The Athlete in Me Won’t Stop

Posted by on Mar 1, 2017 in Blog | Comments Off on The Athlete in Me Won’t Stop

Source:  New York Times / Todd Balf /   / 

“You’re sort of in between, aren’t you?” an old friend asked me recently.

She’d been through it all with me — my diagnosis of a rare spine cancer two years ago, the radical multistage surgery, the long rehab stint, the longer convalescence at home, and the eventual finding that I’d suffered a complication in surgery that caused a spinal cord injury and what will probably be permanent paraplegia. My sports-toned and -nurtured legs hadn’t responded to rehab the way they’d been expected to because they couldn’t.

What my friend was saying — and why I was nodding along — is that I don’t fit in the most recognizable spinal cord injury groups. I’m not in a wheelchair anymore. I’ve learned to stand for long periods. My naturally dark skin tone returned once I got back outdoors. For most of my professional life I’ve reported and written about athletes and adventurers. I’ve climbed Grand Teton in Wyoming, trekked the Darien Jungle in Panama. In a photograph recently taken of me in front of my weather-beaten New England barn I look a lot like I used to. “Defiant,” she said.

But I’m sure that the visit I made to her lake house a few weeks earlier was in the back of her mind. I’d joined her and a half-dozen other friends; it was my first time there since my surgery. A party barge was next to shore for easy boarding, and though I was able to edge my fanny onto the low loading deck and hoist my legs up, I couldn’t get up from there. Everybody was trying to be cool and respectful but nobody knew what to do. My helplessness was striking.

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