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Cowboys and Marathon Runners

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It seems as though the past few weeks have had some kind of ‘life lesson’ to teach me. Maybe we all learn something every day but are too busy to notice, and maybe I’m just more aware than normal. Whatever it is, I’m thankful for it. This week, my lesson has come to me in two parts, and it has been this: There isn’t anything the human body cannot do.

Part 1:
I met a man a few days ago with one arm. His name is Tim, and he’s one of my mother’s friends from high school. Unbeknownst to Mom, and most of his classmates at the time, he had an extremely rare form of bone cancer throughout high school. If I remember correctly, at the time of his diagnosis, he was one of 29 recorded cases. He graduated from high school, and that fall, his arm was removed because of the cancer.

What makes Tim such an extraordinary person, aside from the fact he beat his cancer when his chances were incredibly slim, and he only visits his doctor for minor heart issues, is that he is a dog-training cowboy. Now, when I say ‘cowboy,’ I mean a man who lives on a ranch, works on a ranch, rides and trains horses, and has the determination of someone who knows what it’s like to earn a living. He is also an extremely well known dog trainer with a love and understanding of animals unlike anyone I’ve ever seen. On top of that, he does it all with one arm.

Part 2:
I ran my first half marathon today. One of my “life goals” has always been to run a marathon, and I decided this was going to be the summer I would do it. I’ve been training for three months, and have come ridiculously close to giving up. Last week I ran 11 miles and got sick with half a mile to go. Knowing I had my half marathon in one week, I had absolutely no idea how I was going to be able to run 13.1 miles with 1,500 other people and not pass out. All day yesterday, and this morning, I was sick to my stomach, but once my race began at 8:00 am this morning, I felt like nothing in the world could stop me. I had so much fun, felt amazing, and never got sick. I was even laughing part of the way—I was reading the other runners’ shirts and some of them were hilarious.

The biggest thing I’ve discovered in all of my training, and in my meeting Tim, is the human body is an incredible machine. It has the power to fight what our minds tell us can’t be beat. It can do the work of a normal person, even when a major limb is missing, and can carry us farther than we ever thought possible. The most important thing is that when we know this, and when we believe this, incredible things can happen. I’ll be honest: I’ve been struggling with body image issues for a few months. Now, I’m a college soccer player and have played every sport imaginable throughout my life. I even fenced for two years. I have absolutely no reason to feel self-conscious about my body in any way, and I know this. But I also just left home for the first time and spent my freshman year of college in Boston. When you are surrounded by unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar place, you want to fit in, so you start to pick out things you think are “wrong” with you and need correcting. I didn’t develop an eating disorder or anything like that—I like food too much to go that far—but I wasn’t happy with myself. In the past few weeks, today especially, I can honestly say I am completely happy with myself. Three months ago I decided to make one of my dreams come true, and today, I got halfway there with the body I’ve had for 19 years. So incredible!

So how does this relate to cancer? Our bodies have the ability to conquer whatever we throw at them. The problem is, our minds tells us we can’t. So how do we solve this conflict? We get over it, and we do it. The only person who knows our body is us, and if we decide we are going to do something, our bodies CAN do it. We just have to believe it. It’s ridiculously simple, and I have spent all of this time writing about it, but it’s so true.

So I have a challenge for whoever might be reading this: Go out. Decide you are going to make one of your dreams come true, and do it. If you want to be a dog-whispering cowboy, a marathon runner, a cancer survivor, or whatever it is that makes you happy, do it. No matter how difficult it is, your body CAN do it. It’s an amazing thing you’ve been given, and you are the only person who has the chance to see what it can do.