Facing the Wall

Obstacles. Fences. Walls. Roadblocks. Diversions. Challenges.

We maneuver around them daily. Sometimes with great skill and confidence. Sometimes bumbling along, bouncing into the roadblock headfirst a few times before working out a path to the other side.

When going through chemo, I felt fenced. In December 2009, my third month of chemo, I got through one treatment with a Hungry Cow Mentality. Head down, with a few strong kicks.

This week I faced a Wall. Working out with my team at the YMCA, we took on the challenge of climbing the rock wall; it soared to the ceiling of the gym. I have quietly wanted to attempt this since I turned 40; then I thought at 45 I would try it. But I was working on the aforementioned fence around that time. And since then, I have what I affectionately term a chicken arm: The underside of my upper arm has no feeling and the entire arm is slightly swollen. From surgery to remove lymph nodes, the nerves were shuffled around, so that wiggly part that most women hate, I can’t feel. I look at it and see a lifeless chicken wing.

Dressed in our team’s neon yellow shirt, I arrive early with my team mates. This is good, I think to myself. I will hoist this body with this arm at least two feet up the wall, see what it feels like, identify what muscles need to grow to make the climb to the top possible in the future. I did it! I made it two feet up the wall! My grips were strong, so I went a bit farther. I made one stretch with my left arm that was a little too big, but I had three other appendages firmly attached to the wall. I reversed that move and looked for a closer rock for the fingers of my chicken arm to latch onto. Holding that position for a bit, I let the sting of over-extension subside. I adjusted my sights and focused on the rocks that were comfortably within my reach. I saw the top three feet away. I felt a scrambling sensation. I felt my muscles twinge. I felt strong.

I slapped the top of that wall and yelled, “I DID IT! I MADE IT!” With the anchor man holding me in my harness, I clamored down the wall.

My body was shaking when I made it to the bottom. My fingers from the gripping. My legs from the energy they put forth. My biceps, both of them, from exerting power.

Focused on the weakness of my chicken wing and slightly swollen arm, I had not given much thought to the potential power in that arm: the bicep, the forearm, and my fingers.

Hidden strength. Combined strength of the whole was bigger than the weakness of one part.

Staying strong, Linda