1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back

For C.

By Nicole

Her feet are firmly planted

To the ground

Rivulets of sweat drip down

Her forehead. 

Arms perched forward

She’s ready to run

Finish the last lap


But something inside her

just can’t move.


For the past 44 laps 

She’s been doing well

A spring in her step

A spirited smile 

Her students

Her pride and joy

Cheering her on from the sidelines

A starting pistol for her sprint


Then she spots the hurdles

And stops dead in her tracks

Slender, tall, white

Hurdles stare back at her. 

RA, CIDP, lupus

They read.


Dread fills her

Shoots through her like a tranquilizer



Stripping her of the stride she once had.

The hubbub in her head



But her body is now an automated machine

Disconnected from the neurons in her brain 


Despair envelops her like 

A dark shadow 

A spectre of the life that is about to follow. 


Sapped of energy

Her legs give out

And her body flops to the ground


Jeers from the crowd

Rain down on her like pellets

And then

She feels a crutch,

Hands of adamantine steel

Lifting her up

Hoisting her to the eye level of


Friends who know her every nook and cranny

Friends who memorise her address

who notice when her smile falters -

who are there to catch her

when she falls.

She remembers her passions

The things that set her heart ablaze

And found a home in the forefront of

her mind


Mental Health



Fresh hope blooms in her heart

Like the first flower in spring


And she realises -

Life is a marathon

Not a sprint. 


She is a fighter. 


And she will power on. 

Author's Note:

C gave me the impression of a fighter: someone who had been through countless adversities in life, yet managed to surmount all of them, all while radiating happiness and joy. This gave me the idea of likening her to a marathon runner who moves swiftly and smoothly in the beginning, as her condition only reared its head later in her life.

Of course, she encounters hurdles from her autoimmune diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropath and low grade lupus. She stumbles and is stunned in her tracks, feeling disheartened and disillusioned. But this, she overcomes, with all the support she has from her students, friends, and self-care through her hobbies. I wanted to reflect this through the aid she receives when encountering these hurdles. Even though it was difficult for her to sprint through and jump over these hurdles, the help from her support system helped her throughout the race. She doesn’t need to emerge as number 1, or receive resounding applause from the audience. She finishes the race, and that’s enough.