If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that our sense of normalcy can be hijacked at any given moment. For our Bar Method members, the pandemic claimed their fitness routine, their carefully preserved 60 minutes of “me time”, and their safe space to workout and connect. For our studio owners, the pandemic has uprooted their stability, threatened their livelihood, and forcibly shifted the way they delivered the “magic of the method” to their members.
The pandemic has left nothing untouched, and perhaps our best connection to others in a time where distance is encouraged—and sometimes, even mandatory—is through admitting freely and sharing honestly our struggles and our stories. Such is the case with Jennifer from The Bar Method Madison who gives a raw account of her health journey and her pandemic perspective. She also shared how her Bar Method studio has been a saving grace throughout both.
In April, a few weeks into lockdown in Northern New Jersey, when one of my Bar Method teachers wrote a social media post about having a hard day, it resonated with me. And when a Bar client service staff member posted about being in a funk, I could totally relate. And when the owner of the Bar studio was teary-eyed at the end of a livestream from her kitchen, I was right there with her.
At this point, I know many of you can probably relate to having a lot of time on your hands, but also having the inability to complete, well, much of anything. I’m right there with you! But the one thing that gets me going: Bar Method classes.
The Bar Method Madison community that Gina Striffler created has been a grounding force in my life for many years. And I’m so thankful for every member of the wonderful Madison team.
My intention was to post this on my birthday in March, now almost eight months ago. Despite being in lockdown, it was a really good day. I started the day with Gina’s livestream class, and then I spent the rest of the day being loved by my family. Homemade cards, homemade cake, homemade dinner. And I didn’t lift a finger all day. Took a break from the hamster wheel of laundry and dishes, which is such a gift in itself.
Throughout the day I had tons of texts and calls and video chats and flower deliveries and gifts dropped by my front door. And everyone wished me a happy birthday, with an added apology for being unable to celebrate properly.
But, in all honesty, this is how I would have spent my birthday even if we were not in lockdown. Because I’ve had many other birthdays that were far, far worse because I have stage 4 cancer of the appendix. (I know, I know, most people have never heard of this. Trust me, neither had I.)
My story is long and complicated, but I’ll try to give you the “Bar Express” version. I was diagnosed twelve years ago when I delivered my twins via c-section. My OB removed a tiny nodule from my uterus, which turned out to be malignant. So, imagine getting this diagnosis with five-day old twins, with one in NICU: Stage 4 malignant cancer. Treatable, but not curable.
This has led to four major surgeries over eight years, in which I was gutted like a fish from breast bone to pelvis, each with a recovery period of three to six months; various chemotherapy cocktails; and every complication you could imagine.
My last surgery was about four years ago. And for now, I’m doing okay. Stable. Well, aside from the nerve damage in my abdomen, glutes, and left thigh.
After a lot of physical therapy for this nerve damage, I hit a plateau. And that is when I came back to The Bar [Method] after a two–year medical hiatus. I knew that I’d never be 100 percent, but I was determined to do what I could to stay in shape for whatever medical crisis came next.
Over the years, I’ve been in hospital isolation with an unknown infectious disease when docs didn’t know if I’d make it through the night. I’ve been in the hospital multiple times for weeks on end without enough energy to even turn on the television. So social distancing? Ehh, I’ve had worse. I feel fine. I can do Bar. I can get out and walk for miles (because of Bar!). I have lots of food. And toilet paper! I have more screens than I know what to with. I have time—time with my family.
The birthdays, the holidays, the big moments are hard when you’re truly living for each day. As Katie McKenna, author of How to Get Run Over by a Truck, taught us at our Bar Method Madison Bookclub: each day is a celebration. And she’s right. Thanksgiving and Christmas were different this year. But we are here. We are healthy.
So this anxiety and inability to get things done? The crushing weight on your chest? Well, this is kind of my regular life. COVID–19 has just added on to the already–existing stress because I fall into the immuno-compromised category for walking around with this diagnosis, but I also have no spleen. So COVID, or the flu, or any infection could be a serious problem for me.
Every day I wake up and wonder if my kids are finally old enough to really remember me. And now I can be 100 percent certain that they will. Because they will remember quarantine. They will remember COVID–19. They will remember THIS. They WILL remember me.
So if I don’t get around to organizing the closets, oh well. But I will get around to making memories for the kids.
Cookies at breakfast? Yep.
Extra video game time? Sure.
Hoverboarding around the house? Why not.
Staying up late to finish watching a show together? Okay.
Starting a small business? Go for it.
Being late for school? Fine.
Letting loose in Five Below? Here’s $20.
Pajamas all day? Hell yeah, me too.
Special thank you to Jennifer and The Bar Method Madison for sharing this story.