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