I had heart surgery three weeks ago. Five hours under general anaesthetic. I stayed in the ICU overnight but didn’t get much sleep. My lungs were like deflated paper bags. I couldn’t breathe. --- A bell kept sounding every time the monitor said my oxygen level was low. In my drug-addled stupidity I thought this part of the recovery. Next day at home I started coughing up virulently red gunk. For the first time in my life I knew real fear. I wasn’t in control of whatever was going on with my own body.
Lately a number of dear friends have had battles with cancer, one with his tonsils, several with breast cancer. My great-aunt is dying of rectal cancer, my uncle of cancer in the gall bladder. After ten years of living in Buenos Aires and knowing no one who had cancer, in the last year the Big C has touched so many people close to me. And the fear they know, I felt a scintilla of that fear when I looked at what I’d coughed up.
It turned out I’d contracted bronchitis during the operation. While debilitating and requiring antibiotics, it was nothing to be concerned about.
Slowly recovering, I returned to my boxing class last night. I study with Eliza James at Boxing is For Girls. I wanted to do boxing to confront my fears – of being hit and of hitting. But on the drive home, as I recalled the weight of that fear when I looked at what my lungs had produced, I realized that it wasn’t fear that takes me to sweat and swear during an hour of Eliza’s ministrations, but rather to confront my physical and emotional limitations.
Where boxing and fear cross over however is they take me both to the same zone, that moment – the one that tells us how precious life is and how badly we don’t want to lose it.