Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Roads Taken

I spoke at the Team in Training informational meeting yesterday to recruit participants for the spring team, which starts training in a few weeks. I spoke in the role of a patient honoree (blood cancer survivor). I was out for a walk early yesterday, trying to think what I would talk about while noting the beautiful fall colors. Reds. Oranges. Yellows. Ah, yellows – “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…”
Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” ends thusly:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

I thought about the decisions we make every day. Most are simple and of little consequence, like whether to watch TV or read a book tonight. A few are truly momentous and life changing – for me the decision to commit to TNT nearly five years ago is one of these. But that started with a pretty simple decision, that of attending that TNT information meeting in early 2005, just as the people I would be speaking to were doing later that morning. And I thought of how I could relate a couple events in my recent life to this, and maybe encourage a few of them to select the same path.

One was reacting to cancer. We don’t get to pick cancer or not. If we have it, we have it. But we can choose which path to take after that point. We can choose the road of negativity, of “why me”, of giving up, of constant complaining about our misfortune. Or we can choose to be positive, to be strong, be a survivor instead of a victim, and to learn and grow from our bad luck. I know that the latter path was the one that I selected when I was so ill, and that made a huge difference in my life. One thing that struck me when I was dealing with cancer was that this path had been traveled by thousands before me, and that my successful treatment owed a debt to what was learned by their experiences. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, people with Hodgkin lymphoma were much more likely to die – after tremendous suffering - than live, and now the five year survivorship is about 85% - remarkable. And I was determined that when I was well again, I would do something to make a difference for people dealing with cancer, to make their journey on this very difficult road a little less difficult.

The second decision I thought about was how I selected the road less traveled and decided to do Team in Training in 2005. I’ve written before about how I hesitated because of the fundraising and my self-doubts about raising that kind of money. For me, Team in Training was almost the road not taken, and that would have been such a loss for me. Now, maybe I would not know what I would be missing, because the other road – just going on with my life – would have been okay, too. But I would have missed out on so much had I selected that path. So instead, I showed some moxie, decided to believe in myself, and took my first step down a road that led to becoming a multiple-times marathoner, raising $40,000+ for LLS, and meeting so many amazing people. By giving back to others, I gave to myself. By making a difference in the world, I made a difference in my own life. And perhaps my experiences have touched other people and made a difference in their lives as well.

Frost’s poem has a few lines that are really apt:

Oh, I kept the first (road) for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back

Team in Training, the road less traveled, the road almost not taken by me, leads one to places in their life where there is absolutely no going back to that starting point where the two roads diverged nearly five years ago. Your life changes, for the better, too much for that. For me, that other road, that road without Team in Training, was the road not taken. And that has made all the difference!


Cheryl said...

Hi are without doubt a survivor...I love your positive attitude and your love of life. If I was standing beside you I would shake your hand......

A thought provoking post......

Racn4acure said...

Thanks Cheryl, I appreciate that. I'd love to stand in your beautiful garden with you and shake your hand there! :) Art

Anonymous said...

Hi Art! Thank you so much for your positive attitude. You truly are a survivor! I saw the purple shirts while running my first marathon this past weekend, and I thought of you and all of your accomplishments. Love your writing! Take care! ~Holly

Racn4acure said...

Thanks so much, Holly. And congratulations on becoming a marathoner!