I recently sat in a doctor’s office waiting area with several other people. I happened to be wearing a dress for this work-related visit. It was an appropriate length above my knees but short enough that a few inches of my scar from bone cancer showed along my outer thigh and knee.
An older couple sat across from me. The gentleman noticed my scar, commenting that I looked too young to need a new knee. I smiled, merely responding, “You never know.” I guess his curiosity was piqued because he asked what happened. Yes he could be considered nosy but honestly I am open about my cancer history, taking it as opportunity to educate people on the disease and, most importantly, dispelling the myth that cancer is an automatic death sentence. So I briefly shared I was a bone cancer survivor and had surgery to replace my femur and knee with titanium. Both he and his wife were surprised (I’m always fascinated by how many people tell me I was so young to have cancer. It’s unfortunately a disease that affects every age) and we chatted for a few more minutes.
Then he asked, “Do you consider yourself disabled?” The question startled me, partly because I’ve never been asked that but mostly because being disabled has never crossed my mind. Yes, cancer infected my body, I went through a horrible treatment, had my femur and knee replaced, and I have some limitations with physical activities. However, there are so many people worse off than me. I have my own two legs, can walk and more. I feel grateful every day I wake up for what I do have.
When I asked him why I would consider myself disabled, he answered, “Because you had cancer. You probably can’t do much because of your leg.” While his wife was clearly a little appalled at his comments, I wasn’t. I realized this was a great opportunity to dispel some myths and provide a little education about cancer. I shared a bit of my history and all of the activities I can do, and a few of those I can’t because of my rod. He was genuinely interested and appreciated my openness.
That conversation kept coming back to me for a few days. I usually just blow off those conversations, especially after all these years of being a cancer survivor and hearing many odd comments (my favorite is still, “I bet you’re happy that you’re not dead (from cancer).” What do you say to that? Uh, yeah.). I wasn’t offended by his question or comments. It was ignorance on his part and I appreciated that he seemed to want to learn.
I finally accepted that he struck a nerve relating to activities in my life. I have discovered it’s one thing for me to ponder the limitations or modifications I now live with, but another for someone else to suggest limitations. In that instance, this weird stubbornness and determination set in every time and I get antsy to do something to prove to myself that I can….well, do something!
So that conversation is what propelled me to a Zumba Toning class last night. My younger sister and I joined a Zumba class almost three years ago. I love it – love the music, working out without feeling like I’m working out, dancing, the camaraderie with the other women, our very energetic instructor and the satisfaction of having my body feel strong after each class. Zumba Toning adds resistance to movements by adding the use of light weights so you’re focused on different muscle groups. I thought this class would be a nice way to get a cardio workout with added toning benefits.
I’ve been interested in the Zumba Toning class for some time now but didn’t know if I’d be able to keep up with the movements because of my leg limitations (full weight bearing movements and twisting are difficult; direct impact moves, such as jumping, are bad). However, with my husband working late and that conversation on my mind, I walked into the class. And am thrilled I went. I had a blast! And got a great workout.
You still do dance moves like a Zumba class but slower and not as much since you’re focused on toning movements (squats, triceps curls, etc). I use heavier weights at the gym but quickly understood why you use no more than 2.5-pound weights. You’re moving nonstop and doing enough repetitions to feel the burn. The chair provides a great workout tool, as it offers support for balance and exercises. (My triceps were burning by the end of one song!)
I did have to do some modifications, but not as many I thought I would. Overall I felt like a got a great workout (That sentiment was certainly reinforced when I woke up this morning and felt sore triceps and thighs!).
By the end of the class, I felt more confident in my body and stronger for working on keeping it healthy. And I will admit that as I walked to my car, I couldn’t help but smirk as I thought, “Disabled? Suck it, cancer.”