Picture of Peggy CummingPeggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher – retired after 34 years in the classroom – and an athlete.  She will be going for surgery this week.


The date: August 6, 2014. The place: Montreal…
Grasping for air and my heart beating out of my chest, I grip the pool gutter for a minute before I can drag my depleted body out of the pool after completing the 200m Individual Medley* at the World Masters Swimming competition. Then I swim down in the warm-up pool, to flush the lactic acid build-up in my body. (That’s a lot of ups and downs in swimmers’ jargon!)

After two days’ rest, I will reset my goals and decide what I’m training for next. My “next” events might be another swim meet, dragon boat races, cross country ski loppet, a bike trip, a triathlon or open water swimming season. Thankfully, there’s always the next great event to anticipate!

Flash forward to today….
…and my next event is Lung Surgery, scheduled for Nov. 12, so I reset my goals accordingly.

Since August 6, I have been ‘in training for surgery’. I have been determined to be as strong, healthy and fit as I can be, before going into the operating room. I think there are many commonalities, and stages, between training for a 200m IM swimming race and training for lung surgery. Both require considerable cardio training, so I spend hours churning out laps in the pool under the program and watchful eye of our coach. Muscular strength and endurance help me power through the wicked 50m butterfly leg of the race, and muscular strength will also increase my capacity for healing after surgery, so weight training is essential.

Swimmers must have stroke technique to be fast and powerful. “Elbows high! Flip turns! Press the T!” shouts my coach, when I’m slacking. However, for surgery, the technique element is all for the Doctors, Nurses and Technicians. They have spent years and years in training, perfecting their abilities, honing their craft, and expanding their knowledge. Their job is to have the skill for the surgery; my job is to make my body strong and ready.

About a week before a big event, severe doubt always kicks in. “Why did I sign up? What was I thinking? If I lecture myself about the satisfaction and achievement that I always experience after the swim, the anxiety diminishes. Last week, as if invited, the surgical doubt and anxiety arrived like a train wreck!
“Make it go away! I don’t want to do this!”
And I failed to talk myself into feeling positive about after the surgery. Satisfaction? Not likely. Achievement? Probably not. How about relieved that it is over. Yes. Did what had to be done? Yes.

Seconds before starting a race, and ‘set’ for the Starter’s gun, I have a moment of extreme faith. A flash of clarity tells me that my body is ready, that I can do this, and I’m off the block. Before the surgery, I imagine I will feel that same faith when I’m gowned and on the gurney, staring at the ceiling, waiting to be rolled into the OR. Perhaps it will drop as a warm blanket of calm readiness, a faith that all will be well. And then the gurney will roll, and I will submit …

Pain always arrives during the breaststroke leg of my 200m IM! The lactic acid build-up will scream through my muscles, and I will have to fight to finish the race. I know when to expect it, and it is nasty, but I also know that it will flush after the race. My first clue that I should expect pain after my surgery was the receipt of a thick booklet called Pain Management after Surgery. They are trying to tell me something that I really don’t want to know. I wish I could just have a 5 minute swim-down and be done with it … enough about pain.

After a 200m IM, recovery is a matter of 6-8 minutes, but after surgery it is predicted to take 6-8 weeks! Although I’m not very patient, I am good at following doctors’ orders. Told to rest, I will rest, but my mind might not. My mind might think about resetting goals, about training for my next event. Dare I possibly hope that I could recover sufficiently to participate in my 30th Winterlude Triathlon on January 31? **

Dare to hope.
Winterlude Triathlon, January 31.
Why not?

* The 200m IM is a single race comprising 50 metres each of butterfly, backstroke, breast stroke and freestyle
** The Winter triathlon comprises skating, cross country skiing and running

Peggy has her own photoblog, the F-stops here, where she posts a photograph every day.