Today is World Health Day and given my situation and diagnosis I want to highlight to all the need to be body aware – understand what is normal for you. This isn’t the same for everyone and so shouldn’t be judged against someone else. Being more body aware will help you notice when something isn’t right, so that you can seek advice or help as early as possible.
Health is physical and mental…the latter plays such a huge part in our overall health and yet so many of us don’t give it the thought, or care needed. In February, aware of my own mental health problems, I wanted to do something that would keep me focused but also help others. I signed up to take part in the March, Challenge The Norm virtual run for the charity Mind. Pledging to run 54miles, the equivalent of London to Cambridge, I receiving my medal this week.
This last couple of weeks my mental health has been better. My underlying need for control/stability and my perfection tendency satisfied by the start of radiotherapy…having a plan, something to get organised for and an end goal to work towards. But there has been a small shadow of a past more haunting issue…my old eating disorder. This is entirely due to the weight gain I’m slowly experiencing as my body heals from chemotherapy. It’s a necessity, I lost weight during chemo cycle on cycle and although only a few pounds each time it added up. Part of building me is to put that back on in a healthy way, with a view to creating a stronger body. For me it is a mental fight that physical need has to win. Putting it here I feel even more accountable for not letting that old demon rear its head.
My body has started to change in many ways, medically I’m still recovering from the mid to latter chemo cycles, it will be August before we can say the effects of the drugs given are no longer present. Even then there are lasting changes chemo gives that I need to pay attention to and be bodily aware of.
At the moment it feels like old early chemo effects are haunting me – yes my hair is growing well and all over my body, but my skin has gotten really dry again. My nails were brittle and fragile but started to discolour again and they look yellow. The fine hairs in my nose are back…nice because my throat no longer feels as dry, but I’m suffering nose bleeds again as my skin adapts. I’ve also sore gums again, this time my gums are pink and healthy looking though instead of creamy pale. These feel like problems but are all really signs of hope for a recovering body.
Health isn’t just about cancer for me, infact I want to so badly step away from the cancer patient and I look forward to that point. For me health is every part of my body and doing as much as I can to look after myself, there was no clear reason for my cancer…this leaves uncertainty for the future, but it’s a future where I intend to look after myself, body and mind, as much as possible.
Sunday – My body felt good following my long run on Saturday and so my recovery day felt easier. It was a day spent taking time out for me, pottering around the house and garden, sleeping when I felt I needed to and eating well.
Monday – Double day due to hospital appointments on Tuesday!
My recovery run felt odd given the need for a head-torch scramble before setting off, plus a shoe rethink, all thanks to the clock change and how dark it suddenly was. My run went well though and to zone three throughout. Once back I had a quick change before spin class mid-morning…I left feeling energised and ready for the day.
Then I hit the wall around 11am.
On arriving at radiotherapy there was a 20min wait…annihilated my lunch in the waiting room I realised how hungry I felt. I’d refuelled well after each workout but obviously not well enough!
I was in LA7s machine for the first time and I think I’ve a first time in a machine jinx! The breathing monitor wasn’t working, then my goggles weren’t syncing so I couldn’t tell how deep I was breathing. Then the tape on the breathing monitor came off half way through the process and they had to re-tape, re-align me and then do the last part of treatment.
I felt quite tired when I got home. I’d got one of the new SIS Protein bars with a recent order.
I enjoyed it and its good hit of energy, half an hours sleep and a few chapters of my book.
Tuesday – I grabbed my mat for full body strength training as I’d no other work out planned and my legs feel good. My arms and upper body strength in general, still feels weak and needs a lot more work…but I won’t be allowed to push that too much until I’m three weeks clear from radiotherapy.
With extra time to myself between appointments I had lunch in City. The trip the week before had been really difficult and I wanted to face that fear. I felt comfortable around people on the streets but was stared at constantly by a little girl during lunch, which oddly made me feel I’ll at ease and I was pleased to leave…after enjoying my coffee and cake!
In the afternoon I had my counselling assessment. It went ok but wasn’t what I expected and a there’s a bit of a waiting list. I’ve been advised to speak to my support nurse about a referral for psychotherapy through the hospital instead, as it will be quicker.
I decided that I wanted a new challenge for the coming months, not based around running but still something I would love doing. I therefore entered the Buxton Spa Prize which is a local art competition. Most of my work on it will take place during May, post radiotherapy while I recover from it and get ready for slowly going back to work.
Wednesday – My 11.5k training run went really well, my hill repeats were strong and I managed a tempo session which saw me hit and hold my old running times. What used to feel natural was hard work…but I know I can get back to that in time.
I wasn’t due into radiotherapy until the evening but got a call to bring it forwards which meant I could attend the crafting session at the Cancer Support Centre again. We had great fun with decoupage, lots of laughter at how much we glued ourselves to everything and some beautiful pieces were made.
Before leaving I booked in for the complimentary therapies now available to me due to radiotherapy having started. An extra something to look forward to over the coming weeks.
Thursday – One awfully harsh 6.5K run, half trail half road first thing. It was tough but I got it done, I worried that I’d pushed to hard the day before – it’s a hard balance to work out as I need to adjust slowly but also need to push to see some results.
My radiotherapy went well and I wanted to spend time doing something different, complete un-hospital related. I walked to the Botanical Gardens but was so cold and tired on arrival that I decided lunch there would be enough. I slept two hours solid when I got home but felt so much better afterwards and even started two new pieces of art in the evening.
Friday – I woke up and actually felt awake for the first time since Monday. My strength training was focused on my upper body and I’d found a new session that burnt my arms out but I know did me good.
We went to see the Mausoleum of Giants art installation in Sheffield around lunchtime…queued for three hours but it was so good to have seen it!
My right leg ached while we stood and at one point there was a sharp pain in my hip as we moved, something I hoped was nothing.
Friday marked my first two weeks of radiotherapy and it feels odd to be this far in already. My skin is red after a shower and slightly sensitive to touch, but otherwise all is fine apart from the dull ache in my ribs.
Saturday – The day started with my 14mile training run – this is the furthest I’ve run since 6th October last year!
I felt quite emotional and proud of what I’d done. Yes I’m over a minute slower, yes it’s taken me nearly half an hour more…BUT…I’m slowly getting things back, last October I couldn’t run trails for toffee and was just a road runner and this was a half and half with lots of technical trails. The biggest bit to remember is that I’m still having active treatment for cancer.
My back of my right leg had pulled and been sore from 7K, it only stopped at 21K and I’m sure that was just adrenaline and not it sorting itself out. I strongly feel standing so much on Friday to be the cause as there’s been no sign of anything before.
I spent the rest of Saturday catching up with a friend, enjoying the sunshine and refuelling myself as well as possible.
Sunday – Today is my recovery day and one I feel I’ll be paying a bit more attention with. My right leg is still tender and so I need to care for it as much as the rest of me, yesterday’s distance will have taken its toll, so today is one of pure self care.