“It’s the triumph of desire over reason…”
That’s what it says on the back of the T-shirt I wear as a beginning runner at my YMCAs 5K training program. The “beginners” are the ones who couldn’t run a mile without being out of breath and exhausted at our initial meeting. I’ve never been a runner…at the beginning I was out of breath running just tenth of a mile. I hadn’t run since I was in grade school. I have a bad ankle, am out of shape and overweight. I was for sure a beginner.
My reason said trying to train for a running event in April was silly. But my desire said I wanted to be better; I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to get in shape. So I’m training. And now several weeks later, I can run 1.5 miles (okay, only a half mile at a time right now, but 1.5 with short walking breaks). My resting heart rate has dropped from 90 to 76.
At first I wished the T-shirt said something more profound…but running the other night and reading the quote on someone else’s back made me think. Our cancer battle is kind of like that. Desire over reason. We desire a long and normal and productive life, but we reason that after a cancer diagnosis that we are unlikely to live to old age. We reason that we likely will suffer through chemotherapy, not feel good for a long while, suffer a recurrence and face death sooner than we’d anticipated.
Our desire and reason are at odds after cancer. We want our desire to live a long (or longer)and more productive life, to prevail. We want that desire to triumph over our reason, our assumption that we aren’t big enough to beat the cancer monster.
Life’s kind of like that all of the time,though, when you think about it. We always face some sort of challenge that seems unreasonable for us to assume we’ll overcome easily. The challenge to get more education or a better job, to give up a bad habit, to get in shape, to lose weight, to be a better person, to be a more loving spouse, a better parent…you name it, we are always wanting to succeed where it is reasonable we might fail. Our desire is always at odds with our reason. And reason is easy, it gives us an excuse not to succeed, it saves us a lot of work. Working towards our desire is the hard part.
But I think in the end what makes us grow, what helps us evolve, what strengthens us, is our battle of desire over reason. What in the end determines the quality of our best trait, our character, is our desire to overcome what our reason says is likely impossible. Our fighting the hard battles.
I think the courage and determination we develop in achieving our desire to beat and overcome cancer makes us who we are meant to be. Achieving our desires in the face of reason takes a lot of work, and a lot of courage, though. It isn’t easy. A cancer diagnosis is the ultimate test of desire over reason. It’s a battle….and every small step forward counts.
But I think the battle we wage is our greatest chance to make a difference to others, to display courage, to inspire, to grow. Maybe our legacy for this life is not how long we live, but the demonstration of how we fight our cancer battle. It’s about celebrating our triumph of desire over reason.
I just wanted to say that I am sitting here in Helsinki, Finland reading your blog and you really have an incredible story. I know you probably hear that all the time, but you really are doing a wonderful service. So often people think they can empathize with what a cancer patient goes through, but until reading your blog I really had no idea. Thank you for opening my eyes.