Easter and for me this year more than ever I see it as a time to rest, reflect and think about life and celebrate renewal. I’m only now a week from finishing active treatment, yes the symptoms with stay with me a few weeks afterwards and potentially worsen, but the end is in sight. The start of me just being me is now very real and very near.
REST – Something we all should think about more, self care isn’t self indulgent and shouldn’t be shunned. It’s a necessity and for my body as both cancer patient and runner, it’s vital for both.
REFLECT – There have been points in the week where I now look back and feel disappointed in myself for stepping back into old habits. Cancer has taught me that I need to care less about the irrelevant, do only what can be done, say ‘no’ more and not allow people to take me for granted.
RENEWAL – For myself this word is mostly physical…new hair, new eyelashes, new eyebrows, new skin, new muscle tone to name a few. It’s also mental…new outlook, new positivity, new values, new goals.
My world, and life, have opened up hugely thanks to cancer. Some people I have either lost or feel I’m losing along the way, no-one’s fault, life is hard and huge events take their toll. However, there are some amazing people who are now part of it. This Easter my family will get special Easter Eggs courtesy of Malcolm…a gentleman who takes goods unwanted by big retailers and drops them off at the Cancer Support Centre for people to buy for a small price. This year their eggs are courtesy of Thorntons, some are broken and so un-sellable and others had been used for practicing writing on, so again couldn’t be sold.
Their waste will bring a huge smile to others.
While the money paid is yes small it’s still helping fund the Centre, Support and Research for Weston Park Hospital. Malcolm is a cancer survivor, retired and uses his time to give back to those who have helped him and all those who they care for and are yet to meet…on this Easter Sunday he will have heart bypass surgery. My thoughts are with him for a successful day and a speedy recovery, I hope so much that our paths re-cross once we’re both on the other side of things!
Sunday – My recovery day and a day by myself so I did something I hadn’t in nearly a year thanks to surgery and treatment…I went to Manchester! Thankfully not too much had changed, apart from coffee shops having new names over the doors. As much as Sheffield is nearer and our local City I have to be honest and say I prefer Manchester, it’s layout, attractions and vibe are more me. I did kick off my day with a coffee over urgent hotel booking due to realisation of an oversight…I’m running the Manchester half marathon 19th May and had thought we could just catch the train in and out around the race. For some reason as I travelled I looked at the start time and realised I need to be in the City for 8.15am, leaving no time to get the train…cue frantic hotel search! I could have left it until I got home but just needed it out the way, by the time I’d got through my coffee all was arranged. We’ll now make a little weekend trip of it, a meal out together the night before and no crazy rush…heck I can leave Mr. L in bed to check out mid-morning, find himself a nice breakfast and still be able to have time to meet me at the finish before lunch in Chinatown as per the original plan.
Feeling calmer I shopped a little and treated myself to a new outfit and some skin kind toiletries.
Before leaving I indulged in my real reason for the trip – a visit to the Manchester Museum of Art to see more of the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition. To have been able to see so many pieces, even just over two museums, I feel very grateful for.
Monday – Recovery run and back on the trails for a trail, path mix. I felt really good and it was hard to rein my legs in and remember it was a recovery run. I was trying to run to heart rate but wasn’t successful once in the field…a mix of thoughts, mainly anxiety about the week ahead and Easter. I use running time to think and that doesn’t pay off when trying to run to low heart rate.
Monday was the start of my targeted treatment in radiotherapy…instead of treating the whole left breast and area around it, just my scar area where the cancer was located is treated instead. The procedure isn’t done for all patients so some are unaware of it. It can mean extra sensitivity and soreness in that area and prolongs the side effects from the earlier treatment. The tan created my the first three weeks is slowly darkening more, thankfully I’ve no pain in my scar line and no redness or blistering to my skin.
The hospital reception mistakenly had put me down for new treatment and so asked me to take a seat in the main waiting area. Half an hour later when no-one could find the little blonde lady who was always 10mins early, staff began to worry! Thankfully I was soon found and because of my, now fabulous ability to strip off in seconds, I was soon in and treatment done for the day.
Some things mark time like no other…we all know where were and what we were doing the day Princess Diana died or the day the first plane hit one of the twin towers. This was the day as I decided to watch the news as I cooked, I switched the TV on and was shooting to the loo as the newsreader explained that Notre Dame was burning…yes since then there has been controversy over donations and so forth…I really don’t care to hear opinions. For me this was the day I stood in our kitchen doorway and cried while watching one of the buildings I love the most, burn and become a shell of itself. I will be forever grateful to have seen it in its splendour.
Tuesday – I had my strength training session a little later before hospital due to a lie in, then felt like I rushed…all…morning…almost like I was being punished for having a lie in!
I arrival at the hospital early but found my injection hadn’t been authorised. So after a lengthy wait I was advised to go to clinic to chase it. Then I headed back to pharmacy to wait for it to be made ready. I was then only 10mins off my radiotherapy time so ran downstairs for it, I breathed a sigh of relief when no delay board was outside, only to come out the toilet a few minutes later to find a 30min wait sign had been put up. I queried if I should just go back to clinic to have my injection administered, and was told no, as my radiotherapy review was due. It wouldn’t take long so I may aswell wait for it then come back, chances were given the delay I’d slot back into my original place in the queue. My review was however a 40min wait then 10min appointment. Once back in radiotherapy I’d missed my slot and so had another 20min wait ahead. I was assured it wasn’t worth going up to clinic so I had my lunch as I waited, plus called my GP with regards having my injections done there going forwards. They’d received my oncology letter regarding this but hadn’t passed it to a Dr so were going to do so and asked that I pop in mid afternoon to discuss it. It was just before one as I finished treatment and dressed, so decided I could get the 1.50pm bus back easily to go to see my GP before needing to be at spin (something which yes in the grand scheme wasn’t super necessary but I’d paid for it and didn’t want to waste money)…I grabbed a mocha enroute as hadn’t had a hot drink since 8am, then headed to clinic…who were also now running very late. At 1.45pm I tearfully explained I had to go and I’d come in early Wednesday again to go through the process.
I made my bus by a minute and when I called my GP to see when was best to go as I was enroute, I was told that my Dr would look over things and call me to discuss matters instead of me having to go in unnecessarily. For the first time all day I breathed!
I got home and mentally beat myself up for how stressed I felt, then beat myself up more for actually mentally beating myself up. The old me had stepped in, made rash decisions about the day, not taken time, not just gone with the flow.
What I then got was a bit of much needed down time at home before a fantastic spin class!
Wednesday – What a difference a day makes and such a less chaotic one. I think purely because I made a conscious decision as I got up to be more relaxed and embrace the flow of the day.
I had a great hill repeat run…taking 4minutes off my last 10K hill session over the same route. I was glowing when I got back in and kept things in that positive, happy mindset. My injection was stood at pharmacy waiting for me, and with no wait I was in clinic in minutes. The nurse had worried about me the day before and so we sat and had a good chat. I explained that I’d put too much pressure on the day, time and myself. My expectations were unrealistic and I flapped as soon as I hit a hurdle, instead of calmly taking the gate next to it, I leapt and fell.
My radiotherapy appointment ran over time but I had a lovely chat with the lady next to me who was attending to support her husband. We discussed putting life in perspective and values we had before hearing the cancer diagnosis, compared to the values we have now. There’s not a lot of difference between close love one and patient, we just have the treatment and them the anxiety of it. She explained that she used to fear death and worry about aging, then they got his diagnosis and realised how fragile life is, she said there would still be the fear but nowhere near as bad and alot of acceptance.
I had a session at the Support Centre in the afternoon with a lady there who teaches Mindfulness. We were supposed to go over it again, as we had last November, but ended up just chatting about what I’d discussed with the older lady earlier, my coping strategies, my outlook and how I want life to be as I move away from active treatment in around a weeks time. There will still be the old me in the background leaping out now and then, just like she did on Tuesday, but I’m hopeful of the new me being more prominent.
My bus was a little late and courtesy of seeing one of my running groups news I used my time wisely…securing a place in the Manchester Marathon 2020! By this time next year I’ll have run a half and a full marathon there…both of which I’m incredibly excited and already proud of.
A fellow runner (thanks Huw!) shared this statistic in the week – The UK has 10.5m runners out of a population of 66m, in other words, 84% of the population don’t run, or to put it another way, when you’re out running only 1.4 out of every 10 people you see, are runners. I’m proud to be one of them!
Thursday – My full trail run day and a lovely misty morning was had, hurtling across the fields to Castleton and back. Disturbing the lambs from their lie in on the way!
I’d got my timings for my appointment mixed up with the following week and so had time at home for housework before going to hospital.
Thankfully I’d changed and popped through early as they were that quiet in Radiotherapy I was in and out 20mins ahead my appointment time. I found a voucher for a free coffee at the hospital cafe in my bag as I dressed, so grabbed a large cappuccino and sat in the park people watching for an hour.
Thursday was the start of my four complimentary therapies at the Support Centre – a back and shoulder massage. Relaxing wasn’t the word, after the last few days it was exactly what I needed. I’d had chance to sit and chat with Malcolm before my treatment, so made sure to get Easter Eggs sorted out before I left.
On the way back through the hospital I popped into the Weston Parks Cancer Charity office and registered with them. I am now formally signed up to run the Loch Ness Marathon for them in the hope I can raise as much as possible and give a little back in all that they have done for me.
Friday – I had my upper body and core strength training session to start the day, the sun slowly creeping in and promising a glorious morning. I’d planned seeing my friend in the next village and decided walking each way would be far nicer…I’m pleased I did as I had a lovely stroll. Plus once we’d caught up a bit we had a great pooch walk through the fields back towards my house.
By the time I got home my face had a bit of a glow…the sun lotion hadn’t lasted as long as my trip and I keep forgetting how sensitive my skin is as a result of the chemotherapy.
I spent the afternoon baking, resting and trying to hydrate as much as possible ahead of Saturday mornings long run – warmer temperatures and a hilly route made me very aware of the need to drink as often as possible to protect and prepare my body.
Saturday – It was still very dark at 5am as I sat having breakfast. Around an hour later as I ran the grass froze underfoot and created a magical morning.
Throughout my run I felt good there was the odd moment tiredness hit, especially after each bit of ascent, but I pushed through and let my body work to quieten my mind. The views were breathtaking and I’m so pleased I took the route I did.
With recovery cold bath, re-feed and stretching done once back I set to and iced the Simnel cake I’d made. Mum, Dad and Stanley arriving soon after for a family day…lots of catching up, food and cups of tea. Plus a short stroll into the field with Stan for him to explore and find new smells.
Sunday – My…thighs…ache! I could feel them as a woke, a gentle tightness to remind me of yesterdays run – work done and strength being built.
Today is my recovery day and a day just to be us…and try not to eat toooooo much chocolate.