This is how I fight

Photo: Salaton Njau

I’m slowly getting back into an exercise routine, and though I question why I get up at the crack of dawn to go and ruka ruka (jump around) at the Arboretum, I quickly forget my reluctance and embrace how fortunate I am once I get into my stride. A year ago, I had just said goodbye to my brace also known as the ‘wonder woman corset’ and was slowly gaining the confidence of getting into an independent routine. I was dealing with night sweats and itching. I’d missed just sweating from exercise.

I’m far from running a 10k, but at the beginning of this year, I told myself that if I’m going to get back to form, I have to do it slowly and properly. I’ve realised I’m not the most patient of people and I can get ahead of myself more so when it comes to exercise. It wasn’t easy. I had been to the gym a few times last year and even bought myself 3kg dumbbells, but now with a trainer, my workouts are more structured and intentional. But it’s been another mountain to climb.

Fatigue is one of the signs of myeloma, and I am cautious with every move that I make, and at times even fearful! I get frustrated and tired after doing just 15 push-ups knowing full well I have done 50 reps at a go and a kilometre run felt like a marathon. My now cushioned waistline is not having it when I do either a set of crunches or sit-ups. I won’t lie to you; I want to prove to myself that I am back! This is how I fight, I tell myself. This is me. I plead with my body urging it to work for me, and I will look after it. I’ve found myself saying that I’m preparing for the next chapter. Often saying if I can battle cancer, I can get to 12 burpees!

It took a while to believe that being in good physical shape helped in this battle. I didn’t know that I had the mental muscle, something I think the running and exercising had a role to play. I’m fighting this in the way I know best, is a phrase I often told people. I’m no hero; I’m just a guy who likes jasho (sweat), ruka rukaring, running and breaking silences. I believe the more we talk, the more we share our vulnerabilities and not just our victories, the more we discover how human we are and that we aren’t alone. You get to discover there are many hands and hearts that are there for you.

There was a time I would get angry and then envious when I saw people running or exercising without inhibition. Many would tell me to be patient; telling my time will eventually come. My friend Jennifer who went through her health challenges and is also a runner, said ‘the legs never forget’ and they haven’t.

And I haven’t forgotten my journey; I can’t. I go through a mixture of emotions when I look back at my photos from last year, and I can’t believe that I’m the lead actor in this story.

This story has led me to hear and learning from various other stories of strength and battle. Take Olifa for instance, a housekeeper who has a cancerous tumour and would at one-time walk and from radiotherapy covering a distance of 20 kilometres! There’s positivity for you. I’ve had many conversations with other men, some my age or even younger, who are also battling cancer. In sharing their stories and in sharing mine, I’ve gotten encouragement. The big ‘C’ seems more like a common ‘C’, and we who have the ‘c’ are reluctant players in this, but the key thing is how you play it out.

I’m fighting in the way I know best and taking along lessons, that I hope will help me deal with the other ‘new normals’ that lie ahead.