Tell me what is possible

A month since my cancer surgery to remove half my pelvic bone. A month since the surgery to save my life and forever change my identity from being a runner. One month out, about to head home after being in the hospital, I wanted a clear path forward.

So I asked my surgeon, “What’s possible? What can I do now?”  

“No running. Nothing high impact. Beyond that you get to tell me what is possible.” 


Three days ago on the Chicago Lakefront path, where I spent 25 years as a runner, I started pointing out all of the things that are NOT possible. Mentally pointing out people doing things I cannot do: running, chasing a frisbee, riding a bike, hanging out on the beach, and on and on ... 

The gratitude I’d had for simply being able to walk on this path was nowhere to be found from the day before. 

All of these active people, serving as visible reminders of things I can no longer do. 


It’s overwhelming to have to decide for myself, with no future race to sign up for and no training plan to download. It’s scary to step into the unknown, to have no idea if putting in the work might leave me right back where I started.    

WRONG, that has NEVER happened. Nope.   

Putting in the work, training for a race, has always made me stronger, transformed me in ways I never imagined.   

Later that day, I made my first list. Of things I want to work toward. Based mostly on how I want to feel when moving my body, and it looks something like this:

I am afraid as I type this to put my list out there. What if I don’t make it? What if someone sees my list and asks me about it? What if it takes longer to reach my goal than I planned? And on and on ... Waves of fear, voiced by my inner critic ... What if I fail? 

PURPLE: The odds are against me. Self-doubt. I’m scared they’ll laugh. 

Amid all of this mental chaos of uncertainty, oscillating thoughts of self doubt interspersed with flashes of rage and anger at having cancer in my life for the third time, I re-discovered my clarity of purpose. Connected with why I started running in the first place.

This is my list.  

I want to be strong enough to do these things.  
I want to feel the freedom of movement. 
I want to hold myself accountable.  
I am committed to showing up for myself, again, anyway despite the diagnosis.   

A year from now when another woman searches the internet for “hemipelvectomy recovery,” I want her to see me, read my story.  

Who is with me? How have you stepped into deciding what’s possible — for yourself, for an age, a situation, a mountain of self doubt? Let’s celebrate each of us. 

My ask of you today: What would be on your list? What are the things in your life that you want to be STRONG ENOUGH for? That you want the freedom to do and feel alive while doing? 

I’d love to see your lists. Share over on our FFCrew page (if you aren’t a member, join for free here) or share on Instagram and tag @fellowflowers so we can see you, honor you and see that list!

JulieAnn Villa 

A huge thanks to JulieAnn for sharing this powerful piece! Learn more about JulieAnn and the PowHERful collection she helped inspire and create.

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