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The Joy In It

Okay.  I'm just going to have to admit it.  I'm a fitness freak.  I've already proclaimed my love of yoga, but now I need to admit that . . . I'm at the gym every morning.

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We have a membership at a really great gym -- and it's worth every penny for our fitness-minded family.  I work out best in a group, and this gym has great classes and terrific instructors.  My favorite class is a high-impact dance aerobics class taught by Kathe-the-Killer.  For 60 non-stop minutes, she has us dancing our way to fitness with complex, well-choreographed, constantly changing steps.  She is fabulous -- I swear, she can teach ANYone to dance, and she makes us feel like we're in a music video.  I also take pilates from Sandy-the-Sadist, and a core/strength/cardio class from Evil-Sherri-and-her-Minions.  Great classes.  Really great.

I used to think that staying in shape was a hedge against health issues, and that was why I was so committed.  Then, I was diagnosed with lymphoma and it rocked my world (in lots of ways).  In fact, when my doctor explained my diagnosis and treatment plan, my second thought was What about my workouts!  (The first thought was What about my hair!  It wasn't until my third thought that I wondered Will I live?  It takes a while to get your mind around a cancer diagnosis.)  I felt so betrayed by my body!  I was determined to continue working out, though, through my chemo.  It didn't work out that way.  Lack of energy, extreme fatigue, and a dangerously low white-cell count kept me out of the gym for several months.  When I was finished with treatment, and had been given the go-ahead from my doctor, I headed back to my classes.

It wasn't easy, though.  I was in terrible shape.  By the end of chemo, just going upstairs in my house made me short of breath, and walking my dog around the block (not even 10 minutes) was a major undertaking.  How could I ever make it through one of Kathe's dance classes again?  But, I tried anyway -- and got incredible support from Kathe and my gym buddies.  They welcomed me back, encouraged me, watched out for me, and even got me to take off my scarf weeks before I planned to.  And, you know what?  It was not all that long before I could make it through one of Kathe's classes!

While I'm still feeling pretty vulnerable -- because my body DID betray me -- I'm also understanding that my fitness level going IN to chemo helped me recover quicker AFTER chemo.  Within a few months, I'm pretty much back to my same fitness level as before.  Only now, I've realized something else.  Fitness isn't JUST a hedge against health issues.  It's a whole lot more.  One day, in Kathe's class, when I was beginning to feel stronger again, we were doing a step that's always been a favorite of mine.  It's a kind of step-back-turn-and-spin-spin maneuver.  While we were doing this, Kathe instructed us to "stretch out your arms and feel the JOY in it!"  And I did.  I got tears in my eyes.  I felt the JOY -- of moving, of spinning, of being back.

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I'm off to the gym.  To jump and spin and twist and leap and stretch.  For the JOY in it!