Enduring with Training
After a recent physical exam, my MD asked me the standard mental health questions. Are you sad? Is it disrupting your life? I remember saying yes to every question. She paused and pointed out that there are medications that could be helpful for me. I looked at her and explained that my best friend and sister received a terminal prognosis.*
Ann was diagnosed in November of 2017 with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. The depth of her illness fluctuates from periods of “you could die anytime” to “wow, I feel okay.” Ann continues to undergo treatment as we wait for the scientific breakthroughs necessary to extend her life. You can follow her journey here: https://www.facebook.com/ingratitude2.0/
I haven’t raced triathlon very much since her diagnosis. Given how much I have trained (you can find all of it on Strava under Suzanne Aquila), you might find it odd. It has felt odd, but since November 2017 nothing has felt quite right.
Why not race? To race to the level I desire, I have to dig as deep as I can possibly dig. I lack the emotional reserves necessary to dig to win right now. Despite being fit and ready. It is frustrating. Perhaps I train knowing that I need my best form for the emotional journey ahead. I have no idea if I will be ever ready.
My advice if you are on a similar journey with a loved one?
- Exercise. I wake up at 5 am to make sure I get one workout a day done. If Ann needs me, I am ready to go the rest of the day. I keep workout gear in my car for times I can squeeze in a run or swim.
- Nutrition. Ann’s sister Jane (my other best friend) and I joke that we have finally lost the cancer weight. There are periods of stress eating that may or may not involve copious amounts of cinnamon rolls/desserts. It is my emotional crisis response. I know I feel better if I focus on quality food. I keep healthy snacks with me at all times. I never know when an unexpected test result may mean a full day in the hospital. Those little Starbucks dried coffee packs are my lifesavers too. I have not snorted it. Yet.
- Spouse. My wife is also one of Ann’s best friends and the COO of her company. KT has been incredible on each front and supports me every step of the way. Even when it means canceling our trips and dates. She continues to give me strength and love.
- Coworkers. My team knew that work was going to be interrupted. Our COO Dawn has been incredible in helping create the space in my life.
- Moments. I try to remember every moment Ann and I have together. The laughter, the tears, and the teasing. I love her with all of my heart. One day I won’t remember my training, work, race performances or obligations. I will remember the moments that I have shared with Ann and the love we have for each other.
I am typing this right now with tears in my eyes. I am strong and I am weak. I am brave and I am terrified. I am loved and I am alone. I know that one day my ability to endure is going to be challenged beyond my experience. I only hope that it is exceeded by my ability to love.
No easy way.
*I didn’t believe any of my emotions at that time were excessive. And as painful as they were, I had no interest in treating them with medication. I was sad and I should have been sad (please know that I support medication for treatment of depression and I have seen it help many friends and family). I knew my sadness was acute and not disrupting my life. I needed to embrace it and the thoughts that surrounded it. I did decide to see a counselor to discuss my grief and it has been very helpful.
Ann died on June 16, 2019 surrounded in love. I wrote this blog post last winter and it was Ann approved. I never overcame my reluctance to publish it before her death. You can find the obituary for Ann’s remarkable life here.