Visualizing my way to the finish line

Editor’s note: Jamil Nathoo is one of six CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Follow the“Sassy Six” on Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on September 14.

(CNN) — Cue the music.

The trumpets start in my head.

Every workout turns into my very own “Rocky” movie. Naturally, I’m Rocky Balboa. Except, lucky for me, I’m not facing Clubber Lang (aka Mr. T) in the ring anytime soon. Instead I have my own score to settle — with cancer.

My opponent is the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. Fight night is September 14, 2014.

“Gonna Fly Now” is the theme song from “Rocky.” The song is synonymous with being the underdog who ultimately triumphs. Currently, I’m the underdog. But victory will come.

See, I’m starting from zero. Testicular cancer stripped me of my good health; now, I’m taking it back.

I visualize when I work out. I have to. Visualization gives me strength and inspires me. Even if the story is fiction, I grew up on these movies, and what they represent is far more important: hope. The music kicks in like a shot of adrenaline and pushes me to train harder. I’m trying to push my body back to a place it once was.

There is a scene in “Rocky III” that I often replay in my head. Rocky and Apollo are dressed in their ridiculously short shorts and long socks (it was the early ’80s, after all), and they’re running on the beach when Rocky gives up.

Making time for your health

Rocky later admits he’s scared. For this first time in his life, Rocky Balboa is scared. Unfortunately, I can’t pretend that I’ve never been scared before; instead I have to admit that I still am.

But this fear is different. It’s the fear of the unknown. I’m treading in uncharted waters. And although I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, the pathway is dark.

Exercise isn’t new to me. It’s something I used to thrive on. Training for a triathlon isn’t even new to me. I had a regimen before. I’d swim in the mornings before work. Saturdays were my big workout days. If I wasn’t doing a big run or ride, I’d take a spin class and jump right on the treadmill after and run 4 miles.

Interestingly enough, that doesn’t make it any easier. It’s often more frustrating. Not being able to do what you used to do sometimes makes you not want to do it at all. It’s a constant fight I have with myself. Trying to push through one barrier only to be stopped at the next makes me feel helpless.

But failure isn’t an option.

I’ve been there before, so I have to believe I can do it again. I know I’ll get there, I just don’t know how. So I keep pushing on. I continue to visualize.

Last Friday, I ran my first consecutive mile since my second surgery. It was a huge milestone for me, and I celebrated with my hands in the air while on a treadmill at the gym. Most onlookers laughed and probably assumed I was a bit crazy. But to me it was a big deal.

From a minute to a mile: Learning to run

I have come so far, but this milestone was also a reminder of what I have in front of me, and how far I really have to go.

I take a break from my visualizations to remember those who have come before me. What other cancer survivors have done humbles me. Like Rocky, they had to dig deep down inside of themselves and reach for more. Their perseverance also gives me inspiration. I’ve often heard it’s how we face adversity that defines our character. If that’s the case, this is my defining moment.

I come back to “Rocky III” in my head. I can hear Apollo Creed: “To get it back, you have to go back to the beginning, Rock. …. Eye of the tiger.”

Patience is a virtue I’m still learning.

The music fades.

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