cancer, inspiration, and change

I have done a handful of things in my life that have led to people telling me that I am inspiring or an inspiration.

This is very flattering — especially because most of the time I’m just kind of traveling my path and don’t feel extraordinary.

But I’ve come to parse words lately…

I was diagnosed with cancer three years ago.  Aside from my diagnostic scan, all of my scans have been clean.  I took dance classes and went for short jogs for as much of treatment as possible.  I blogged and made social plans whenever I could.

I had already been on the path to making my life healthier when the cancer came.  I was at the peak of my life with regards to my body: I was slender, strong, had kicked food cravings, and had recently reached a big fitness goal — a 5K in under 30 minutes.  Going through treatment really just gave more urgency to changes that were in the works anyway.

I have gotten into triathlon.  Love it.  (Sprint distance only, thankyouverymuch.)  Numerous people have told me that I am such an inspiration.

I think what they really mean is that they are impressed.

Inspiration, to me, incites movement, change, growth.  If you are really wow-ed by someone or something but then you go back to your life as it always was, are you really inspired?  I don’t think so.

So what I do is impress people.  What I want to do is inspire them.  Instigate action.

Having information is not sufficient.  People know smoking is bad for you, that being significantly overweight is bad for you, but it doesn’t stop them.  “Two-thirds of cancers are lifestyle-related,” my oncologist told me.  If more people were inspired to change their lives by those of us who have already walked the cancer walk (and I don’t mean Komen), that would make real change in the world of cancer.  I don’t want a donation.  I want change.

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