Treatment is over, how many days until I am back to normal, the pre-cancer, pre-treatment, pre-runaway train normal? Well, the answer I have gotten from every medical professional is that it is different for everyone. Every person is different, every body is different and every circumstance is different, so it is different for everyone.
One day during treatment, one of the dog days of chemo we were watching Good Morning America. Robin was interviewing a marathoner or tri-athlete who was talking about how hard it was to keep training during chemotherapy. I was inconsolable. What do you mean training for that level of endurance event while getting chemotherapy? There were days where putting laundry away was the best I could do in terms of physical activity.
I never was an athlete, I did athletic things as a means to an end, but have never been an athlete. Maybe that is why I couldn’t understand this woman. There were days where I could not walk up the stairs, maybe if I had no choice I would have made it, since my bedroom is on the first floor, I didn’t have to, so I didn’t practice or do it. But this woman, she was training for an endurance event during all of this. I couldn’t stop thinking about how wonderful she was and how not wonderful I was. Obviously this had an impact on me, not to make me train for a marathon, but an impact on my opinion of myself.
Treatment ended, thankfully. Another surgery came and went. I went back to work. One day I caught a glimpse of a reflection of myself when my hair started coming back and wondered who that little old lady was. She looked a LOT like my mother.
Maybe I couldn’t do a marathon, but I could do something about my posture, I shouldn’t have the posture of a little old lady just yet. Woman’s Hospital has a program for cancer rehab. I went a few times a week after work to get my strength and posture back through a grant at the fitness center associated with Woman’s Hospital. They ask you to set a goal. My goal was to complete the Freedom Mile on July 4th 2019, with good form and posture.
We worked on upper body strength, opening up my chest and arm strength. It was a lot of work, but it appeared to be paying off. My posture improved, my overall fatigue level lessened, in general I was feeling better. I ran a good bit of the Freedom Mile, did it faster than I did it in 2018. It wasn’t pretty, it is hot in Louisiana in July, but I did it. My opinion of myself was becoming a little more positive, something about working hard for a goal and meeting so many people in the same boat I was in was very helpful.
I graduated from rehab and moved on to medical exercise. Once again you have to set a goal, this time the goal was to complete the St. Jude 5K at the end of September. We worked on upper body and leg strength. Again, you could see the results, I was getting stronger, feeling better, fatigue was still decreasing–all good and positive results. I completed the 5K, not in the time I was working toward, but I did complete it. Again, my opinion was tending to be less harsh and more positive. Working with the folks toward the goal of the 5K and getting better in general was very empowering, a very positive experience overall, like maybe the runaway train was slowing down.
When I went back to the oncologist, she didn’t like the way I held my head and started feeling around on my neck. She said maybe I have a bulged disk or compressed nerve and to get an MRI. After the MRI she called and said there was no cancer in my head and neck. Good information, not what I thought we were looking for, but still very good information. I should get physical therapy for my neck. Not excited about PT, but I was kind of excited to see the ladies again, show them I kept improving and working on my posture at home.
Neck PT hurts, and is kind of a bummer. Not a lot to see improving–except I had gotten a a heart monitor at the advice of the medical exercise ladies and it has a sleep monitor. It showed that the quality of my sleep improved by leaps and bounds, according to Polar anyway. Again my opinion was getting more positive about myself, there were some results to see, more people to bond with and improve with. I would like to see a program like couch to 5K, but maybe a cancer to 5K. I would totally join that group, especially if we got T-Shirts, I’d be so in for the 5K if we got medals, too!
I am still heading on the path to becoming more like my pre-everything-surrounding-cancer-self. Each day I am a little bit less hard on myself for not being an endurance athlete who continued to train during chemo. Then I smile a little and say someday, someday I will start training for something longer. First 1 Mile (check), then 5K (check), maybe a 10 K in New Orleans on February 9, 2020. I may not be an athlete, or even become one some day, but I can keep trying to improve my overall health and decrease the odds of cancer coming back by keeping active. That is the key, to keep active and mobile with good posture and form to avoid the need for chemotherapy, rehabilitation or physical therapy in the future.