Heat, snow, the flu. Even confinement to a Disney cruise ship couldn’t keep my father from his morning ritual. Sixty laps around the ship deck, he estimated, earned him eight miles.
Every morning since he was 20, he ran. Before anyone else in my family awoke, he ran. To nothing but the rhythm of his breath, he ran.
After his blood cancer diagnosis, he still ran.
He had read the myeloma literature. He knew that his brand of blood cancer would cause his bones to weaken. He understood that eventually his bones would fracture under the stress of what had long been his stress relief.
And so it was, six years after his diagnosis, the oncologist discovered a stress fracture was the source of my father’s back pain.
I wonder if the doctor understood the weight of her words when she told him he could no longer run, that he must abandon his faithful ally of forty years. I wonder if she tried to pad the punch with words of empathy or a voice of compassion.
But I don’t know because he never said a word about it.
He never complained or pouted or whined or lamented the injustice.
He simply woke up the next morning and went to the golf course, like he’s done every morning since.
With the same diet of dedication and sweat that earned him a 2:32 marathon PR (!!!), he whittles away at his handicap. In the years since he traded his running shoes for golf cleats, he has become king of the fairways, a formidable–and nearly unbeatable–opponent on the links.
A month ago, just days after IRONMAN Lake Placid, I slouched in a darkened doctor’s office, staring at an x-ray that outlined the hasty end to my otherwise triumphant triathlon season: a fractured metatarsal.
I could have cried.
I could have said it wasn’t fair.
I could have lamented my season’s denouement before its climax.
But I have had the great fortune of being my father’s daughter, of learning from the example he quietly sets, the attitude with which he has faced his cancer diagnosis and everything that comes along with it.
I can’t run for awhile, this is true. But like my father who now spends countless hours on the golf course, I can swim like I have never swam before.
Instead of pity parties, I can throw pool parties and try to keep up with faster fish. I can swim 100 x 100 with some fantastic friends, even if it takes me four hours to finish.
I can turn the disappointment of a fractured foot into an opportunity to focus on my weakness, to become a better swimmer, to minimize the gap I have to run down in every triathlon I’ve ever raced.
I can turn a fracture into an opportunity.
Because that’s what my father taught me to do.
–For more on life and fairness, check out “It’s not Fair.”
–Huge thanks to my swim friends for keeping me company as I fall in love with laps