Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Open Letter to the Treehouse Zumba Instructors

Dear Treehouse Zumba Instructors,

While trying to convince my clumsy feet to salsa the other day, I decided I ought to write you all a letter. But since I'm always in a frantic rush (even when I'm not in your class), I thought I could maybe multi-task and write your letter as a blog post. Hope you don't mind.

First, I ought to tell you who I am. I'm sure you've noticed me. I'm the one in the back of the room wearing big baggie clothes and going right when I'm supposed to go left, forward when I should go back, and up when everyone else goes down. Oh, and I wear an ugly compression sleeve on my arm. Yeah, that's the one—I knew you'd figure it out. And that's one reason for writing—to explain the sleeve, since I'm sure you've wondered but have been too polite to ask.

To explain, I need to go back to 2009, and with apologies to those who have patiently followed this blog over the years, let me do a quick recap: September of that year I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. Always the over-achiever, this particular cancer was super aggressive. My oncologist told me that when the team of doctors got together to discuss my treatment, they looked it over and decided I needed every treatment currently available.

And so began an intense regimen of surgeries, chemo, and radiation. After that I had a reconstructive surgery that failed. Plus I'm now on about five prescription meds that are pretty cruel to the body but hopefully will keep the cancer away.

The person I am in 2011 is vastly different from the fit and healthy person I left behind in 2009. On the upside I'm filled with gratitude and sentiment. Happy to be here. Happy to be anywhere. Loving my family, my grandbaby, my hubby, my friends. All of it.

On the downside, I've lost both boobs and gained twenty pounds, which gives me the figure of a pine tree. I have a hairstyle that's a little too long to be cool but a little too short and dark to be me. I have a stupid arm that swells up and requires that ugly compression sleeve (twelve positive lymph nodes). And overall I feel more like a grandma than the mother of a young boy (I happen to be both, but I used to feel more like a mommy than a grandma).

Despite all the bad stuff, my prognosis is good. Not great, but good. I have just another year and a half of holding my breath and hoping IT doesn't come back. After that I'll party.

So now the reason for writing. Again, those that have followed this blog know that even though I've been a Treehouse member for years, I've had issues with going during my treatment. Partly because I have restrictions with my arm. But mostly because I feel like a big fat blob when I'm there. I tried a few classes off and on, but mostly stayed home with my treadmill and hand weights.

Then one day I decided to go wild and crazy and try a Zumba class. Even took a friend. And it was . . . um . . . interesting. I kind of left half-way thru. Yeah, it was fun and all. But it wasn't for me. Too many ultra-fit ladies strutting their ultra-fit stuff; and me tripping over my very unfit feet.

But there was one thing the class had going for it: it didn't require me to put any weight on my swollen arm. Every other class I'd tried required I make modifications while the rest of the class did their pushups or planks or updogs. And since I seriously need to move my fanny to fight the effects of these fat-inducing drugs, I eventually decided to give it another shot. I can't say I enjoyed the class that time either. It wasn't until the third, maybe fourth time, that I decided I could actually do this thing. I think it was when I stopped worrying about my feet and the skinny ladies in class and just started moving to the rhythm. Yep, it was actually fun.

And would you like to know how I feel while I'm in the class? Well, let's see...I feel fat, awkward, clumsy, old and out of shape. Sorry, I know you were hoping for more.

But don't worry, it gets better. Because there's something else I feel: ALIVE. That's right—for the hour that I'm in that class trying my best to jump and bop and gyrate my hips in a way that somewhat resembles what you're doing, I feel truly alive for the first time since that awful diagnosis.

And something else: I feel hopeful. Not hopeful that I'll ever look or move like you. But that I'll eventually look and move better than I do now.

And that's why I'm writing. To thank you for giving me that.

Yours Truly,

Suzanne, from the back of the room (Zumba-Hey! Zumba-Ho!)


Kimi said...

Hahahahaha! Zumba! I was seriously going to blog about it too, but I just wasn't able to sufficiently convey my feelings of awe mixed with inadequacy mixed with hysterical comedy. My personal favorite part was when I would watch only the dancer girl and eventually think I might look just like that and then accidentally catch a glimpse of myself in the giant mirror, even though I had carefully positioned myself so as to avoid that calamity, and I'd get a horrible slap upside the head from Reality. Yeah, that was definitely my favorite. I'm happy and quite impressed that you're still going. Good for you!

Kimi said...

Wait just a minute--I forgot to mention the cruelly accurate scale in the locker room. Darn you Treehouse Gym! Darn you to heck!

Suzanne Reese said...

Oh Keems, now I'm feeling inadequate in my description of the whole Zumba experience. I should have had you write this blog! You nailed it! The Reality Slaps are the best!

Mollie said...

I can assure you that many of us feel just the same about Zumba, hopeful that some day we might dance like the instructor and fearful that someone else might see our reflection. Although we might not be wearing a compression sleeve, we are all hoping that the spandex holds up and keeps us all in. It's nice to know that we can all have a good time together! Thanks for your inspiration and looking forward to a great read!

Marcia (Moab) said...

Suzanne - What a beautiful blog entry (entertaining too). I loved it! You are such an inspiration. I have been moving and strengthening in one way or another since I got back from Moab. It is an enormous step for me. Moab was life changing for me….I am trying not to over analyze it; I am just going with it. Today, I purchased the first bike that I have owned since the 3rd grade. I rode my husband’s bike a couple of times last week and decided biking would be one of my many ways to keep moving. I know that I look like a crazy lady trying to maintain balance and learning to use the hand brakes!! The last time I rode a bike all you had to do was pedal backwards :). I feel so fortunate to have met you and to have shared time with you. You are so very generous and nurturing, you have so much to give and do so willingly even after you have had so much taken away. Your cup most certainly runneth over. I’d love to keep in touch. I look forward to reading more of your blog entries.