This week quite frankly has been a two parter, last week I felt very low and struggled through each day…body fatigue and aches versus a brain that felt it could/should be doing more. On Sunday evening I noted a white patch on my right big toe nail, like many of the others chemo had started to turn it a grey black and kill it slowly but this white patch was new. Before bed I gained courage to inspect it and half the nail fell away in pieces. It’s very hard to stay strong when you’ve still a body that isn’t really yours…it still belongs to the chemo monster! I went to bed upset and feeling very glum.
My run on Monday, a recovery run after Sunday, felt so good and lifted me…a peaceful start as the rest of the world had stopped for half term. No cars and annoying blinding headlights, barely any dog walkers…just me and as I headed home the light in the Valley made everything feel lifted, spiritual in a way. Me at one with myself and happy. I spent a good few hours of Monday with one of my oldest friends who’d driven to me for a good catch up. Seeing a friendly face, chatting, having lunch together…it did me so much good. We discussed something vitally important…the need, in a world where people feel they have to be strong and perfect, to just be ourselves and actually say “I’ve had a bad day” “I feel awful” “life’s hard”. We so easily only project the good bits…why…what are we scared of – for me it’s letting the side down, fearing sympathy, not being strong enough and appearing weak, being judged. So here’s some reality:
I’m struggling with my mental health,
I feel isolated,
I feel alone,
I feel sick, ache & am un-comfy daily,
I can’t stand the sight of myself,
I’m scared to make plans for the future.
The following is hard for me…it’s me as me now nigh on bald, dry skinned, brow and lash less. The only people who see this are my darling man and the folk who I see when I’m running – I hate the thought of others having to and so next to it is what I feel socially comfortable with people seeing.
That and the above makes me uncomfortable but there are those that face worse day in day out. Whose struggle doesn’t last the time that mine will, it’s daily, whose isolation and loneliness is daily. After Christmas I felt lost as everyone started a new exciting year and had things to look forward to, my new year won’t probably start until into May…but at least it’ll start.
Tuesday having had a better day the day before I ran listening to my breathing and paid attention to staying focused, calm. I paced well and felt strong mentally and physically. During the morning I undertook the first proper session of strength training I’d done since October, half an hour of a cardio pilates mix and yes I struggled to keep up near the end and I ached after… but in a good way, my muscles saying “hi I’m here!” It did mean an early night, by then I was rung out and energy less…more then drained.
On Wednesday morning I got up to a very important email and message. I’ve had help with my Ultra plan and some grounded training advice for the unknown I’m embarking on. The email was advice that during this base building phase I needed to consider training at a lower heart rate, zone 3 for me, to help strengthen my body and help with endurance but also take the stress off my body. I understand the science behind doing so and, not just for a post chemo body but really for anyone, how important building a strong base is…so I went out and did what was suggested. I ran at the same pace post surgery in August when I’d had two weeks off and only two weeks of running left before the Great North Run. I’d read about going slow to go fast, aerobic power building to give endurance.
I won’t lie it felt like it took forever to do 5K…just over 45mins actually, at one point I was sure I could walk faster but I stuck at it and took in all around me to keep my heart beat as steady as possible. Apart from one blip I managed what I’d set out to achieve…I felt great after, energised, whole, strong. This is how I’ll run for the next few weeks and I know it’ll mean longer on my feet, or two runs a day, but I’m going to stick to it as my body needs me to do it!
I drove to Longshaw later in the morning and had a very chilled out stroll. The drive back is short but it completely sapped me, mentally draining me! I could barely think to get out and lock the car let alone get back in the house, I felt terrified! I wasn’t physically as tired but still managed to sleep enough for a better evening. I’d treated myself to a few products from my favourite skin care brand and was so excited to be able to go through them. It felt like I’d empowered myself ready for what radiotherapy will do to my skin. It’s odd…a few people have commented to me “I’ve heard radiotherapy isn’t as bad as chemotherapy” I’d like to point out now that the difference between the two is fire cracker to atom bomb! I’m in the fall out zone from the chemo atom bomb.
Thursday – Trying to remember how I’d run the day before to keep the slower pace going was hard, I was excited by what was going on that day and really had to concentrate on slowing down. Due to a lot of walking between hospitals and bus stops I only ran 4K but made sure I hit some inclines…not quite hills, but something to test me.
It was PICC line out day, a 10.30 appointment but things took forever. Before and after and arm liberation!!!
I felt very queasy afterwards, thankfully I didn’t watch them pull the line slowly out of my arm but I could feel it and the entry site was tender. My chest has felt tight since I had the line in, I’ve had it check and many MRIs for it and I thought that would go once the line was out…but no, it was still there and it un-nerved me. I tried to concentrate on the fact that getting my PICC line out meant getting away from feeling like a machine to feeling like a woman again. The feeling of being unattractive and the lack of self confidence has been hard all these months…finding confidence in other things – cooking, art, running, has helped a little. I need to find me again though and that was step one.
There was another happening on Thursday…again not something overly mentioned – it was hormone injection day. In October, three weeks before my first chemotherapy cycle, I started hormone injections that put me through the menopause in the first fortnight and have fought to keep me there since. Each one lowering my oestrogen more and more as they go on. The injection itself is painful, bruises my tummy for days, comes looking the size of a tictac with a massive needle that no sane person would want anywhere near them! I have it every four weeks…I haven’t had a menstrual cycle since July 2018 and it put a stop to everything in October. What I do have are cracking menopausal symptoms! Not as bad now as they were – my temperament has always been calm but tick me off you get the Incredible Hulk, menopausally I’m green…and sweaty!!! In the beginning I could only go a few hours after my injection before I turned into an uncaring, unsympathetic, angry, impatient nightmare…thankfully that’s eased…but it’s still there.
Friday – It was around 3am when I woke up in the ocean that is a night sweat. Thankfully I don’t get hot flushes during a day but my hormone treatment cranks up the crazy night sweat sessions! It’s disgusting but a lot of the time I can sleep through them but I wake up dehydrated…not great for a runner!
It was chilly out but I felt uncomfortably warm, the moonlight made it look like daylight at 6am and with heavy mist in the air it made for a beautiful start to the day, the air heavy with birdsong. A blissful 5K run, zone 3 being hard as I felt like I’d had ALOT of coffee thanks to my hormone boost, infact I had to set my warning on my watch so that it buzzed if I went over my limit…I buzzed 5 times, lost my temper the same but did the job in hand and came home feeling glorious!
I had a day with my boy and we spent it chilling out, I gardened which soothed body and mind…it doesn’t matter how much I’ve run I feel it’s a different bit of me, one I trained hard for before all the hell began, so I need to feel I’ve accomplished something each day in order to feel useful. Gardening definitely did that and the garden looks spring ready.
Saturday – I used as my recovery day, a day to take it easy on myself and eat and hydrate well. It was also a family day and the first day all week where I’ve not felt sick all day!
By Wednesday the realisation that I’d not be up to a journey to Clumber Park and back, had sank in and so my folks and Stanley came to us. The main plan of the day went a bit askew but we had a lovely time, the day was sunny and warm, lots of catching up was had and great food eaten…lunch at Edensor Tea Cottage who catered to my chemo food needs like champions and Mum with afternoon tea.
Those that have tried to have any form of meal with me know the following but here’s an insight for those that haven’t. Thanks to chemo and infection risk I can’t have:
eggs that aren’t thoroughly cooked,
deli type meat,
fruit that isn’t peeled.
Top that with the fact I can’t stomach the thought of or eat:
greasy or fried food,
pork in any form other than black pudding melted cheese,
butter when warmed.
The last two I push myself to consume because I need good fats and we eat good quality cheese and butter…no or limited processed food is a big thing to us and is better for our bodies. Most days I feel that sick I hate food, not helpful for a foodie!
I was supposed to have a pasta supper to help add a bit of extra carb in ready for my long run this morning, but felt so full! I wisely had a bowl of porridge, fruit and natural yogurt instead.
Sunday – Today was due to be my first long slower run, 10K at zone 3 heart rate. I was slower, I did do 10K…but I snook out of zone 3 a good few times. I’m not going to beat myself up for it as I paced quite well and overall did okay, I also didn’t labour at all which was the idea. I had massive issues however with my head, trying to keep calm since my hormone treatment Thursday has increasingly gotten worse…it will get better but it has to do its stuff and I just have to deal with that and do mine. Trying not to get angry became almost impossible and between it and a need for the toilet I almost sprint finished at 8K to shoot back home before going out again…the fact my heart rate only went up to 168 at that 8K point makes me proud! I expected to hit 180 in all honesty.
It was a lovely run otherwise and paying attention to all around me paid off, with glimpses of a heron and dippers on the river, my first sighting of lambs this year and ruined bits of building I’ve never noticed before. Sat now, thankfully calmer than an hour ago, it feels good be to able to reflect on the positives. The rest of the day is an ‘us’ day…coffee first!