Press the gas on life

I fought cancer with all my might. I fought it with my soul, my mind and then with my body; 16 chemo-therapy sessions and 32 radiation sessions .. that’s not a few in just 9 months.

I came out clean and carried on with my life with more appetite for fun than ever before. With a much better attitude towards life and a whole lot more energy and motivation to try things and new experiences.

 

Then, the pill came. The pill for hormone therapy which I will have to take for the next decade according to two doctors who have been treating me from day one of my adventure.

“Nolvadex”  

 

I initially said to myself, “ok, it’s just a little pill.  I’ll take it and carry on with my life”. I wanted to do so much!  A few days later, the pill started creating so many problems for me - excruciating pain in my bones, numbness of my limbs – both hands and legs, neuralgia and so much more.

 

When I got up in the mornings, I had to make great effort to relax the fingers of both my hands as they were stiff.  I’d get out of bed slowly and painstakingly – every movement I made was unbelievably painful.

However, during the course of the day, and as long as I was active, the situation improved.

 

I ran a lot, I began doing strengthening exercises but I felt my muscles all through my body on fire.  My blood vessels, nervous system and arteries hurt unbelievably!!!  Apparently, it was due to the medication from the chemo-therapy I had been administered and was now flowing through my body from a source.

 

I was determined!  I tried hard and never, ever gave up.  I eventually began going beyond my limits on a daily basis.  “This will not defeat me,” I constantly thought to myself and from the crack of dawn till the evening I did a million things.

In the summer I got onto a sup board and the only thing I didn’t do was cross the ocean!

I had the time of my life!

 

Then, autumn came and I headed for the mountains. I climbed up and then I climbed down. It struck me then just how much of my strength I had lost; I had lost my balance, my knees hurt, my shins and hands were so painful that I couldn’t exert any pressure on them. I needed them to support me and every effort I made was painful.

 

I slowly and gradually began regaining my strength, but at some point I felt quite exhausted.  I was convinced that the side-effects of the chemo were milder than those of the pill, so I decided to give it up.  I stopped taking it!

I wanted to start feeling well again and do so many more things.

A month later, I called my doctors and told them about it.  “We’ll try a new pill and see how you do with that,” they suggested. So, I went back to square one again. Now with a pill called Novartis.

 

A few days later, the problems I had been facing started all over again.  I began complaining and blaming myself for it all. I thought this just couldn’t go on. That I’d stop taking this pill too.

 

Suffice it to say, I never stopped working out despite all my pain and suffering.  I fought the whole situation in the way I knew best, but my mind was constantly pre-occupied with the pain this medication was making me suffer and not on the treatment. 

 

I once again called my doctor.  “I am stopping this awful pill again.  I can’t tolerate it anymore!” I said quite determined to go along with my decision.

He then spoke to me in a stern, direct and blunt way, “there is no way that you will stop this pill!  Your condition was so severe that I am certain that if you do, you will have a 60% - 70% chance of a relapse.  It will face a new outbreak of cancer and in fact with metastasis within the next 3 – 4 years. This could happen to another organ in your body, not necessarily your breast and it could be difficult or next to impossible to treat it.” 

I stopped talking. I was facing a one-way street. There were no choices to be made. So, a few days later, I started taking the pill once again.

 

“I’ll have to live with this,” I thought to myself.  For the next 10 years, on my bedside table, I will see it sitting there as my foe; the enemy that wants to draw all my energy, to deprive me of movement, of life and my happiness.

 

My doctor’s words kept ringing in my ears, over and over again.  I constantly thought about what he told me.  One thing I was certain of was that I didn’t ever want to experience all I had been through again – cancer, hospitals, chemo, etc.  It won’t be easy fighting off yet another cancer.

 

I decided on taking the pill again despite all its repercussions.

 

“It’s just the two of us now,” I thought. “I’m going to be married to you for the next ten years of my life …”

 

The days went by eventually and seeing the pill by my bed every morning, I decided that I had to find a way to love it.

 

All good and easy in theory but so difficult to do!  For instance, one morning I woke up and battled to uncramp my body, I tried to relax the fingers of my one hand with the fingers of the other.

 

These past few years, I’ve been using a motorcycle to get around with.  I imagined that I was riding my motorbike and pressing on the gas, more and more. I started laughing. “Go on, press on the gas … go … more…. go on … give it a bit more and up you get,” I told myself. 

I got into a  fit of laughter hearing myself saying that and began to see this whole, weird phase in a humorous way.

 

Since then, every morning I press on the gas of life; I play loud music and start my day with a smile and a great craving to experience everything. To see everything. To give my best self to all those people by my side. To go out and run. To train all my runners and just go everywhere!

 

Because life is beautiful when you are healthy and you don’t want to miss a minute of it!

So, the decision is all yours!

Press on that gas for your life!

 

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE

 

Maria Polyzou
Champion of the Marathon
Olympians
Coach training