My whole life if I wanted to do something, I just went out and did it. I played four sports, broke horses, could work all day. When I was in high school during the summer, I would go play a basketball tournament and play three games in a day. We used to put up 12,000 bales of hay a summer so I'd spend all day out in the field throwing hay. I spent a summer in Wyoming where it wasn't uncommon to put 20-30 miles on in a day out riding horses. That means spending 10-14 hours a day in the saddle.
That was my normal.
Fast forward to today. After seven weeks of radiation and 14 months of chemo I am a different person. I get winded walking a block. I can't push a round bale over by myself. We had a flat tire on Friday coming home from Chicago and it took everything I had to change the tire. I was totally spent for the rest of the day.
When I come home for a weekend it's a constant battle between what I want to do and what I ought to do. I want to play golf, do work around the house, fix fences, go for walks, mow the lawn, ride horses and more! If I felt healthy it would be hard to fit all that in in a weekend. However feeling how I do now means I probably have to choose one of those for the weekend and even then I may spend the rest of the weekend prostrate on the couch.
Two weekends ago I chose to go horseback riding. A good friend of mine hosted a ranch roping day at his ranch and so I saddled up and went over last Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day, and as Ronald Reagan famously said, "There is nothing as good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse."
I felt great. Ranch roping is a combination of horsemanship and camaraderie. It was a great group of guys and I met some new friends and caught up with some old ones. I'm not a great roper and was doing a lot of learning as well as teaching my new horse how to be a rope horse. We started out well. I caught on my first time in the pen. I worked the cow with Legado (Spanish for legacy). He did great too!
As the morning went on, I started to feel less than 100%. My whole life when I've felt this way I just bear down, grit my teeth and fight through it. I had wanted to spend two to three hours riding. I'd only been there 45 minutes. I fought it trying to convince myself that it was just a blip and I would perk up soon. Instead I gradually slid further and further into exhaustion.
My performance showed. I started throwing horrible shots. I got frustrated with Legado because I thought he wasn't listening. In reality I started to ride worse and worse. I was sending mixed messages and he didn't know what to do. Instead of fighting through the fatigue, and improving, I made the situation worse. The end result is I never caught another cow, had to leave early, and spent the rest of the weekend wasted on the couch.
I often say we're not going to let this cancer rule our lives. I've still been able to work full time even through the radiation the last month and a half. I stayed fairly active going golfing, horse riding, and even playing basketball during last winter. As much as I can I have tried to live a "normal" life, but no matter how much I try to cowboy up, I still have cancer. I still am going through treatment, and I am still beat down physically.
My life isn't normal.
So how do I judge whether cancer is ruling my life?
Not by what I do, but by how I respond. I'm going to live in obedience, with joy and hope and thankfulness. That ought to be my normal no matter how I feel. So if I can't ride for three hours I should be thankful for forty five minutes. If I can't play basketball I should be thankful I can golf. If I can't put hay out, I should be thankful I have a wife and friends who can help me.
I can't control how I feel but I can control my attitude. There will be a day when I feel back to normal but until then I can still live my normal life in smaller doses.
p.s. thanks a lot Kirk Wolters and Way Out Here Photography for some great shots!