Tag Archives: determination

I didn’t finish…

I have to admit that while I am a Summer Olympic Games fanatic, the Winter Olympic Games definitely have a few personal highlights: figure skating, luge, curling (which was never aired this year at normal hours; I could never get myself out of bed at 3:30am to watch the event…sad) and a new fascination for Slopestyle skiing. Not being naturally talented at any of these, or any other events for that matter, my most common response while watching the performances went as such: “That’s INSANE!” Yes, pretty much insane, but this is what these athletes train for–the dream, the passion, the Olympic moment.

During these games, I realized that I sympathized with the athletes who had a hard time performing in their events–not being able to land their jumps and twists, coming in a split second short of being on the medal podium, the emotions of personal background stories of their own family losses…these moments remind you that even the greatest athletes are human. And while there were many memorable moments to celebrate in outstanding performance victories, I believe the greatest victories were evident from the athletes who struggled. They fell down, yet picked themselves up to finish their performance. It showed true determination. True victory.

I was most impressed by the figure skating performances. Now, I have a hard enough time standing and balancing on my own two feet as it is…so if shoes consist of having attached blades, wheels or anything that causes movement–such as skis or snowboards–I don’t touch them. But this was not always the case. Growing up, I did enjoy skiing (I learned to ski at age six and skied through high school years), a little snowboarding (until mid-college days when my balance turned for worse), rollerblading, ice skating (we had a frozen pond out in the back field or we used the ditch across the road), and roller skating (except the last memory, in which I took a fall at the YMCA center leaving me unable to get up on my own and a trip to the ER: thus, it confirmed that my days of moving feet business were over!)

ice skating

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Being somewhat a helpless romantic when it comes to either ballet or figure skating–and maybe combination that this Olympics, due to deafness, I couldn’t hear the figure skating music–I started to think of songs that I would perform my routines to in the event that I was a figure skater. For a short program, because judges score on technical activity, I thought fun songs, such as “I have Confidence” from the Sound of Music or “Linus and Lucy” from The Peanuts would be lively. And the long, free skate program: “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven! It is a deep emotional song…a performance could be so lavishing.

I did perform “Moonlight Sonata” my senior year of high school; not in a free skate performance, but for my senior piano recital. I had been playing piano since the first grade. I had memorized pieces of Bach and Beethoven in the past, but “Moonlight Sonata” was my last. I memorized the music, practiced until I felt secure in the music, and set out for my performance. I am not one for audiences. I tried to calm my nerves. The piano faced the wall. I was staring in white. I started to play with shaking hands.  “Moonlight Sonata ” is not a fast tempo music. It is a slow tempo…deep emotions. I let my mind wander for a split second in which I lost my concentration. My mind went as blank and white as the wall I faced.

I stop and turn to the audience. “I need to start over.” I get nice reassuring smiles. By now I cannot get my mind and thoughts to relax. I restart the piece, but struggle in mid-way…again my mind goes blank. I feel a flush flow to my face turning my cheeks red and stinging tears about to drop from my eyes. To avoid crying on stage, I simply get up from the bench, take a slight bow, and return to my seat. My dad whispers, “Don’t cry. They are going to take group pictures,” and gently puts his arm around my shoulders. Too late. Tears abound. No one mentioned my performance. People understood. But I held it against myself: I didn’t finish.

There are days when I ask God how I am to finish the task set before me, when I feel as if my physical body simply is just staring into a blank white wall. Circumstances seem too difficult, uncertainties leave room for doubts and questions of my abilities. I still struggle with wanting to be doing bigger things, but was reminded graciously that if I am faithful in the small, God will reward with more when I am ready. Olympians are not made overnight. They train in the small daily tasks for years…with the reward of a bigger performance than they ever imagined.

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.

~Pierre Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee; “Father of modern Olympic Games.”

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Solid Grip

Normally when I accidently drop a medicine on the floor, one of my family will hear it land and come quickly to the rescue. No one saw or heard me drop a pill tonight, and instead of asking for help, I tried to pick it up myself.

I don’t say coincidence, but my dropping of pills is always the same two and they never seem to end in causing me troubles: the first is skinny, yet cylinder shaped, and has the smooth outer wax-looking covering making it slippery for my numb fingers; and the second pill, well, it just so happens to be the exact same color as the wooden floor and when it drops–it’s transparent. It’s a daunting task to find this pill, and when I do, it is usually if I tip my head at very awkward angles or the lights suddenly reflect a shiny stud on the floor. I take both these pills twice a day…some days, like today, are just aggravating!

When I dropped the former of the pills this morning, I was alone. I tried with no success to pick it up with my fingers, but after a few minutes, resulted in grabbing a spoon from the drawer and pushing the pill into the middle of the utensil. Pulling myself back into standing position, balancing the pill on the spoon had me feeling as if it was a raw egg. 🙂 The spoon-retrieving-medicine was a success, so when the pill dropped again tonight, I started the same process, except this time first asking Marcia for a spoon. It was then Dad realized what I was doing and came to the rescue.

It must not have been my day for medicine, because shortly after this I set out to refill my day caps for the coming week. When I got to the latter of my two trouble-making pills, I didn’t drop just one…but two, as they slid out of my hands. I did the usual awkward angle head positions and found one, but as I gently swept it closer to me in order to pick it up without falling off my chair, it speeds away and goes back into transparency. It’s then that I let out a disgusted, frustrated: “UGH. Good grief!!” Mom came to the rescue and found both.

I had one more refill, but in this case, the pill is never the problem–the bottle cap is the problem. It is one of those “squeeze the cap on the sides while you turn the bottle,” and I normally don’t bother to try anymore with opening it. I can’t remember the last time I opened a bottle like this normal…it has to be a few years; the atrophy in my thumb muscles played a role in this long before numbness was a problem. My hand format consists of placing the bottle in my left hand–one of the “push here” spots rests against the bone of the thumb that stands out since the atrophy; and the other “push here” spot, I place my pointer/index finger and squeeze as hard as I can, while twisting the bottle with my right hand. It never started to become a major problem until the numbness increased.

Maybe it was my frustration of medicines today, but as I tried to open it, instead of giving up right away, I set out to try something else. I unsuccessfully tried using a pair of needle-nose pliers, but in this attempt I noted that most of my problem was not the “push and twist” of the cap, but my holding the bottle firm in the right hand. So, I found the non-slip rubber jar opener pad in another drawer and just tried again to see if I could open the medicine bottle.

It was not easy, even with the assistance…but after a few more big squeezes and strains, the bottle opened. And I cried. In that moment I felt victorious. I should see the same in life…that even the most difficult days are worth living, because I am held firm in God’s hand.

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Filed under Adjusting to NF2, Family Times

Running the Race.

Last week, I finished Kathy Van Riper’s autobiography called, A Race Worth Running. A friend had given me the book as a birthday present last year and I put off reading it for obviously a good year. I am not sure if that was God timing, but I think I got more out of it now–being a year later–as I have been through a bit more experiences in my physical body, such as the blood clot. I was so emotional reading the book that after I finished I was talking with my mom and just started crying (a variety of things), but I pointed to the book on the couch and said, “I don’t know why this book has made me so emotional.” Mom looked at me and said, “Probably because you can relate to what she went through.”

I thought about this. It is probably true. If you compared my life to Kathy’s life, there are some extreme differences: she was married, had two kids, battled an extreme case of breast cancer for ten years, and lived in CA her whole life–and yet we also had similarities: We both loved running (I can’t physically anymore, but love walking!); we both had treatments on the same chemo called Avastin (although she went through ten other different chemo treatments; I have only been through two.) We both had a blood clot with all the blood thinner shots and pills that follow; we both lost our hair; we both had radiation; we both were (and I still am) supported by an amazing circumference of family and friends who love endlessly and share support during the good and bad times; we both had to switch hospitals and doctors after years of care offered by another one; and we both have faith. Kathy’s faith is now complete. I am still on the journey.

Kathy’s “life verse” was Hebrews 12:1-2,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I put in bold the phrase that she quoted most often in her journal entries that were at the end of the book. Kathy was a runner. Unlike myself who ran cross-country in high school but hated the races, Kathy thrived in races–anything from 5k, 10k to marathons. Whether you run or not, running as if in a race is almost the strength and perseverance mind-set for life: “[Forgetting] what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13b-14.

When I ran cross-country in high school, training was what got me through the races. For training, we would run on a variety of things during the week: grass, sidewalks through town, and other times, run up the mountain. I remember this one place…not quite sure where exactly in the mountains…but all of a sudden after you “warmed up” running the road, it just turned into a straight shot up the mountain. Rocks everywhere, so steep. It was literally a “breath-taking” view! 🙂 Coach always encouraged us to never stop. Never. So even though I was bringing up the rear end of the team while running slower than most people’s walking speed, I never stopped. After you got over that huge steep hill, things leveled out. Sure, it was still a mountain, but it was more like the hiking paths and less gruesome. Even after all this training, sometimes during the races I would want to give up. But then I would remember and say to myself, “Pull yourself together. You trained harder than this.” And I would not stop. Mental determination. The finish line was my goal. And that was the best part, because as you near the end you start to hear the cheers from everyone at the finish line. You pick up the pace, knowing that the finish line was just ahead. You forgot about the rest of the race…how much pain or how many people passed you. You strived to the end with all strength left in you. The verse that was so special to Kathy fit her life–her personality, her faith, and her race against cancer. The common phrase for people who have died from cancer is, “They lost the fight.” Indeed, our lives are worth fighting for but after reading Kathy’s book…I would not say that she lost the fight. Rather, she finished her race.

“Pressing on towards the goal”–I have shared Kathy’s favorite verse. I would like to share with you now my favorite verse. It is from II Corinthians 12:9-10,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I had started running in the 7th grade…slacked off here and there, and in college, I started going to the gym every night. Not much kept me from the gym each night in college. I think it was my own way of “pressing on” during those times. I loved it. Something happened after I graduated, I stopped exercising every night and lost a little determination for a bit. I lived close to some different parks in my neighborhood and started walking there. I loved seeing the season changes and talked to God while I walked a few miles. My old job was also connected to a mall which had an indoor mile lap and I would often walk during my lunch breaks. Please understand me when I say this…as this pertains to my life and mental determination: When I either give up exercising, or can’t exercise from health reasons, I see a change. Like my attitude changes about how I see things in life…big struggles seem even harder, and even little things seem so hard. I told my mom about Kathy’s life during our conversation that night I finished the book–how she would go on mile runs a few days after chemo treatments. I said, “I don’t think I could do that,” as if it made me feel guilty for not getting out for walks lately or getting a few other things done that were stacking up in my room (which it sort of did). Mom said I didn’t have to. We were all made different.

Then I thought back to times in Denver. I worked Thursday-Saturday eight hour shifts. The weeks of chemo I worked Thursday, chemo Friday and then back to work Saturday-Sunday. Regardless of how much I tried to talk to work about changing this schedule, it never did. For months this happened. I think that is where my favorite verses really set in…”When I am weak, then I am strong,” because it was almost my reminder of my semester in college when I was on chemo pills. I don’t know how I got out of bed then, or on the weekends of work after chemo. Definitely not on my own…but on God’s strength.

The thing is, most people look at me and say the exact thing of what I said about Kathy’s life, “I don’t think I could do that.” And I would tell you, “You don’t have to. We are all made different.” God gives me strength to endure, just like he gave his strength to Kathy. He gives it according to our need. I think that is what makes life so special. We all have our own race–our own life worth running…enduring through pain, encouraging others and in return receiving it, rejoicing with those who have crossed the finish line, and striving for what lies ahead.

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Filed under Adjusting to NF2, Books and Movies, Family Times, Hospital Trips