Saturday, December 31, 2011

I’m not a “Survivor”….

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?

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.