Second chances. My father, a wise and sagacious man, believed that everyone deserved one. A second chance acts like a cooling salve on the burning wound of regret. Doesn’t it feel wonderful to get one…and even greater to give a second chance?
Las week I decided to give Maeve a second chance. If you recall, last year her hamster, Molly, met its sad demise at the hands of our dog Carly. (Click here in case you forgot (Regarding Hamsters,Taxol, and Regret). At the time I screamed and ranted about how cold and callous she was, how irresponsible for leaving the poor thing in an unprotected pocketbook. I swore that she would never, ever, ever, get another caged pet — no way, no how.
Enter Sugar Cookie — Sugar for short. A quite adorable, sand colored baby hamster that I procurred from my friend Gina. This gesture served 2 purposes — not only did I help to unload one of seven unwanted and unexpected hamster babies from a friend, but also it gave me an opportunity to let Maeve prove herself worthy enough and responsible enough to try again. I already had all the accoutrements, so why not.
To my surprise, Maeve didn’t want the rodent. She was convinced that she would kill this one too. I actually had to convince her that she deserved a second chance. I also admitted that it really wasn’t all her fault, that I too was lax in my hamster-caring ability since I am the adult in the situation and that ultimately much of the blame should fall on me. Two weeks into this, so far so good. Sugar is happy and thriving and staying out of pocket-books.
Maeve’s second attempt at hamster-parenting was of course on my mind all week while we vacationed down the Cape. Time spent biking, running and kyacking leave many hours for contemplation. I started to think about my own second chance, the one I have been given at life and especially health. Before my cancer diagnosis I was invincible. I trained hard every day, my body was strong. I had no idea what lay ahead of me and felt as if I could go on like that forever. It never dawned on me that one day I would be unable to run fast or bike hard. But as the year progressed, each surgery and chemo treatment made my body weaker. There were days and weeks where I was not allowed or capable of exercising. I remember trying to bike without putting any pressure on my left arm which meant climbing hills was very difficult. A year ago I had to stop running as I was coughing up blood. There were days I thought I would never ever get back into the shape I was pre-diagnosis.
But miraculously it happened. I realized as I swam last week both the length and width of a lake that my body felt strong again. With each arm stroke I could feel my muscles working; with each breath my lungs expanded fully. Although my running has slowed a little I feel strong enough to work on my sprints; and my biking — well, thanks to the awesome training schedule that Susan laid out for us, I’d say that has fully recovered too.
People have said to me throughout this whole ordeal, “Fran, why don’t you relax, just take it easy for a while?” Some think that I am a little crazy in my dedication, but what I now understand is that, not only does it make me feel great to be in shape, not only do I actually enjoy each and everything I do, but I can never be sure when my second chance is up. I had no idea when this hit me last time that I would have to struggle back to where I am today –and some days, just walking to the end of the street was a struggle–and I have no idea when it will hit me again.
Some of us get second, third and fourth chances. Some of us get none. I am so grateful for my second chance that I don’t plan on wasting one single minute of it. I want to enjoy feeling strong and powerful today because come tomorrow I can’t be sure I will feel that good. And if Sugar happens to buy the farm like Molly did, well, then I will probably give Maeve a 3rd chance. And if the cancer comes back and I have to fight it again, know that I will fight just as hard and hope and pray that I too get a 3rd chance.