I still remember the effortless sensation I felt when I was running at speed. My legs seemed to bounce off the tarmac and propel me forward towards the finish line. When I was in form I felt an elation, a freedom of effort and a belief that I could be an Olympic champion.
I used to smile to myself when I saw the agony on the faces of other athletes, conscious that I could strike at will and leave them all for dust. I pitied those who plodded and struggled towards the finish of a race. For me, it wasn’t just good enough to run fast, I also had to maintain form and look the part of an athlete. Oh; the arrogance of youth!
It’s all a distant memory now. I sit at my hospital window and gaze enviously at the thousands of runners participating in the Dublin City marathon, I think of the talent I squandered as an athlete and I wish I had the energy to walk to the corner and cheer on my Daughter in Law who is attempting her first marathon.
Its day zero+3 of my Stem Cell transplant. I’ve been blasted once more with Chemotherapy and the Stem Cells harvested some weeks ago have been transfused back into me. Now it’s a waiting game. Every day my blood count will get lower and around day 7 I’ll reach the bottom of the curve. That downward trajectory will bring sickness, infections, debilitating fatigue and mental challenges. It’s anticipated that I’ll be in hospital for a month, some of which will be restricted for visitors. After that it will be the long slow process of recovery.
The legs that floated over roads and pulled me to the top of mountains feel like jelly. My mind, which has always had clarity of thought, is in a fog. My eyes are blurry and I find it hard to read. The very thought of food makes me sick. The effort to have a shower is the equivalent of running a marathon. The thought of shaving makes me wince. My instincts are to crawl into bed and curl up under covers but I know that would have a negative effect on me. Everything has to matter. My resolve must remain intact and I’m determined to maintain my standards.
An hour later I struggle from the bathroom. The effort to get ready has left me drained. I sit and watch the continuous stream of runners make their way towards their goal. I need rest but I resist the thought of bed. I open my laptop and start typing. The words come slowly but they help clear my head. Every sentence is a victory and my spirits start to rise. My body might be weak but I feel strong mentally and I won’t allow negative thoughts enter my mind.
I can hear the crowd cheering from my room. The main group of runners are going past and I wonder how Saragh is getting on. I watch this wave of runners and I feel envious. The door to my room opens. Its dinner time and my food has arrived. The smell hits me with a bang and I feel instantly nauseated. I rush for the bathroom and get sick. In the background the cheering seems to get louder. The sweat runs down my forehead and I feel cold and clammy. I lay prone on the bathroom floor and I take deep breaths to control my sickness. Eventually I struggle to my feet and make it to my bed. The cheering continues and the runners struggle on. I look out the window one more time. Many are running, some are plodding and a few are walking. Most will finish because determination and tenacity will drive them on. All marathons are completed one step at a time. Mine will be no different.