survival of the fittest

It’s the second week in April, which in my hometown means it’s time for a new sort of tourist to start showing up.  While the rest of the year provides my neighborhood with a predictable mix of college-visit families, foreign tour groups and random history buffs, April brings a more curious breed of out-of-town visitor—ones clad in windbreakers and nylon pants, sporting high-tech watches and high-end running shoes.  They have a certain lean and hungry look about them, and are slim as broomsticks, impressive in their lack of body fat.  They are marathoners, and they’ve come from all corners of the earth to the mecca that is the Hopkinton-to-Boston annual 26.2 mile race.

I usually first notice these ultra-fit tourists in Harvard Yard, wandering around with their noses in guidebooks, while simultaneously balancing on one foot and stretching their quads. They’ll soon be even easier to spot, once they’ve been to registration central and picked up this year’s official outerwear and complementary backpack.  Come Monday afternoon and evening, we’ll see them tip-toeing up the stairs from the subway, some still wrapped in their tin-foil blanket, gingerly making their way to their post-race dinner venues.

These freaks of long distance mileage have always made me feel a bit sub-fit.  By way of defense, I’ve always considered them a bit obsessed with a sport that tilts in the wrong direction on the thrill-to-exertion scale (see: alpine skiing!  Where gravity is your friend!)  But the truth of the matter is that I once liked running, when my knees were more obliging.  I even had notions of running a marathon, back before I blew out my ACL, tore my MCL, pulled my LCL, and ended up with nothing after reconstructive surgery but a tidy rim where my meniscus used to be.  From those days on, I’ve been running-compromised.

These days, it’s that much more frustrating, to see these lithe bodies and not feel like a lesser version of the human race.  After my knee surgeries, I used to watch in jealous fascination as by-passers’ knees flexed and squatted and leaped up steps, two by two; I now feel that jealousy toward whole human bodies as they move through space, any old way.  I’m weary and out of shape, as un-fit as I’ve ever been.  And on top of my fussy knees, or rather down below them, I have something painful going on with my feet that may be a side effect of the chemo, or may be garden-variety plantar fasciitis, who knows which?  Whatever it is, it’s making me feel about 30 years older than I am, and it just plain sucks.

Having this annual stream stream of uber-athletes passing through town is just one more reminder that I’m in the middle of something that I can’t wait to put in my rear view mirror.  It’s also reminding me that I have lots of work to do here, to get back to my regular self—the one that I had a brief visit with, last week, when I went skiing before radiation started.  My treatment program is pretty passive, beyond getting myself to my appointments on time.  The active part will kick in before long.  Maybe not soon enough for me, but like so many elements of this adventure, I don’t get to decide what happens when.  I just have to be ready for whatever comes next, whenever it gets here.

* * * * *

I’m on the radiation roll now.  Every weekday, at 9:30AM, I’ll be going in for what amounts to a prolonged x-ray session.  It’s mostly about getting me in the right position on the table, lined up properly under the equipment.  The whole process takes under 15 minutes.  In and out, and on with my day.  I’ll tell you more about it later on.

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3 comments on “survival of the fittest

  1. andymacomber says:

    Love your image of marathoners tiptoeing us the subway stairs wrapped in their aluminum blankets.

    Hard to think of them right now as we still are looking at pictures and videos of the carnage. It will make us more aware of the marketplaces that arfe bombed constantly in the Near East. Wow

    Won’t call to where Joanie was, or the marathons you know who were late runners. The TV talkers say not to clog up the lines.

    I wonder where Dr. Baggish was. All too horrible.

    Sent from my iPad

  2. melanie says:

    I’m overdue for a look in and wish I hadn’t been prompted by the terrible events of yesterday. The best news is in your blog – the rest is so awful. Much love, Melanie

  3. An eerily prescient post. I’m glad you and your loved ones are OK. The world stopped spinning there for awhile.
    Under the heading of: Life goes on, and heels still hurt: I gave myself plantar fasciitis by running through several airports while loaded heavily at high speed in cushion-free loafers. That first step out of bed in the morning, excruciating, and yes, it makes you feel much older than you are (and we ARE, aren’t we?) Here’s what worked: First: I was given excellent advice to remove the heavy covers on my bed which were causing me to sleep with toes pointed, and to get in the habit of sleeping with my feet at a right angle to the leg. IE toes pointing skyward. So that’s the first thing to check. I know you like heavy covers. Me too. Second: Keep a pair of Crocs at bedside and put those on before getting up in the morning. Even for midnight trips to the head. Wear them as much as possible. The foam really cushions and soothes the inflamed fascia. Third: Though these measures helped, the thing that cured it was a cortisone shot. Right in the heel. Hurt like hell. But the healing started then. I kept up with the light covers and the Crocs and nice foam insoles (I like Profoot, available at any Wal-mart or pharmacy) in all my shoes. And have never been bothered since. It was a 6-month ordeal before I finally saw a doctor. Don’t let them tell you you need surgery. You probably don’t. It’s not a bone spur that’s hurting you, despite the sharp pain. It’s just inflammation. The bone spur is a symptom of inflammation, but not painful in and of itself.
    Any questions? 🙂 Help that helps, good.
    xoxoxo j.

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