100 to 1

I woke up feeling somewhat determined today. Despite my last Chemotherapy Diaries post claiming that everything was perfect this cycle, it went pear-shaped over the weekend. But that is for another post. Today was the day that I stopped wallowing in my own self-pity and actually did something. There was a sign this morning that it was the perfect time to do so.

An unexpected ring at the door this morning produced a package for me from Waterstones, a well-known chain of bookshops in the UK. I hadn’t ordered any books so naturally, I was surprised. It turns out that my future mother-in-law and keen blog supporter Kathy had sent me a book called ‘The Daily Stoic‘. The book has a page for every day of the year containing a quote from a famous philosopher and a small paragraph reflecting on it by the author. It is a wonderful idea and a great gift – thank you, Kathy! Today’s wisdom is titled ‘Reboot the Real Work’ and contains the following words from Ryan Holiday, the author.

“As we get older, failure is not so inconsequential anymore. What’s at stake is not some arbitrary grade or intramural sports trophy, but the quality of your life and your ability to deal with the world around you.”

Ryan Holiday – The Daily Stoic

There couldn’t be a better call to arms, which is phrased so well. It feels almost too relevant to my headspace this morning. It provided the lift I needed to shake off a tough few days, forget the hardships and refocus my energy. “Today is the day I run,” I said to myself.

The day started off with 30 minutes of yoga with my mum. We use an app called Down Dog, a cost-effective way of avoiding paying for yoga classes, but it has its shortcomings. It seems to enjoy cycling through 3 core moves as a means of moving between sections, which is fine, but when I am spending 50% of the workout listening to the exact same tone of voice tell me to do the exact same manoeuvre that I am also struggling with, I start to lose my zen a bit. “Focus on your breathing, Dan,” I told myself, “not how much you want to punch the iPad,” as I made my way into a forward fold for the 200th time. One of the primary benefits of yoga is supposed to be the meditative quality you achieve through focusing on your body, steadily breathing and paying attention to every cell. I’m working on that part of it, apparently – it gave me more mental anguish today. But I did it.

Next up was the big event, the run itself. I told myself that I wouldn’t come home without doing 5K. The thought even crossed my mind that maybe I’d feel great and do 5 miles. I said as much to each member of my family that I crossed this morning with veiled confidence. “I guess if I feel ok, I may go up to 5 miles, but we’ll see.” It was met with smiles and adulation. I felt important; it was fantastic. Armed in leggings, shorts, thick socks, a thermal layer, running top, gloves and a snood, I was ready. It was more clothes than I would usually wear in the -5 Philadelphia winter. It was more clothes than I wore when I ran in an actual snowstorm there, where I spent most of the run doing my best impression of Bambi’s first steps. It wasn’t graceful.

I didn’t manage 5 miles. I didn’t even manage 5K. I only just made it 1 mile before having to walk. It seems I underestimated the effect that chemotherapy has on you, despite complaining about the impact that chemotherapy is having on me weekly in my blog. Isn’t the human mind an incredible thing? My initial feeling was disappointment, but it quickly faded into something else… gratitude? I’m not sure what the exact emotion was, but I had run again, and there was a new baseline to work from. It felt good to be out again. I reminded myself of the quote from the morning and told myself that I had achieved something today, even if I struggled to call it an achievement at first. My previous fitness goal was to run a 100-mile ultra, and that thought hung heavy in my mind. Struggling to run a single mile felt alien to me. But I haven’t run a single mile since September, during a 35-mile ultra-marathon. Things are different now.

The sun was shining as I approached home from my warm down. I swung home, grabbed my fiance and my little puppy Lucy and went walking for 30 minutes. My clothes were already sweaty, and I had my runners on, so why not. It’s quite a sight to behold watching the small and very beautiful Lucy running at almost full speed to keep up with us walking. She is a delight. The day had not stopped its prophetic tendencies yet, though.

Upon opening Twitter this afternoon, I saw the following post from Pancreatic Cancer Action. I’m not sure if Blue Monday is specifically today’s date of 17th January or just every Monday ever. Some of those reading this will likely argue that it is every Monday ever. I had completed almost every tip that they had suggested. The only one I have not technically done, but had spoken about, was ‘Book something to look forward to’. Anna and I had spent the walk talking about booking a weekend away for my birthday in March, though, so I had shown some intent.

Those suffering from Blue Monday know that plenty of others are with you. I like to find things that help me gain some perspective when feeling low. It isn’t always good to goad yourself with people who have more significant problems than you yet are dealing with them much better than you, but it offers valuable perspective if you can stomach it. Scanning Twitter a few days ago, I started looking at Chris Johnson (Gotthegiftofit). I would explain his motive, but his bio does it better than I could: “Living with terminal cancer (GIST & Secondary Liver). Running marathons, cycling coast to coast and climbing UKs highest mountains for Children With Cancer UK”. I already had an incredible amount of respect for this man, but the below post is the one that blew me away.

What an incredibly powerful message and mentality. The fact is that life is unpredictable. Things change quickly, sometimes in a way that can feel irreparable. I know that I have spent a lot of time recently mourning a life I used to have, one full of exercise, work ambitions and social plans. Those things felt lost to me, which made them feel even more desirable. In my mind, my previous life was perfect, and I longed for it. Our brains can be deceitful things that refuse to give us any rest. The reality is that things happen, and where nature looks on with indifference, we humans assign emotion and meaning to them. Our overall focus should always remain the same – to maximise our enjoyment in the situation we are currently in and strive to be as happy as we can for as long as possible. You cannot control everything in the world, but you can control your response to it. My situation may suck, but my response to it doesn’t have to. So today, I’m choosing to be happy with my achievements and appreciative that I have a life that I know is worth fighting for. Blue Monday 0 – Dan Godley 1.