Snow. I' m not a big fan, which made January 2017 particularly uncomfortable for me. We had a big storm. Well, big for the Pacific Northwest. It shut down our city for well over a week; the ice and snow, although beautiful, rendered the roads too dangerous to safely walk or drive on, leaving all but the most adventurous housebound.
I had been in outpatient treatment for anorexia less than six months when that snowstorm hit. By that time, I had limited my exercise to three things; Yoga, walking, and doubles tennis. (Although my treatment team would have preferred no tennis). Although I missed my intense exercise routine of early morning boot camp, booming cycle classes, and the exhausted high of a long singles match, I had begrudgingly settled into the discomfort of my slower-paced routine. Until that snowstorm, then I panicked. I felt trapped. I couldn't safely walk on the icy paths; the tennis center closed, and yoga alone was not going to cut it. While other people were posting pictures on social media of drinking hot cocoa by the fire and making gooey chocolate chip cookies, I was pacing the kitchen floor like a rat in a maze, desperately trying to find a way out. The need to get to the gym or go for a run intensifying so rapidly, I felt like I might explode. My exercise choices were no longer mine; nature had taken control. And there is nothing I hated more than not being in control. Fifteen months before that snowstorm, and well before treatment, I had decided to "fix" my body by a break up with running, figuring getting rid of my most intense exercise would help the weight come back on. And I always felt I had a choice. Just stop for a little bit, you can always go back. It made the thought of quitting less frightening.
Until the call.
"Hi Sherri, it's Doctor Lui, is this a good time to talk?" I was in the car with my family headed to Kirkland Washington for Dylan's lacrosse tournament. "Sure. What's up?" I asked casually, trying to stay calm as if she was a friend calling to chat rather than my dermatologist with test results. This is not going to be good news. “I’m calling because one of the moles we removed last week has shown a malignancy," she explained calmly, "I would like to remove it sooner rather than later." I knew from my breast cancer days that was code for "let's not f**k around with this." Five days later, I was on the table.
"I know it looks scary," Dr. Lui said, watching the blood drain from my face as I looked the layers of stitches that extended from my upper thigh to me knee cap, "but the good news is I'm confident we got all the affected tissue." The healthy, rational part of me was relieved. Grateful, the cancer was found before it had a chance of spreading to other parts of my body, as Melanoma is prone to do. But the anxious, hungry, irrational part of my brain had more significant concerns. It was that voice in my head that was drowning out the doctor's instructions about wound care and pain management. How am I going to exercise with…. THIS?! My leg resembled more of a gory Halloween prop from an elementary school haunted house than a body part. It was currently a limb that could barely help me walk out the office door, let alone run, anywhere. So here it was, the thing I had said I wanted, something to help me stop running. To slow me down so my body could put on the weight it so desperately needed. The weight I had been saying I wanted to gain. But at that moment, I felt like a poker player who up until then, had control of the table.
And my body, had just called my bluff.