hospital stays and a seven week layoff but I avoided a lot of the hardcore treatments many cancer patients endure.

As for my first run back, those first twenty minutes were tough to get through. I was humbled by my slowness. So slow I’m pretty sure I saw a turtle breezing past me in a blur.

But you know what? That was only the physical side. Mentally, I felt like I was gliding down a hill. I got through it. I did it and I will always consider it as one of my most amazing athletic accomplishments ever.

Stepping back into my trusty running shoes for the first time in over two months made me realize how important it is to take care of your body. If something happens to you, you want to be as strong and as fit as possible to deal with whatever comes.

Also, if you do have a setback and like me, you’re lucky enough to get a chance to rebuild, you have to respect what your setback does to you but honor what you are capable of right now. You don’t start from where you were. But at least you start. And when you do, that first step feels like lifting anchor and setting sail.

What about you? Have you overcome a setback? I’d love to hear about your experience and what you did to get yourself through. And also, keep checking back for more blogs by me. I’ll be sharing my thoughts, experiences and ideas from the world of health and fitness. Reach out if there’s something you like to talk about.

And don’t forget to follow @lizzyfit and @acaciafitness on twitter for great tips on getting in shape.