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The "Wu Word" Blog

April 2016


“You swim like a guy!”  My coach exclaimed. 
“What does a guy swim like?”  I sputtered in the chlorinated saltwater through foggy goggles.
“A guy swims with upper body strength.”
“Coach, I swim that way because everything below my equator is jacked up!” I cried. 
It was a truthful joke.  There is truth to every joke.
This was just about the first encounter my coach and I had back in 2012 to train for the 2012 Transplant Games of America.  This was before I was down about 20 pounds with brand new artificial materials to my hip joint and an open-cut hysterectomy that was at least my third or more (lost count at this point) open cut right in my abdomen again.   This was before I could jump in the water and keep on jumping in just because I felt a natural rush and high on life.  This was before I was just starting to feel in over 30 years of my life rather confident, comfortable, and, dare I say, connected with my rather stubborn body with my even more stubborn self that we would work together rather than against each other as we had for so many years. 
Fast forward to now.  2016.   My below equator legs and knees are being challenged and pushed to territories that I never even thought of entering.   For the first time in my 33 years of my life, I am feeling in sync and in love with my body that is entering AND enjoying this time of my life of extraneous activities in the water.   
Now, I can’t stop. 
I am like a little kid again.  I can’t get enough of endlessly jumping in the water and sitting dives.  I even get a blast of jubilation from the unintended belly flops (intended for diving) that leave me splotchy, red, and stinging.  Like a wet puppy, I start squealing to the lifeguards who have become my best friends, a couple of my swim buddies, and even to random strangers on the pool deck: “Do you want to see me jump in the water?  Do you want to see me jump in the water?  Oh, let’s jump in together!  WHOOOOOOO-WEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!”
Now, though, reality is sinking in that for me to actually reach my dream of diving into the water, I have to turn to my two Double F (Fat and Flat) feet that fit in 5 ½ wide width shoes and that have been deemed cute and plump.  Now, I had to strengthen my feet and work even harder.  Turning to my feet and toe-sies are a mind-bending concept to me because, throughout my life, I’ve always focused on my legs and particularly hips and lower back.  Now, my coach was instructing that I needed to focus on these feet that I never gave much thought to.  My wish to dive was dependent on these pudgy feet that held up 4’11” of me. 

Yet, this wish was not completely and solely (pardon the pun) dependent on my feet.  In this month-long process and progress thus far, my body has changed.  I can now bend all the way down until my fingertips touch all the way down to my feet; I was never able to do this.  Shirt sleeves around my arms are tighter and on my belly that is tightening up are looser from what I am shocked to see what appears to be muscles.   Most of all, mentally, I am happier and more confident from the endorphins that dance delightfully pre, during, and post swim.  
So, this is where I am now for to dive:
“Metamorphosis”--I am on that absolute verge of diving and while my mind says I am ready, my body is saying I am not just yet. I’ve had to re-learn many things in my life again and again from surgeries: bathing, walking, dressing, driving, and core and posture strengthening. In all those times, I was immensely doubtful and seethed with exasperation that my body would never come around to match my mind that rushes at lightning speed of gusto, but, somehow, my body always came through.  It has and will always be that it will take my body a little longer for me to get where I intend to get to.  There aren’t any shortcuts.  There is no easy way about it.  If it is too easy then it isn’t worth it—and it is never valued and treasured as much.   Easy is not better because you cheat yourself of learning and that harder that will make you stronger. 
Metamorphosis, my friends, are those changes that occur mentally and physically to bring them together and when you are about to give up and when frustration and the fight floods you only to have faith that greatness awaits and the sweetest flavor of unsurpassed and unmatched victory is tasted from all the hard work and fight to make the dream into an reality. 
I’m embracing metamorphosis. 
Every time I am on the edge now to gaze at my toes and the silken silent water, I can hear my coach’s muffled voice carry over to echo in my head through my plugged ears, “You know when you are in the water and push your feet off from the wall?  You need to now focus and feel your feet take off and push off for diving.”
I’m trying so hard to ‘feel my feet.’ I’m strengthening my feet with rocking and tippy toe exercise and drills of pushing my feet off the wall.   I’m jumping as far as I can out into the water that I can reach all the way ‘out there.’  I break out into a smile when I see my ten bright pink chipped painted toenails from a pedicure I treated myself back in February that even if no one believes in me (and I am one of these extremely blessed people that have so many people who support and believe in me) that I will believe in myself and have faith in my body and the metamorphosis process that is laced with frustration, struggles, aggravation, exasperation, and doubt that eventually everything will click and victory is mine to taste with a flavor ever so sweeter because I fought for it, owned it, and made it mine.   
What metamorphosis have you purposefully and personally experienced to push yourself?  How do we bring together mental and physical?  When have you wanted to give up only to make you even more driven?  What victories have you had that have tasted so sweet after what seemed like the never-ending fight and struggle? 

Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-) 



“I feel so bad for you.  You poor thing.” 
With only a sliver of light from the ultrasound screen, I saw only the profile of the ultrasound technician.  Her long brown hair and face looked like they were glowing from the light that beamed from the screen. 
My transplant nephrologist had ordered an ultrasound scan on my native kidneys and this ultrasound technician had struggled so intently to locate my native kidney beans as well as my first kidney bean transplant and second kidney bean transplant that she had escalated my case to the physician on staff.  

From my view, I saw sadness and stress etched on her face and thought to myself: “Oh, dear God, is she going to cry?” 
Please don’t cry, I thought.  If she cries, I am going to start crying because, crying, like laughter is contagious to me. 
She continued on, “It is just that you are the same age as me, and you’ve been through so much.”
Then, I did the most unexpected thing.  I busted out laughing and exclaimed when the probe hit a funny spot on my roadmap of a scarred tummy, “That tickles!  I’m really ticklish!”
She still looked sad and I said lightheartedly to her, “Don’t feel bad or sad for me.  I’m alive.  I’m here.  I’m 4’9” inches above ground.  There’s more to life and more to me and all of us than everything that has happened that are out of our control. Life is about what you make happen from all that has happened.  I’m so very, very blessed.  You gotta have spunk!”’
Spunk.  Let me tell you about ‘spunk.'  Spunk has been and will always be my inner drive tool to endure life’s worst moments to enjoy my best moments and, truly, just to enjoy life.  Spunk is hope, positivity, passion, fire, joy, and, most of all, motivation to keep on moving. 
After 33 years and most of that time being spent on health hiccups and hurdles, I came to the realization that I am not just the girl with 4 ½ kidney beans who only spends my energy and time on organ donation and transplantation.  I am the girl who is immensely and intensely curious and with the ‘spunk’ to learn more and savor all my current plethora of interests:  swimming, writing, dancing, listening to music, arts & crafts, traveling, cooking/baking, and the list goes on and on.   I am the girl who has the most amazing supportive network of family members and friends who like me for me and not what has happened to me. Throughout my life, all I wished for was to connect with others in the organ donation and transplant community.  However, I had my epiphany that common experiences are not equivalent to connection.  In a world of billions of people, true connection is rare and few.  Most of my closest and dearest friends I connect with have not had a transplant, but we connect and click on the surface level of interests to deeper level of life philosophies and beliefs. 

I know so many people who become their illness and their circumstances, and this saddens me, because there is always more to and in life to make happen from the choices we did not have with circumstances.  There is more to me or you that will ever meet the eye.  And, this is the very core and crux of ‘spunk’- more than.   
The uncontrolled that occur in life are actually the gifts, blessings, and chances we are given to become more and not to just be mediocre, trapped, locked, and boxed in that we know of only on the surface.  Why settle when you can soar?  Why good when there is great?  Why ordinary when there is extraordinary?   
There is always more.  There is always ‘spunk.’  Do you have ‘spunk’?  What motivates you?  Do you think that we are our experiences?  What have you done with your experiences that go beyond your scope and comfort zone?  What is and where is your ‘spunk’? 

Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Mary ;-) 

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