I’ve always been very physically active. In grade school it was kickball, tag and later, the middle school’s softball team (I played first base). As a freshman in high school, a few months after watching my uncle in the NYC marathon, I decided to give the track team a try. I ran and jumped my way right into an athletic scholarship, seeing the US and earning a B.A. without any school loans hanging over my head in the process.
Through career shifts, marriage, pregnancy and divorce, I kept competing (OK - I did take a year off when my son was born). In July 2004, I retired from the sport so I could work on my Master's and still keep up with my then 11-yr-old son. A few days after I started graduate school, I found a pea-sized lump in my right breast.
Thanksgiving break was spent recovering from a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction (which isn't quite so immediate, it turns out). In January, after watching my son do kata from the balcony of the dojo while trying to read my school assignments, I decided to take his sensei up on the offer to join the class. Since track had ended, I hadn’t even run to the refridgerator. I missed being active. I missed sweating.
And sweat, we did – thanks to the generous helpings of pushups, jumping jacks and ab work Sensei F. dished out. At least that was familiar – unlike the stances, katas and punching/kicking drills. I felt like the world’s least coordinated person for quite a while (which Sensei F assured me was totally normal), but it felt really good to hit something. Plus we were encouraged to scream loudly while punching and kicking. Physically yelling while pummeling a pad (or even a person :-) proved to be pretty darn therapeutic - and a whole lot cheaper than psychotherapy.
Three weeks before my last radiation treatment, I entered my first competition, (I wore a foam chest protector to keep the radiated skin from getting hit too much). A few days after - a Thursday - I remember getting really excited because Saturday - which had become "karate day" - was right around the corner. My passion for this new mind/body/spirit thing was ignited.
A few days ago (October 4), I celebrated my five year “cancerversary.” Through all the physical changes breast cancer brought, karate was the one constant, proving that I may have had cancer, but cancer didn’t really have me because I could do stuff that I’d never even tried before my diagnosis (seriously - how many of you had ever sunk into a cat, long or horse stance before karate?), so for me, breast cancer and karate will always be connected. I’m so glad I took off my shoes and lined up in the back of the class that day. If I hadn't, my bare feet probably wouldn't be on the path they're on now. And I probably would have never really appreciated how great a good, loud kiai is for the soul.
Since it is Breast Cancer Awareness, I'd be remiss if I didn't remind you about the importance of self-exams, clinical breast exams and mammograms. But before you go and schedule your appointment, tell me about your intro to MA. What was your first training session like?