Swimming to Recovery

This post is an assignment in a writing class. We were told to open the nearest book (in my case “The Darling” by Russell Banks), turn to page 29, and write a letter to the first word that appeared. As inspiration, the assignment instructions included a link to letters that Dr. Kate Granger had written to her cancer. I found them very powerful. You can find them at http://drkategranger.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/dear-cancer-part-3/

Dear Swim,

I apologize for my absence. Dr. Fisher asked me to visit you three weeks ago. Told me to get in the pool, to start exercising, regaining some strength, making an active recovery.

But, you see, I couldn’t. The city pool was closed for two weeks, right at that time, or at least partially closed, for maintenance or something. And the pool up at Gallagher’s, well, that would have taken some planning, some effort. I really couldn’t swim, so I drifted instead.

I drifted until yesterday when I woke up crying. New meds, fatigue maybe. Not depression, I know depression well and this wasn’t it. Not despair either, I haven’t gone there, and won’t. Fear? Definitely, but also regret. Panic, I think, panic that I am just going to drift.

I will soon be cancer free. In late 2014 I’ll get home from this round of radiation, and confidently say, “I beat cancer”. That’s a victory, sure, but what will I do with this victory, this year of my life in which I have become so attuned to by body, my health? In which I have thought so much about mortality? What will I do with that burning determination I left the hospital with? How will I capture that fierce desire to start really living, to be who I know I can be?

Swim, will I abandon you? Will I return to drifting? No! I must join you. I will. I have to. I have to live life fully, be who I should be. For me. For my children. Can I write with as much humanity and grace as Dr. Kate Granger? Can I create novels like Russell Banks? That would be hubris. But I can try; I can dive into the water.

This morning I will swim. I will slip my too thin body into the pool, feel the water over my weak muscles and swim. With each stroke I will seize this victory, this opportunity to build a more authentic life. With each lap I will strengthen my physical self and build my great future.

Thank you, swim. Thank you for letting me embrace you. We are going to have a long, beautiful life together.