Saturday, 25 September 2010

What would you do for fashion?

I saw someone today who appeared to have a form of cerebral palsy. She had difficulty in walking, and yet she chose to wear high heel shoes. At first I thought that she was making a mistake - sacrificing mobility for vanity, and avoiding coming to terms with the reality of her condition.

But as I reflected upon her choice further, I came to realize that it was very inspiring. You could see from the clothes that she was wearing that she was interested in fashion. The fact that she chose to wear high heels, regardless of how much more this complicated her walking, was simply a sign of how important fashion was for her.

For some people, fashion is as easy as buying expensive clothes and thoughtlessly pulling them on every morning. For this woman, fashion was a great effort, but one that she found rewarding nonetheless. I don't think I've ever seen anyone putting more effort into their outfit.

She was providing the perfect model for how we can prevent disease from limiting us. How through bravery and courage we can live with disease and still pursue our dreams, inspiring others in the process.

In a more perfect world, she would be on the front cover of Vogue.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

The fear/courage paradox

Here's a strange paradox. Admitting that you feel fear takes courage.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

True identity theft

The other day, I was talking to a friend who reproached me for overdoing my training, arguing that I shouldn't be running seven days a week. I pointed out that it didn't seem to do Lance Armstrong any harm, to which my friend responded, "yes, but that's Lance Armstrong, he's a top athlete". The implication being that I'm not a top athlete and therefore I'm not capable of enduring such an arduous training regime.

I replied that, while I may not be a "top" athlete, being an athlete has become a part of my identity. Of course I don't expect to match Lance Armstrong's physical prowess, but that's never going to stop me from trying.

After all, what made Lance Armstrong Lance Armstrong? For that matter, who am I? Who are you? And what makes us what we are? Our own sense of identity can limit us, or it can empower and challenge us. The choice is ours.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Red Queen's Race

Last week, I ran the Bath Half Marathon. It's the first big competitive race that I've ever run, and it represented the culmination of over a year's training, as I built up my fitness and stamina after coming off chemotherapy.

By a strange twist of fate, just days earlier, my doctors had discovered a new lump, and I was booked in for a scan the day after the run. So even as I was at my peak of physical fitness, I knew that I could be back on chemotherapy in a matter of days.

Before my cancer treatment, I had never been interested in sport, and I never ran anywhere. I simply did not consider myself to be athletic. But my experience of cancer treatment and recovery forced me to challenge a lot of my presuppositions about myself. I discovered that I possessed greater strength and emotional stamina than I ever imagined. And I realised that my negative self image had been seriously limiting my potential.

So, even as the chemo had been reducing my physical stamina, it was also like an incubator for a new me. It forced me to raise my game, just to stay in the game. Sometimes being held back is precisely what we need in order to ultimately be propelled forwards. It's like the Red Queen says in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass: "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." Like running on a treadmill. Imagine what happens when the treadmill stops, but you don't. You start moving forwards… fast.

And since the chemo, that's exactly what I had been doing. Moving forwards fast. But the looming possibility of a return to chemo threatened to bring my journey to an abrupt halt.

This uncertainty could have cast a cloud over my run, but that's not how it turned it. In fact, the scan served to heighten the intensity of my experience on the big day. Since my future was clouded, and all of my past year had led up to this point, it caused me to focus entirely upon the day itself. To reside in the moment. The experience was all the more vivid, intense and exhilarating as a result.

As it turns out, the scan results delivered good news. And upon reflection, I realised that I was glad the scan had coincided with the half marathon. It made me realise that I had never left the Red Queen's treadmill, and I never will. We're all on that treadmill - it's just life. Sometimes it's going forwards, sometimes backwards, sometimes stationary. That is outside of our control. All that we can do is to keep running.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


Let go of the past,
Take care of the present,
And the future will look after itself.