Five Years Plus

{March 13, 2010}   Passion for Life

Passion for Life

I am particularly excited by the coming of spring this year. Perhaps it was the many days of dreary weather followed by a huge dump of snow, or perhaps it is because I have created a little more time in my life to enjoy the changing season. In any case, when the temperature rose and the sun began to shine, I knew it was time to tap the maples.

Chuck tapped two trees which dripped steadily since Saturday and produced much more sap than last year, around 2 gallons per tree per day. We gathered a little information from the Web and began to boil it on the stove. To my delight, the resulting syrup (about 1/2 cup for every 2 gallons sap) was rich and woodsy in flavor, the best I’ve ever had! We celebrated by eating some of the fresh hot syrup poured onto snow. As I ate the sweet sno-cone, I felt such gratitude for my life. It took a long time to get to the place where I am today: active, relaxed, contented and inspired.

On the morning after my mastectomy a little over four years ago, I lay in the hospital bed, unmoving, not even able to get myself a drink. I heard a knock on the door and when I looked up, a graying man with kind eyes stood before me. In my drugged and near sleepless state this hospital pastor seemed to me an angel in the flesh. We talked for awhile congenially, but his parting words sent a chill to my very bones. “Take your time to heal and then get back into life – fully.” The chill was because I was afraid. I couldn’t imagine what my life could be like or what would come next.

In the nine months since my initial diagnosis, I had given up my massage practice to focus on healing, yet my days often felt without purpose as I struggled to figure out my place in the world. I had read Cancer as a Turning Point and knew that my zest for life, or lack thereof, had an important impact on my survival. I desperately wanted to be someone who was successfully transformed by cancer, but my day to day experience was not easy.

It would be another year before the reconstruction of my breast was finished; the reconstruction of my life would take much longer. It seems obvious now, but at the time I didn’t expect that my childhood passion – tennis – would be a major vehicle in my transformation. It started as a personal challenge to see how quickly I could get back on the court after each surgery. When the surgeries were finally behind me, multiple opportunities appeared and I began to coach and compete, eventually winning the Canadian National Championship in doubles in my age group in 2007.

By 2008, when I was asked to join the Canadian team at the World Senior Championships in Turkey, tennis was my full-time obsession. I was working out, studying with a sports psychologist, playing once or twice a day, competing regularly and coaching a women’s USTA team. I was blind to the fact I was pushing too hard until almost overnight I was struck with tennis elbow, a damaged forearm tendon that made even everyday tasks like lifting a pot or brushing my hair painful. The injury was tenacious and was likely exacerbated by the sentinel lymph node dissection I had had to test for cancer spread during my initial surgery.

It seems to me that any illness or injury provides a great learning opportunity if we take the time to discover the lesson. I realized that I had equated tennis with survival. Deep down I believed that if I couldn’t play tennis, I would lose my will to live and therefore be susceptible to the return of cancer. I would like to say that after this realization the tennis elbow was immediately cured but it was many more months before I would fully accept the injury and turn the corner.

Now my arm is strong and I feel like I can play properly again. Next week I am competing in the Canadian Eastern Senior Nationals in Toronto. It’s been awhile since I have played both singles and doubles in a tournament and I am nervous how my body, elbow and mind will handle it. To ensure that I am healthy going into the event I have focused less on playing and training and more on keeping my eating and sleeping on an even keel. This week I added in some extra yoga as my back got tight and sore from spending so much time, you guessed it, sitting at my computer.

I am grateful to have a passion which keeps me physically active, mentally challenged and connects me with so many amazing people. As I prepare myself for the upcoming tournament, I know that I would find expression, happiness and purpose even without tennis. But for now, I’m really excited to compete. Wish me luck!


Deb Kenn says:

Of course I wish you good luck, Gyata.
But most of all, I wish you all the fierce grace, unseeable beauty, and fearless insight on the tennis court that you bestow upon the world on a daily (and now weekly!) basis.
love you,

jim says:

“I realized that I had equated tennis with survival. Deep down…” etc. These two sentances are, to use your word, chilling, and in my opinion, important enough to be the subject of a separate blog. It might be really helpful to people to know how you came to the awareness that this belief was NOT true, that you could survive without tennis. And, what is it that you, or anyone, really needs in order to survive.

gyatazen says:

Thanks for your comment, Jim. The short answer is that I eventually had to stop playing when the cortisone wore off. My arm began to swell and I got scared that I was causing permanent damage. Life went on and opportunities kept coming. I agree though, it would be interesting to think about this a little deeper.

Ann Hedley says:

Once more very insightful words.
I have printed out the roster and will be watching the Tennis Canada website as you progress through to the finals . . . Best of luck . . .

Art Kilgour says:

Wow Gyata — I’ve been out of the loop since your second blog post, but caught up tonight. Really liked this one! You seem wise about the positives and negatives of your sport. We’ll be there to cheer you on the weekend. I appreciate the openness and frankness of your blog. Finally — a word of warning — don’t boil too much sap inside! You can ruin the house (a friend’s ceiling
collapsed!). See ya. A.

Glenda says:

I love your blog! I wish you the best of luck! Have you made the maple martinis yet? I also have to thank you for planting the seed of alternative medicine. Acupuncture has been a positive step in healing for my tennis elbow along with herbal supplements turmeric, bromelain, and boswallia. You are the best! Love, Glenda

Suzanne Atkinson says:

Gyata – Good luck in Toronto – enjoy!!!

Your weekly writings are a good reminder to me that I am also slowly making changes. I review mentally what have I successfully changed & what am I really working towards? Thank you for the weekly blogs.

Go Well – Be Well – Sue

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