That’s what my home care worker said once she learned the two parts of my boxing class. The problem is that while I still have muscles; I can’t access them; the connection doesn't work. So for the first 30 minutes of the class, I am so weak I struggle in every activity, and though I push myself the hardest, I just can’t reach the power in my muscles.
Then I start to sweat. I don’t know what chemical it is or if it is a chain reaction, maybe adrenaline, nor-adrenaline, nor-epinephrine, I don’t know but suddenly, my arms are twitching and so covered with spasms they blend together but I have full use of the muscles. I am strong again....for 40 more minutes, I will have the power of an athlete again.
My home care worker wanted to know why I didn’t spend even more time in that state. I told her that 1) I push myself to the point of exhaustion and 2) every minute I spend in that state costs me one hour of extreme pain.
“One MINUTE is one HOUR?”
“NOTHING is worth that!”
How do you explain what it is like, almost a year on, about being in a room where you are one of the top athletes again. Going someplace where the new women come to get tips from you. How do you describe the feeling when people line up to bout with you. Or when people joke with you; come up and start conversations with you. Outside of the gym I am not a person who is seen an asset, a person who would be cool to get to know.
But, last night in bed, at a 35 degree angle, my left rib cage wouldn’t expand. Then the inside muscles lining my ribs started to ripple and my entire body violently shook as if I was in extreme shock. My teeth were chattering and my legs were trembling in signs of severe hypothermia, even though my body was overheating. “Are you cold? Are you cold?” My home care worker asked. No. No. But when it finally ended, I was paralyzed, except where my skin rippled from over a dozen subcutaneous spasms. But at least, after 30 minutes, I could breathe without feeling like I was drowning. The home care worker talked to me about upping my pain medication dosage significantly. She said that one point of pain medication is to be able to sleep. I finally slept with pain killers, massive muscle relaxants and two sleep aids only to have the pain wake me three hours later, and three hours after that, and three hours after that.
I know in the constant pain and erratic swoops of consciousness today that I cannot continue boxing, at least in the present form. I know this may seem simple and obvious to you, but I’ve been grieving. Truth be, is I’ve been moody and blinking back tears. It’s not just the boxing. It is the boxing. I thought I could handle the pain but that…..bizarre seizure last night terrified both me and my home care worker; and she’s worked home, hospital and palliative care for 16 years. I know she is right and that we can’t risk something like that again.
But damn it, I was Elizabeth, back with a plan, fighting the fighting in literal and metaphor ways. And, my God, those glorious 35-40 minutes when I was high on adrenaline and full of power… I spend my week getting carried, pushed in my wheelchair and/or assisted everywhere. Do you get it? I had Full Muscle Power again. I would pay more if I could just go for a jog again, to have my wind in my hair as I stretch out my legs taking in the downhill with swooping strides. I'd pay it. I didn't have that, but what I had was close enough.
But it isn’t worth a stroke, or permanent paralysis. It isn’t worth agony which is stronger than the opiates I take. It isn't worth 36-40 hours of that to experience 35 minutes (Well……maybe? I mean "No!").
My impression was that not many readers were particularly in thrall at the idea of me boxing. But I was. So tonight I grieve for that particular dream. Then tomorrow, or maybe the day after, I start building a New Plan, a new dream. It seems a cowards way to stop just because of the pain, and the passing out and the being unable to move. But I guess it might be more important to be able to breathe, to sleep, to not have scary freaky seizures that go on and on than to prove some abstract point to myself about quitting (let me tell you from the memories of last night, being able to breathe is REALLY, REALLY important).
Damn. It was a really good dream too. It was MY dream.