For me, the biggest thing is that things can get better. Back in December 2015, I started hurting in my left hip. I started getting nervous when not only did I have pain, but I didn’t have energy anymore.
When I started falling behind my students on cross country skiing, I thought “this is really weird. I’ve never been out-skied by a student in my years of teaching this class.” But I just couldn’t do it. I kept getting referred to different specialists. Finally, they revealed the tumor. They told me up front that a tumor in your pelvic bone is bad. They developed a treatment- basically to remove most of my left pelvic bone. The chemotherapy that came along with it was brutal. It ruined my hearing, my feet, took away most of my hair, took some of my energy level. I’ve never been able to recuperate aerobically. I keep thinking that it’s going to come back, but it just doesn’t. I also lost leg muscles from the surgery. When I’m sitting, I can’t lift my left leg. Hiking, walking, and standing is hard.
When I went through this, that’s one of the lowest times in my entire life. I just assumed there would be a day when I could go back to backpacking, skiing, canyoneering and all the things I love doing in the outdoors. When I started to realize that was less likely, I went through some time of depression.
Honestly, the answer for me was to start focusing on the things I could do, rather than the things I couldn’t. One place I would do that was during swimming workouts. I would number the things that I could still do. It was simple things like “I can still drive a car because this was my left leg, not my right.” I can swim, bike on my electric mountain bike, kayak. I can’t say it enough: focus on what you can do. It can be better in this life.
It’s been about 4 years since the surgery. Year 3, that’s when I realized I wasn’t getting better. That was a really low year for me. Year 4 has been great. That doesn’t mean I’m happy every second of every day. I still have sad thoughts and feelings, but I’m telling you, life can be better and it can be better now. Part of that is just choosing to believe and to focus on the good in your life. I really believe that. Hope is a realization that things can and will get better somewhere down the line.