Monday, October 11, 2010


I lace up like usual. It is always quietest just before I go in motion.

This is also one of the times invading thoughts are always waiting for me in ambush.

Today, though, I wanted to work on my running technique. Stand up straighter, get more air, and shorten my steps on hills.

I kept repeating – elbows back, elbows back.

I finished an annual 5k. Kudos came for doing so but I have it in my head that being healthy isn’t just finishing, it is to own it. Own it. Drill it. Do it. Just own it.

I play ice hockey and my body, though not old, is telling me to change routines as it heals from Sunday morning skating as a goaltender. I moved my weight routine and in its place another running day.

I listen to my body as I pound out each step on a newly paved road. That inner voice sometimes fades and other voices take over. I call them my demons.

There is no evil connotation to them. They are simple shadows of the past and fears of the future. It is an effort to keep them at bay. They are powerful and they have years of fuel to feed on.

They come rather abruptly.

A bit of dialogue from last year creeps in.

Elbows back. Elbows back. Keep breathing.

“If you were 80 we wouldn’t bother with the resection…”

A carving of my liver was all that stood in the way of me surviving or not. I am young and that counted for me.

Another demon counter speaks. But what if you were 80? You would have been dismissed. Thrown aside. You’ve lived long enough now let someone else take your place.

I turn up my iPod. The music can help drown out an imp’s statement. Sometimes.

Elbows back.

Another jolt from a year ago edges in.

“If we find any cancer elsewhere, we will end the operation…”

I take deep breathes through my nose and huff out of my mouth. I squeeze all of the air I can into my lungs and proceed to squeeze all of it out again. Over and over.

Elbows back.

I am suddenly at the foot of a hill. My steps are shorter and I lean into the hill with power. My left knee protests but only for a moment. A small adjustment quiets that voice.

A future in question.

I am at the top of the hill and I begin my circle back. I catch myself slumping forward slightly again. A bad habit. I am at once erect and looking at the tree line. My arms are still cranking to the rhythm of the road.

Still a future in question?

No. I will it away. The demons’ remonstration tells me that I am winning even just for the moment.

I am healthy, damn it all. At this moment, this very moment, I am and I will own it, drill it and do it until I cannot do it any longer. When I sit in the waiting room, people will believe I am waiting on someone. I am not a patient. Doctors will shake their heads. Nurses will smile – I am the easy one. He’s in and he’s out. Decades of the same routine and I will keep doing what I am doing because I can.

I barely realize that I am home again. The demons have gone. They always leave a slime trail. A bitter aftertaste, but that is a small price to pay.

It’s over. Another battle complete. It is an endless mind war and the darkness will come again. We’re human after all. We get tired. We surrender a few inches but we will never say, “Come get me”. I won’t do it.

My heart eases down. I have strength. I am breathing. I am excited and angry all at once. A house of cards, I am. My demons will be back.

I finished my run rather fast today. They were right. It’s elbows back from now on.

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