FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real
Post long run last Sunday I was tired…more so than after my 12.5K or 16K. I made sure to rest well, eat little and often and keep on top of my fluids.
As mentioned in my previous post this day marked a huge event in our lives. Five years earlier on a sunny Sunday morning Mum was downstairs doing things around the house, I was having a lie in but somewhere between awake and asleep, my Dad had just got in the shower.
Then the world stopped.
I’m sure he shouted but the thing I remember most was the bang and the crashing sound. It was the sound of my Dad having a cardiac arrest and falling out of the bath onto the floor, banging his head on the radiator. Their bathroom is small and my Dad a broad shouldered man, my Mum had to force the door open to get to him. I’ve hazy memories of all that came after, a blur – her saying he wasn’t breathing, me calling 999, her doing CPR, me having a panic attack and trying not to pass out, her counting out loud, me knelt on the floor shaking and waiting for the sound of a siren.
I can’t recall letting them in, just a man there suddenly wearing green and I went downstairs. Mum was soon there and told me to go across the road to a neighbour…the ambulance crew desperately trying to help and get a heartbeat. I sat across the road at our neighbours kitchen table being held tight, crying, begging whoever was listening for him to be okay, to come back. I told my sister (whom we lost at 11yrs old in 1996) that she couldn’t have him yet as it wasn’t fair.
Mum was suddenly there, they’d got Dads heart beating again and were taking him in but we needed to follow quickly. Our neighbour drove like the car was on fire but we never kept up with the ambulance. By the time we arrived they took us through and into a family room. The exact same thing they did when we lost my sister all those years before, so my first thought was “that’s it then”. No-one seemed to come to us for a while and then a Doctor walked in. Not only was Dad alive but they’d already done surgery, stents had been fitted and he was breathing by himself. The bang on the head meant a CT scan and it too was carried out quickly. I can’t remember the rest of the day, we lived on adrenaline with cups of tea, the nurses in Intensive Care looked after us as much as him.
Dad had been gone for about 22 minutes which caused him to suffer a brain injury. They’d warned us that coming round after a cardiac arrest could mean an alteration in personality. My Dad was headstrong, powerful, held his opinion, impatient and stubborn. An absolute force to be reckoned with, I’d only ever seen him cry twice. He was my hero and I put him on a pedestal.
When they brought him round the change wasn’t completely noticeable straight away, he was confused but it was only a little later that we realised he definitely had memory problems.
How much we dug fingernails into palms the day he said that he was pleased I was there, he said he knew bib (my sisters pet name) would be busy as usual. Thankfully he only mentioned her the once before he remembered the truth, my Mum saved from to painful conversation…but the dog….oh my gosh I think we had to tell him nine times that Honey had died! It became a standing joke “wonder if he’ll remember the dog’s dead today”.
As-well as affecting his memory it left Dad more emotional, brought to tears so easily. He was no longer strong and forthright, he was scared, wary and confused. He kept going though and getting him home again was a huge win. Things settled a little and we got more used to the memory problems….think Alzheimer’s patient but never getting worse.
It was August of that year he collapsed. He’d been doing really well so it was unexpected. He was fine but they did an x-ray to check his chest. It was early October when the world stopped turning again, there had been a shadow on the x-ray. Tests were done and Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.
He had scans and tests, they discussed the operation they would need to do and it was large. He was utterly terrified of dying again and opted for intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Both done over a shortened period of time, they were aggressive and savage but he bore it, he started treatment a year to the day after his cardiac arrest.
He’s now four years down the line from starting treatment, in remission and doing well. Yes there is a huge recurrence rate, due to the type of his cancer, but they keep an eye on him. He’s defiant and does what he likes and Mum reins him in and keeps everything going…just like she did all along.
Someone asked me not very long ago what keeps me going and what motivates me, how I’ve managed to run as much as I have through chemotherapy.
Firstly as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, I was training for my first half marathon when I was diagnosed and I kept up with my training…intensifying it when my oncologist gave me the heads up to train harder, faster and meaner in the run up to chemo. If it wasn’t for the intensity I put myself through before, or the distance I’d learnt to cover and endurance I’d built, I would had to have given up running somewhere between cycles two and three if I’m honest.
It feels like the most awful twist of fate that Dad and I have both gone through cancer, thanks to him I knew in part what was coming for me with chemo…how fatigued, sore and sick I would become.
I was motivated to keep going because he did, short and simple as that. Plus he wasn’t the only one – before we lost her my sister was the same. Life dealt her so many hurdles but she kept going, doing it her way, in her time, dancing to her tune and no-one else’s and heaven help you if you suggested she couldn’t do something. It was as if she silently saw the challenge, stuck two fingers up while launching into ‘beast’ mode and did whatever it was. Making possible the impossibles….Dad did the same but in a more nonchalant way!
So you see I figure if they could I can…and I do…because I don’t feel there’s another option, I don’t know what else to do because in life I haven’t seen a different way.
My Mums utter strength and resilience, can do attitude and pure awesomeness also play a huge part. I was once asked in a job interview who influenced me most in life…I told them my Mum and explained all she’s been through and still does.
I used to feel that as a family we’ve had more than our share of trials and ill luck, then I found out I’d got cancer. As I’m afraid writing this my first thought is “what will be next” and some may see that as very sad, to me it just feels realistic.
In the meantime I’ve left one training plan finished and run through chemotherapy…because I wanted to defy it, keep one part of me and because I knew I could.
I’ve now another in place, will run through radiotherapy, and in around four months compete in my first trail Ultra marathon…because I believe I can.
I’ll take a few weeks then start another training plan in readiness for my first road marathon…because I believe I can.
There will be others races, walks, and fingers crossed mountains climbed too along the way. I shall with certainty compete in both the Brigg 10K for Armistice Day and the Tatton Park Half Marathon this year – both of which I have deferred places in due to being unable to run them last year because of treatment. I do them, as-well as anything else that life brings along…because I believe I can.
Monday – I got up feeling stiff, sore and tired. The ill judge steady climb on Sunday caused havoc with my muscles and my recovery run was hard to bear in parts. I hadn’t had one feel as brutal in a long time. I stopped for a chat with a local dog walker, splashed through some puddles and had a fun though. During the day I constantly felt tired and so rested as much as possible.
My six week checkup clinic appointment went really well. My oncologist was pleased with how I’m recovering and coping physically following my last chemo cycle. I explained I stupidly expected to feel normal after chemo ended and feel frustrated that I’m as bad now as I was after I’d had cycle four. Apparently however that’s completely normal and I could feel a lot worse!
I also explained how I’m doing, or rather how badly I’m doing, mentally. That too was something they expected to see and have reassured me I’m not alone, that I’ll have support and not to feel scared. I’m being referred for psychotherapy due to my past eating disorder and PTSD, in the meantime I will start counselling through a local Cancer Support Centre in a couple of weeks. I’m also booked on to a Moving Forward course during May and have the Younger Women Together Forum.
It felt hard and embarrassing to admit that I’m not okay, but as my Oncologist pointed out ” look at what I’ve done to you, if you WERE ok I’d be concerned!”
My radiotherapy should start on Monday 25th March, and going forwards I have to have a bone density scan over the next few weeks to see how much damage the chemo has done internally. In the meantime the orders are keep running, sleep well and when I need to, be kinder to myself, do what I can when I can and I’ve some Vitamin D with added calcium to take to help my bones – whether needed or not after the scan we shall wait and see.
I had a great spin session in the evening and nearly kept up with everyone, which felt like an immense achievement.
I’d posted details online with regards my earlier appointment, reading through peoples messages in the evening I felt drained emotionally as I was so overwhelmed at everyone’s support and kindness.
I awoke feeling more positive…it was the International Day of Happiness and my first day of wearing shorts for running!
It was also my first Wednesday of hill repeat sessions. 3K warm up at heart rate, 2K of hill repeats, 3K cool down at heart rate…I felt strong throughout and glowingly happy when I got home.
I spent the rest of the day wisely, resting and packing before popping out for a hot chocolate in the sunshine.
Core strength training was my priority so that I didn’t work my legs too much as I knew the day was going to involve a lot of walking. I did however add in 15mins of arm weight training too as I was eager to try out my new weights! I’ve progressed to 1 kilo weights from bean tins at long last.
Travelled up to Edinburgh for the Younger Women Together Forum was a tiring journey, but so nice to get out of the County again…it means I’ve also done Scotland, Wales and England within seven days.
In the evening I explored Dean’s Village and the water of Leith walkway before dinner. A beautiful part of Edinburgh I’d never visited before and look forward to going back to in the future.
Due to Saturdays travel arrangements I made sure to fuel myself Thursday evening for a mornings long run before the Forum. It has to be pasta, for me it’s the only thing that works after a good bit of trial and error. With training it’s important to be flexible and adjust when needed, but to also be sensible and ensure you are prepared and your eating and hydration are both crucial to this.
I therefore started the day with a brilliant 16K, done over three laps to keep me safely close to the hotel. It was well paced and slightly faster than expected due to the flatter route and no trails.
Once back after a cold bath and a couple of hours rest I joined the Forum. The event was arranged through Breast Cancer Care and they looked after us brilliantly. I had such a rewarding first day and met some wonderful ladies. Finding out that I’m not alone and that there’s so many others who feel like I do, was hugely reassuring. There was also not one of us who have had the same cancer, treatment and care. All different, our medical needs attended to in so many ways, but ultimately unique to us and our cancer in order to give us the best chance.
We’ve laughed, listened, shared and cried together. The Forum is very confidential, but I have added the link above so that anyone wanting more details, support or advice can find them.
A recovery run to start the day and refresh me. I haven’t slept well at all while away…different bed syndrome…and so a run was a huge bonus. I paced well and kept things nice and steady – unlike my last one there was thankfully no ache in my legs and I felt good.
I went down to breakfast but tucked myself in a corner so that I could have some time alone, not that I hadn’t already but I just felt overwhelmed by the potential need to talk. I’m a lover of quiet and unashamedly fine with my own company. I felt awful therefore when one of the group came and asked if I was sitting by myself to get some time out or not as she was struggling socially. I felt rude and that I’d pushed her away but we had a chat later, we both said how much of an impact emotionally the experience of all being together and sharing so much was having on us.
As lunchtime came round I received sad news from home and so left a little earlier than planned. Grief is a difficult thing for anyone, my beautiful extended family pained by a loss that while expected with still be torture for them. My sadness is nowhere near their sorrow but I wanted to get home, to check everyone was alright and just be that little bit closer incase it helped.
Today is my rest and recovery day, I awoke refreshed but still with fatigue symptoms lingering and not long after getting up they set in hard again. Since Thursday I’ve had eight hours sleep on top of travelling, exercising and the forum – hard for anyone let alone a cancer patient.
Today needs to be taken slowly, preparing me more efficiently for the week to come.