Chemo tomorrow…after a pause today

Chemo tomorrow. Thank you for your positive thoughts and prayers. Last time around really went as well as chemo has ever gone for me. Not only did I not vomit, I didn’t even feel like vomiting. SO amazing. And I am so grateful.

This past weekend was incredible in so many ways. I was graced with a visit from a friend, whom I met in Brazil but I feel like I’ve known forever, and the effects of our wonderful time together are still settling into my being.

While she was visiting, we went to the Head of the Charles (a race of rowing boats on the Charles River, competitive even to enter). My kids assumed that I was rowing in it. I simultaneously thought it was hilarious and loved that they had no doubt that I could compete.

I also love that Tiron thinks of me as a serious rower. Recently, he advised against my rowing at all, worried that some scary thing inside me would rip open. Obviously, he thinks that I row like an Olympian, where I might break a rib or something else. He should come and watch my languid style.

Still, I take his words to heart, so I canceled my next lesson. However, not only did that make me sad, like cancer was taking away something I loved, but it felt as though I was making decisions from a base of fear rather than joy, love, excitement, knowing what is right for me. When I rescheduled my rowing lesson, I immediately felt better.

The day of that lesson was gorgeous – cool air with warm sun, clear skies, and a calm river. I biked to the boathouse (even learning how to fill the bike tires with air – don’t laugh – I get intimidated by these things and was so proud of myself!) and I got to meet someone I have admired for over 20 years: The Native American* man who runs along the Charles River!

Rowing was fab, of course. We worked on several things, one of which was taking a pause between strokes, in order to set up for the next stroke.

Here is how I typically row:
When the oars are in the water, I pull them through the resistance of the water as hard and fast as I can. When I lift them from the water into the air to push them back and set up for the next stroke, there is less resistance, so they move quickly and I don’t see why I should slow them down. As a result, I am always moving quickly through each stroke, though I don’t really travel that quickly across the water.

My instructor suggested that, instead, I take a pause between strokes. Specifically, he suggested that I take the oars out of the water, let the boat glide begin (quarter slide for you rowers) and then pause to take a moment to gather myself for the next stroke.

The first few times, my pause was exaggerated to the point of feeling like I was literally stopping between strokes. But soon, the pause flowed into the rhythm of the movements.

In this pause, time expanded. I could now feel the way the boat slides underneath me and the relative position of my oars. It let me check in with my center of gravity as well as notice what was going on around me.  I even had time to gather myself and set up for the next stroke.

Then I noticed that, by taking this small moment of time and focusing during it, I was moving more efficiently through the water than I was when I powered through. Rowing became more fun, and I could enjoy more fun moments.

In your reading of this and my other notes, you help me to take that pause to gather myself and get centered as my days move from regular life to chemo and back to regular life again. And you help me to notice the fun moments every day. Thank you.

Love and blessings,


*So many of you recognized this man from my description, which was really exciting. I learned from you that he is not Native American but is Cambodian and the founder of the Elephant Walk!

6 thoughts on “Chemo tomorrow…after a pause today

  1. Good luck tomorrow and I hope it goes as well as last time. I love Raoul too – the native American man who runs along the river. He is such a warm and stable presence.

  2. Marie,

    Thanks so much for your beautiful, thoughtful words. You help me to pause, and to remember the importance of perspective and gratitude. Funny thing–I saw the man you wrote about today in Harvard Square, before I read this. He used to live in my building years ago, and though we never got to know each other, I always took comfort in his presence. Today, I was so happy to see him, and I was struck by how unchanged he is after all these years, still radiating vitality. So weird that you mentioned him!

    I hope that today went well.

    xo Annie

    • I know what you mean – I would LOVE to have that kind of presence. I’m not sure what his ethnicity is. I’ve always thought of him as Native American but someone suggested that he might be Pacific Islander. I didn’t ask him. But how cool that we all knew exactly who he is just by his presence.

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