I received a package in the mail from the nurse manager of the breast center where I was diagnosed with breast cancer four days ago. (Wow, still smarts a little to say that.) It is a book called “Be a Survivor” by Vladimir Lange, MD. Now, I don’t know Vladimir. He might be a lovely person, but he can step aside. Really? They couldn’t find a medically, emotionally, and experientially qualified WOMAN to write (and title) this road map to my new disease and how to survive it??? RUDE. Also rude for anyone to remind me so blatantly that I do, in fact, have breast cancer. I was doing just fine in Denialville with my delightful breakfasts of Ghirardelli dark chocolates.
Also enclosed in the package was a flier for a local breast cancer support group. The nurse had mentioned this previously in a phone call so I was expecting it. But combined with Vladimir and his bossy directive, I started to feel panicky. Too real, too real, alert alert alert! I left my cranky daughter with my tired husband and sped to my new boot camp gym with a winded sensation that felt like I was already doing godforsaken burpees. On the precipice of my first genuine meltdown, I collected myself and forced myself to go inside.
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Side bar: Fitness and I have a tricky relationship. It’s on-again-off-again really. I have gained and lost the same 10-20 pounds since adolescence and have a pretty rotten self image. I’ve tried and successfully completed a variety workout programs, complete with transformation pictures to prove it. But they always come to an end and then I struggle to maintain a normal healthy lifestyle. I have two different Instagram fitness accounts that I never actually posted in because the pendulum swung back the other way before I felt lean/sculpted/satisfied enough to make the big reveal. Healthy. Eventually, I became fed up with the “fitstagram” collective, and armed with the great wisdom imparted by motherhood and my mid-30s, I tried to start a new humor blog about health and self acceptance no matter your appearance. But that didn’t get off the ground either because it wasn’t genuine — I did not accept myself. I really only wanted to humor-shame fitness obsessed people to make myself feel better. Yeah. Embarrassing. But insightful? (Hindsightful?) So over the last six months, I found myself descending into a pit of self-loathing about my appearance, about the fact that all my pants were too tight, that everything seemed to jiggle, but additionally, that I cared so much! I just wanted to be normal and happy and active and healthy and secure! I wanted to model all that for my daughter so she wouldn’t grow up with the same crazy that I have! Clearly this was cause for more of the emotional eating that started all of this in the first place. And that is when I found Burn Boot Camp. (This is not an ad. Well it sort of is, but no one is paying me!)
I signed up for a 30-day free trial, which started October 1 at their grand opening in my town. It was extremely challenging but interesting, and I had never done anything quite like it. There is a community there that is supportive and motivating. It took almost four entire weeks to see or feel any sort of progress (probably because of my chronic-dieting-related geriatric metabolism), and I spent a significant portion of that time hobbling around with muscle-related soreness. However, just before the cutoff to sign a contract with “founders” rates, I noticed some gratifying improvements. I didn’t magically look bikini-competition-ready, but I could hold a plank a little longer, lift a little bit heavier, and while the metrics only changed a little, the psychological lift of accomplishment and sisterhood had me energized and hooked. So I signed the contract on October 30. Literally the very same day that Bob showed his ugly face on a mammogram and ultrasound.
The point is that running off to boot camp is not some subtle humble brag… restrain your eye rolling. Or not. Gym selfies annoy me as much as the next non-fitness-model, but who knows, I might post some one day because I HAVE CANCER AND I CAN DO WHAT I WANT. But that place is sort of my sanctuary right now and part of my journey … OK, I hear how that sounds; eye rolls permitted.
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Exercise proved beneficial for my psyche. It no longer felt like a tunnel of doom was closing in around me. I’m super glad that I made myself go to the gym. Hopefully, I will remember to turn to it in the future, rather than full-on ostrich my head in the sand with stress and anxiety, as I often do. But I did come home, shove Vladimir and his platitudes under a pile of papers, and eat chocolate for dinner. And I’m fine with that, too.