I used to be the strongest

9 Dec

 

When I was a little girl, I was always the tallest in my class.  I have a picture of my preschool ballet recital in which my classmates and I are wearing white leotards with fluffy white tutus and sparkly silver sequins, and the next tallest dancer only came up to my shoulder.  By the time I was in 1st grade, I was taller than many of my teachers, and by 5th grade I was taller than them all.  This led to frequent requests to retrieve items from high shelves and help move furniture around the classroom.

Once, my 5th grade teacher sent me down to the cafeteria to help put away chairs after an assembly, but the cafeteria lady told me that I couldn’t because I was a girl and I would wind up hurting myself.  I promptly picked up a stack of chairs larger than those the boys were carrying and took them to the janitor’s closet, just to spite her.

I also had a friend, Marjorie, who had surgery to correct scoliosis in the middle of the school year.  Afterwards, she had gained about 3 inches in height and wasn’t allowed to pick up anything heavier than a fork or spoon due to the weakness of her back.  This meant that she couldn’t carry her school supply tub from classroom to classroom, so our teachers picked me to carry hers on top of mine.  The two stacked tubs were heavy, and sometimes when we had to stand in line in the hallway for a long time because our next teacher’s class had run long, I longed to be able to put them down.  But I never gave in.

I never did play sports because I didn’t run very fast, but I did take dance class for an hour every day in high school and I rode horses for fun.  Even then, I didn’t consider myself to be particularly active or strong.

It’s amazing how cancer can sap your strength, though.  Even the simple act of walking around becomes difficult, and once you quit walking around on a regular basis, you lose a lot of muscle tone and the ability to stand easily.

So of course I was out of my mind when I tried to go horseback riding in the middle of the summer.

I managed to get the horse (a pretty little dun-striped horse named Sassafras) groomed and tacked, but by then I had very little energy left.  (The fact that it was over 100 outside didn’t help, either.)  I managed to mount the horse with a decent amount of assistance, but I only stayed on for 5 minutes before turning white and needing to get off.

It was a very humbling experience, and a reminder of how much cancer can take away from you.  But it was worth a shot.

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