Before anything else I want to highlight something important. This week marked national eating disorder awareness week. Anyone who has never been effected by this in any way is pretty fortunate, it can creep in and consume you before you really are aware. Altering your mindset, stealing confidence, self worth and damaging your body.
REDS – Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, effects males and females and was something when I got back into running, that I made sure I was aware of. Sadly some only think about it as a female issue…due to it’s effect on the menstrual cycle.
The first time I ran was in my teens, using it to keep my weight down and burn calories. I didn’t run well, didn’t even have proper running shoes – I didn’t care, I was anorexic and aslong as I didn’t have to eat and kept my weight down that was all that mattered…I have no idea why I did it, how it started. In its wake is someone who still has hang ups with food, limits ‘treats’, cares about her weight, scrutinises how she looks. When I got back into running it was to get fitter and do something for me. I quickly realised energy in = energy out and that I needed to eat better. Training for my first half marathon highlighted that even more, food plays an necessary part in fuelling and recovery. I look back at my old self and wonder how she got through a day, how she coped…she wouldn’t allow in a DAY what I now need at breakfast! She would be ashamed and saddened at the damage she’s done, the hang ups caused. The fact is I now struggle with my digestion, suffer with anxiety and may have damaged my bone density. Running helps keep away my old demons but, as anyone who has been through it knows, those demons are always there.
Restrictive or disordered eating is something most may think of as a teen issue but anyone can be those affected…be mindful of the “you never know what someone else is going through”.

This felt like an odd week, it’s the first week in five months where there has been no clinic appointment and no chemotherapy. My muscular aches have nearly gone though and I’ve not been feeling as sick each day.

Sunday – Post 10K at zone 3 I felt tired, with a dull headache by mid-afternoon I knew I’d not hydrated enough in the morning and underestimated how much fluid I needed just because I’d not gone as fast.
I also suffered acute motion sickness all day, only during my run had it eased off, trying to re-fuel myself and look after myself after my run was beyond hard work.

Monday – Thanks to a glorious misty morning we got up together and hobby photographer and runner exited the house to enjoy a beautiful morning, each doing something we love. He most likely worrying about me, but me endlessly proud of him and thrilled that he had seized the opportunity to start the day creatively. I’ve a secret hope that as time goes on we can do this more, elsewhere and make it part of our adventures together. A light breakfast as plans and routes are confirmed, setting off for a few hours to explore in our different ways before coming together spent, peaceful and satisfied to discuss our accomplishments, relax together and cook something delicious to rejuvenate and ready us for the next day.
Life for us, while still having responsibilities, doesn’t have as many ties as for some couples. I think we will always be cautious of my health, but we know life needs to be lived and enjoyed to the fullest…no-one knows what tomorrow will bring and so living, in ever sense of the word, is necessary.

Tuesday – The first day of not running each day for a long time! Instead I spent just over an hour strength training before breakfast. This is key to building my muscles back up, keeping my heart and lungs working but in a different way to strengthen them, trying to prevent injury and overtraining….vital things to make a strong runner and aide a post chemo recovering body.
It felt good and I managed all of the warm up and both workouts. My muscles telling me afterwards where they were but no joint pain.
I had lovely walk later down the old railway line in the sun, strange Spring weather for this time of year but so nice to see flowers in bloom and the streak of blue as a Jay played between the hedges.

The evening saw my first spin class since last October! I took it steady and it felt great to be back. The evening also started something else – Tamoxifen. Unless I have surgery I shall now take it daily for the next ten years alongside my monthly hormone injections.

Wednesday – No soreness from Tuesdays spin class or workouts and a beautiful dawn run. I felt like I was getting better at staying in zone 3 but then struggled, it took so much effort to keep my heart rate down….then my watch battery died! Crazy erratic, blonde reaction that most likely sent my heart rate racing. I got home feeling disgruntled and upset, realising that I’m not enjoying my running!!!
The motion sickness I’d struggled with since Sunday had eased though, allowing lunch with a friend to celebrate the end of chemo to be enjoyed to the fullest.

Thursday – It should have been a chemo cycle day, my brain and body seem tuned to it now and the “new normal” that had developed…but instead the cycle is broken. I got up before dawn and did a great strength training session, targeting my core and upper body. I felt great, awake, excited to start the day and then at breakfast I hit a wall – I felt lost, confused, that anxious I had to strongly talk myself out of an anxiety attack.
All day life felt as if something was missing, I didn’t miss being made to feeI ill all over again…I missed the people, seeing familiar faces and the laughter of the nurses. The smell of the chemo lounge, the taste of their coffee and that damn ‘just ham’ sandwich I always had on chemo day. I went for a walk and found signs of spring, growth, life…but felt empty and numb.
See I can LIVE now but I don’t know how and I’m scared! I’ve been robbed of near five months of my life that I won’t get back…that makes me sad and angry.

Friday – I caught the best part of the day as I ran, as much as I again didn’t enjoy the running itself and was left deflated, I was lifted by the beautiful sunrise and birdsong that by the time I’d showered and made coffee had turned to a dark, cloudy sky with a blackbird telling of rain.
The start of a new month is always a nice time to reflect on life and think about renewal, growth and goals.
Renewal: As we’re now three weeks from my last chemo cycle it was officially my Day One. My lovely man had shaved my head the day before so that from 1st March my hair can grow chemo free. I have no idea what colour it will grow back, if it will be wavy like before or completely different but as the days and weeks pass it will be exciting to leave behind the bald cancer patient and start another part of building me.

Day One

Growth: Being able to go back to eating foods that I haven’t been allowed during chemotherapy – to eat an unpeeled apple, taste the freshness and sweetness of all it was utterly divine. I also had salad both at lunch and dinner, I’d forgotten just how much I love salted sliced cucumber! To be able to incorporate even more nourishment into my diet, strengthen and heal more each day, is exciting and liberating.
Goals: To me mental health is hugely important…mine and that of others, I always try to find ways of doing things I love that help other people as much as possible – running comes in very handy for that. Therefore 1st March marks another event for me. I shall be running for the charity Mind as part of the #challengethenorm movement to help raise awareness for mental health.

Saturday – My rest day and a lovely, inspiring day at the Chatsworth Wedding Fair. I felt very spoiled, looked after and full of cake when I left!
In the afternoon as I prepared my gear for my morning long run I realised for the first time I was dreading it…not the distance, time or even horrendous weather forecast…trying to yet again run to a lower heart rate. Friday I’d ended up having to walk so much, I had moments where everything flowed but they were fleeting. Going downhill I could speed up freely but even on flatter stretches, no matter how calm and how much I tried to control my breathing it was no good.
I sat and wept, alone, exasperated and with no idea what to do. All I can put it down to is the changes in my body and mind from the tamoxifen since Tuesday…I’ve felt more emotional since starting it, the side effects include mood swings and worryingly depression. I discussed everything with my wonderful man who said I didn’t run to get upset, feel constrained, to walk! I ran to feel and be happy and so that’s what I ought to do, but be careful.

Sunday – I listened to what he said, seconded my by Mum. I ran at a recovery run pace, eased off when I needed to, walked the harder uphill parts…and I flew through 12.5K of joy.

Sat here now I feel alive, calm…happy. I had a great time – even running across a field sprayed with cow poo did nothing to effect the glee I felt throughout. I got home fresh, no aches, no tiredness. The rest of the day will be about recovery, time out and cooking a chicken supper!

Sometimes you just have to do what you need to do, for you, to feel like you.

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