With a good coach and you, my fellow cancer patients, as inspiration, I was able to complete the Long Boat Key Sprint Triathlon on May 5.
It was a beautiful place and a fun day I will long remember.
I was smiling the whole way, loving being a participant in the race, knowing it could end in a moment, but moving forward for the pure enjoyment of being part of it.
To experience something for the first time always yields the unexpected, worth the difficulty and work of doing it. This was that way.
Doing "normal" things: the path to normalcy
Many cancer patients are like me, wishing for life to be "normal" again. As obvious as it sounds, perhaps doing "normal" things is one of the pathways there.
While a triathlon is far from normal for me, it got me out doing normal things. It made me figure out something besides the reports from my last scans and what would happen at my next appointment.
I had to do the work in an unnoticed way, like I didn't ever have lung cancer. I had to grind it out like everyone else has to in order to cross their finish line.
Meeting new people and having new conversations
I met new people. People who didn't know I had lung cancer. Lung cancer was not the central topic of every conversation. The triathlon was.
Triathletes obsess over their sport like no one I've ever met. They constantly think and talk about transition times, splits, nutrition, recovery, swimming (or their lack of ability to swim - the dreaded segment of the race for most) and all things triathlon, but not cancer.
They have all manner of injuries, but don't make excuses. The mantra is simple: "It's hard; get over it."
The "triattitude" was refreshing in a strange and annoying kind of way. It helped me to be more objective about my own circumstances, my need to obsess less about cancer and more about life, to have people in my life who don't know I've had cancer.
You can do it
So, what did I learn after training for weeks by crashing my bicycle and looking funny in spandex swim suits and tri-shorts? Find new interests and activities as a part of your personal fight to get to "normal." Do some "normal" things. It doesn't take a triathlon.
So, what does full recovery look like to you? What part of full recovery can you do tomorrow? Pick it and go and don't look back. You can do it. I know you can.
Tom Barber is a 58-year-old lung cancer survivor. After a lobectomy and a clinical trial, he completed 5K and 10K runs, a half-marathon and, now, a triathlon.