Consider reading this inspiring piece, published in today’s New York Times, by Alex Niles, a former collegiate soccer player. In it, Niles discusses his battle with Stage IV gastric cancer. He talks about preparing for his treatments as if they were game day.
Now, my “game day” is treatment day. As in soccer, I spend the weeks before treatment drawing up a game plan. I’ve learned that by following a pretreatment training regimen, I can recover much more quickly.
As game day inches nearer, I focus on yoga and meditation. Deep breathing calms my mind, as does envisioning waves crashing as I lie on a warm, sunny beach. I also imagine a finish line, as if I am running the 100-meter dash. I picture myself crossing that line, snapping the ribbon of victory, and celebrating with exuberance. I pictured these scenes in my mind as a young athlete; I do it now for a very different kind of race.
Niles practices much of what I have been writing about in this blog over the past year — how we can use the skills and habits of elite athletes in our own lives. Niles’s is an example par excellence. He uses strategies that he developed and mastered in collegiate soccer — visualization, goal-setting, persistence — in a battle more important than any competition he faced at Drexel.
During the hardest days of post-treatment, I reflect on how grueling those [training] sessions were, how much I demanded of myself. Sometimes I would fall exhausted to the ground after wind sprints, but I would always pick myself back up. Merely remembering this, remembering that I had tested my body and mind before, and prevailed, gives me strength to endure. I can pick myself up again.
We wish you well, Alex Niles, during this difficult time. You have shown a lot of courage already — and you have shown others a way of coping with and meeting this challenge as a true competitor.