"I'm going to try out for the Olympic swim team," I told my friend Kelly, bragging about the progress I have made in my recent efforts to get in shape by swimming.
She laughed, appropriately. No way would I ever be qualified for any kind of Olympic team, much less the swimming one.
"I think I must be rotating my torso with my strokes, though," I explained to her, knowing she used to swim competitively, "because now that I'm swimming more, I always end up with a sore back. I would probably be faster if I didn't wobble so much."
"Well, that might hurt your chances for London in 2012," she said, teasing me.
"Yeah, but there's always 2016," I said, moving on to a different topic of conversation.
2016, I thought as we talked about weekend plans, I wonder if I will still be alive in 2016?
Olympic dreams aside, I recently began thinking about my body's capacity to adapt, marveling at how well I have recovered from surgery and radiation in the past few months. I'm amazed that after all my body has been through I can still push it further, faster, and it responds with strength and energy.
Despite being paralyzed four times, wheeled to the surgical suite four times, radiated with nuclear material for three regimens, and infused with drugs so poisonous the nursing staff had to wear gloves and masks to avoid getting it on their skin, my body still pumps and flows and breathes and heals.
Just last weekend I cut myself while chopping an onion. Today, there's just a small flap of dried skin where the wound was, the skin beneath new and strong, protecting me from the world.
A friend of mine used to go on about the untapped potential of our bodies as she would watch the show The Amazing Race. Team members would perform exhausting physical and mental feats over weeks of travel, and they came out on the other side leaner, stronger.
I have friends who have trained their bodies so religiously that now they can ride hundreds of miles on a bicycle over a weekend, or do the ride-swim-run combination of a triathalon.
Daily I am amazed at the capacity of my body to renew itself, and with thoughts of cancer always in the back of my mind, I often wonder if there isn't something more my body could do in this battle.
Recently, I began researching ways to boost my immune system and to change my eating habits for maximum health. But as research often does, I was led away from my initial premise this way and that to websites and books in which people actually claim cancer can be healed with some simple but profound lifestyle changes.
I was skeptical.
One such book caught my attention by making strong promises without offering to sell a single product (besides the book). So before I went any further, I did a quick Google search of the author's name followed by the words "scam" and "hoax" and "fraud." I discovered this easy approach to finding quacks a few years back when I read about some other home remedies for health problems that turned out to be pure craziness.
But finding no such quack alerts this time, I purchased the book. The next day, I start implementing the program.
Basically, the plan seeks to prepare my body to kill the cancer on its own through healthy cell production and active immunity. I take handfuls of supplements designed to augment my immune system and mop up free radicals and fill in the gaps for every vitamin, mineral, and amino acid I am not getting naturally in my diet.
And then there's my diet. For the past three weeks, I have basically cut out all sugar, gluten, soy, dairy, meat, and processed foods. I eat lots of vegetables, nuts, grains, and a little fruit. I make soups and stir frys, salads and salsas. Veggies in hummus and almond butter on rice cakes make excellent snacks, I have discovered, and if I ask at a restaurant, they can usually leave off the sauce on the vegetables and just serve them just steamed.
I'm not ready to make any claims or name names yet, but I can report that I feel better than I have in years and have more energy than I have for a long time.
Yesterday as I swam, I noticed that I was no longer breathing on every stroke as my work out progressed; I was able to go two strokes, sometimes three or four even, between breaths.
As the man in the lane next to me swan by, I marveled at his strength. He was much faster than me. But then, he stopped to rest, and I kept going, kept kicking and reaching and breathing. I would finish one lap and start another, feeling strong.
And I imagined being around in the year 2016, even if I wasn't on the Olympic Team.
Photo by Dan Zen, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.