“Activity started!”

My Runkeeper account’s robotic American voice sounded almost excited. She had been silenced for many weeks.

I have been watching my fellow Runkeeper app friends notch up session after session of running, cycling, swimming, walking and personal training. I had logged no kilometres and it had been playing on my mind. For nearly a year I was at the top of the friends tally for number of activities per month. Until breast cancer.

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It had been weeks since I walked and nearly a month since I ran. But today, 23 days post mastectomy, reconstruction and lymph node clearance surgery, I went a walking. I could not take the smile off my face. I have missed being outside so much.

I walked to our local cafe to briefly meet with my husband. On the way, I stopped to look at a garden. I was listening to some excellent music and was totally in the happy zone, being outside, moving and breathing, when I felt a presence. Along side of me appeared an elderly man. He was talking to me but I couldn’t hear with the earphones blaring.

Old me would have been annoyed to stop my music, take out the earphones and respond. But not today. The new me gave this man my undivided attention. Perhaps cancer has made me a nicer and more giving person?

He was a beautiful old man who had a lifetime of  sun drenched skin and the deep wrinkles to show for it. He revealed to me a huge gaping toothless smile and mischievous cheeky eyes. He was walking with tiny steps. He asked me if I knew when the next bus was coming as he wanted to travel to a suburb north of our city. I explained that he would have to cross the road in order to catch it. He decided he would continue his teeny, tiny shuffle towards the train station and get a bus from there. He was struggling though, but determined.

In our brief conversation he told me he was 79. We engaged in some more polite exchanges. Then he told me that he recently had been hit by a car at the traffic lights just up from where we were standing. That may have explained his laboured shuffle and breathing. He told me his name was Jack. I said “Nice to meet you Jack!” I told him my name was Lisa. He started to shuffle north and from a few metres away from me he looked back and said, “My daughter in law is called Lisa and she had cancer not long ago!”

This was another one of those spontaneous moments that reinforces that right in ‘that’ moment, you are where you are supposed to be in your life. This encounter made me thankful for my health. Despite cancer, I was out walking not shuffling, I was smiling, I was moving, singing and having an opportunity at a chance encounter with a beautiful old soul.

After a quick cafe rendezvous with my Mr Cool, I walked on through the heat of the day.  I could smell the bitumen softening and the sun on my legs.  I tried to jog across the road to escape a speeding car, but the new breast was yelling at me. She is still a little tender.  There will be time down the track for such a pace.

I enjoyed taking a new route through the hilly suburb of mixed architectural eras, past the primary school on the top of the hill, and behind the cemetery through the undulating bush. I looked across the thousands of grave sites and thought about all of the people that had gone before me. I wondered if I would ever be located in there by either commemorative plaque or burial plot. Hopefully not for many, many years.

I walked onwards through the gravel paths in the bush. I clumsily tried to select the next album on my iPhone.  The existing playlist just didn’t seem to fit where I was going.  The music has to be right for the occasion. Head down and squinting, pressing the screen of my iPhone in direct sunlight, the irony of being bitten by a venomous snake on the trail was not lost on me.

There inscribed on my future plaque or headstone, “Death by venomous snakebite. Suffer cancer, you lost!”  With that thought, I let out a little chuckle.