My good friend Kerry Carr is the volleyball coach at the University of Pennsylvania. I have been training her for a few years along with her Dragon Boat teammates. She is a breast cancer "survivor" and a dedicated hard worker. I asked her to write a blog for me awhile ago, and she came up with an outstanding one!
by Kerry Carr
I was in one of our regular Sunday Steel workouts with some of my teammates, when the subject of tattoos came up. I was feeling particularly empowered after finishing a set of squats, since it wasn’t that long ago that I couldn’t even do a squat, much less with a bar, weights, and chains hanging off of it. So I told Steel that I’ve secretly wanted a tattoo for a while now, and what he might recommend. He asked me why I wanted a tattoo. I told him that since my surgery for breast cancer, I had envisioned a tattoo over one of my scars. I was thinking about dragons or a phoenix as I had seen on some of my fellow dragon boaters.
He asked me, “What about getting the word “survivor” across it?” I paused. I wasn’t really prepared for my reaction….which was best described as conflicted. I have no problem telling people I am a breast cancer survivor, or showing my scars. I know that my fight was a very public one, since I was diagnosed during my season, and gave many interviews about it during October’s awareness month. I also belong to a breast cancer survivor dragon boat crew, and this sport was even one of the reasons I was doing weight training that day. So what was bugging me so much about his suggestion of a “survivor” tattoo?
Running stadiums later in that workout, I finally figured it out. Labeling myself as a survivor didn’t feel right. Especially after I had just done a personal best on a lift I thought I would never be able to do again. No, I don’t want to be defined just as a survivor. A survivor survives a near-death experience. Then what? Is that all we do? We survive an almost-tragedy, and then get a pass on doing anything hard, or tough, or difficult ever again? I did exactly that the first year after my surgeries…I survived. Some might even say I “got by.” But I don’t want to be just a ‘survivor” anymore. I want to be better than before. I want to be an athlete again. I want to deadlift twice my body weight. I want to do a pull-up. I want to do 50 push-ups, and not just from my knees…full-body push-ups. I want to be in the best shape of my life. I want to do things that make Coach Steel, go “wow…look at that!” and not because I had cancer, but because it is better than anything I have ever done before. Better than any 43 year-old woman has done before.
Being a survivor may have got me back in the weight room, but it doesn’t keep me there. It doesn’t drive me to get up every Sunday morning when I want to lay in bed, leave my kids and husband, drive 45 minutes back to the place I work, and do Steel’s workout. I do this because I want to be better. I’m an athlete. And I want to be the best athlete I can be. I want to win. At everything. And I want to be a champion. At LIFE.
Any ideas on how to put all that on a tattoo?