Time Alone – Not just sat in your house watching T.V but out there doing things completely by yourself…when did you last do it – have you ever!?!
For me this is second nature, infact I’m more comfortable being alone then with others…even, depending on the circumstances, dare I say, with my fiance! I know however that for others they couldn’t even contemplate it, they’d be so overwhelmingly uncomfortable that they wouldn’t even make an attempt, they need people to talk to or interact with in some way – and that’s perfectly fine!
I find it more interesting and life more tolerable when I’m solo. I’ve travelled the UK, eaten in some amazing places, watched countless movies, stared into space over many cups of comfort and been to some great events….all by myself. Heck even my running club is done at a distance…eight thousand (and growing) of like minded Lonely Goats who love running…but really not with other people.
As much as I revel in my alone time I do sometimes need human interaction, or rather the background noise of it. I can happily spend a day completely by myself getting on with whatever project I’m giving attention to, but then I need to feel surrounded…hence eating out or time spent people watching over a hot beverage. This week while talking to someone about going to the snooker they exclaimed “you went by yourself!!” as if it was abnormal…which made me feel odd when really it was a projection of their discomfort. I also had someone come over and sit with me while having lunch, because I was sat alone, and start talking to me – they’d not seen me in a few days so thought it a good time to catch up…it was lovely but the longest five minutes of my life before thankfully I was saved by them needing to take a call. I’m too polite to say what I was thinking to them out loud – “could you please sod off because you’re invading my alone time”.
Thankfully my fiancé is like minded, he always says he hates social situations, prefers solitude and isolation as much as I do…but put us in a room of people and you’d never know, we’re quite good at charming, listening and nattering away.
All I would say is try it if you’re not used to it, explore just being you…no phone, no laptop, no connection to another person or people. See how you find it. As for me, if you see me by myself somewhere please feel free to say hi, but also please note you will need to find another table.
Sunday – My rest day and although my body felt really good having run 16miles the day before, the background fatigue and weakness following treatment was a constant all day.
I’ve entered the Buxton Spa Prize art competition and so popped to Buxton to have my canvas stamped. Each artist got to pick two locations at random and choose which they wanted their piece to be on, I’ve got the beautiful pump room.
I had a lovely hour walking around the building, inside and out, taking photographs before a sneaky hot chocolate to set me up for my journey home.
I spent the afternoon reading and sleeping. I think I slept just over two hours in the end and felt fresher for it, but the fatigue symptoms were still there.
Monday – My recovery run and 6.5K which I felt went well. I took it nice and slowly, remembering what the run was for but also because I’d forgotten to reset my heart rate warning on my phone. I felt I paced well and I felt good throughout, I even did a little trail section to test my leg….which still niggled but was showing good improvement. I was shocked therefore to upload my data once home and find that my heart rate was in the extreme zone throughout – nearly from leaving home, yet I’d felt so calm, I felt soul destroyed! I also worried about my body, then analysed how I’d been feeling for the last week…what the treatment will have done, the fact my recovery is only just starting and how much I’ve been asking of myself. It made me realise that everything everyone has been saying about giving myself more time, more of a break and dialling down the intensity is completely necessary….I need to stop trying to do everything and putting a brave face on.
I did an hours gardening, just tidying up and weeding, slowly going pot to pot and felt such a sense of accomplishment afterwards. There were still a few things to do, but I stopped and we had lunch together, spending the rest of the day resting.
Tuesday – I realised that I say I do strength training but I don’t really say what I do, something that I know a few are interested in.
All of the sessions I follow are on You Tube, I have different people who I subscribe to for a variety of workouts. All are done on my yoga mat in our kitchen. Tuesday I started with an abs and glutes session for 30minutes then a 10minute core strengthening session, both by Pop Sugar. Before 30minutes yoga for stress following Yoga By Adrienne. I love her videos and the variety in both practice and length are useful to work around my other workouts and runs.
With a nice sense of calm I finished the gardening I’d started the day before. Helped by the fact I could sit at our garden table to transplant seedlings, pot up herbs and sew our first salad crop.
A lot more rest was needed after lunch before spin class. It was brilliant though and this week my leg felt better – I was able to do standing sprints again! I left feeling energised…infact I wondered how tired, mind numb me had the energy to do what I did. It helped having a friend beside me, she’s pretty super human and this week completes and competes in her own personal challenge. Her strength, courage and determination has in turn been giving, and still gives me, my strength, courage and determination and keeps me spurred on each day with my own personal challenges. Kim you are amazing and we are both proof of what you can do when you set your mind to it…and get up at what other people perceive to be daft o’clock in a morning!
Wednesday – It’s my cutback week again and so not only were the hills and tempo gone but my run was shorter. 6.5K in my new trainers felt amazing…they are what I intend to run the Loch Ness Marathon in and I’m already over the moon with them. I completely misjudged my distance and ended up walking a kilometre home but it gave me chance to realise that my leg hadn’t grumble as much. I’d purposefully followed an undulating route so my body was still tested, but without the intensity and yes downhill was tender but going up was easier and it felt fine to walk on it at last.
Due to appointments at the hospital I headed into the City early, taking the opportunity to sit and read an article on Nicky Spinks over coffee….a fellow breast cancer survivor, runner and utter inspiration of mine.
I had my last complimentary therapy reflexology session at the Cancer Support Centre, followed by a chat with the welfare advisor. The latter was 10minutes of financial discussion and 40minutes of talking about running…both revelling in our hobby and having a fellow runner to talk to, instead of a poor non-runner friend who thinks fartlek is something funny and LSD is a drug!
On the way home I started to feel really under the weather. The fatigue that has been a constant seemed ramped up tremendously. I felt nauseous and dizzy but couldn’t do anything about it other then get myself home. I nearly fell in the door, I was shaky and cold and couldn’t think. It felt like it took hours to make a hot chocolate, find a cereal bar, grab the throw from the sofa and get sat down. Once I’d refuelled I slept for nearly two hours…still feeling no better for it once awake, but no longer nauseous and dizzy.
Thursday – Most having just read that last sentence will look at this next one and ask why…unless you’re a runner!
I got up, assessed how I felt and knew I was both alright and it would be more beneficial for me to run than not. I did my 6.5K and included a hilly section to test my leg. Not only did I keep pace but I also didn’t slow down and so I was very proud of myself when I got home.
I had time before appointments to work on my art competition piece. Finally deciding, after a good few sketches, on what my piece will be based upon..a small step forward but a strong one.
My afternoon was very treatment based as I had a meeting at The Cavendish Centre to discuss post treatment complimentary therapies starting towards the end of June.
Then my assessment with my psychotherapist. I left feeling drained but better for having shared how I feel, my concerns and a lot of past traumas as-well as my cancer diagnosis and journey. I have a history of post traumatic stress disorder, plus anxiety, and so I go back at the start of June for her to finish her assessment and discuss what the best way forward is.
Friday – A 5am start for 50 minutes of upper body strength training. Again, as with Tuesday, this was done at home in the kitchen…just me, my mat and weights and this time with Sydney Cummings on You Tube. By the end my arms felt like lead, but it’s such a good fun workout.
This was week three of my Moving Forward Course and I felt a lot more emotionally stable throughout. The sessions were led mainly by my Support Nurse – Fiona. She’s been with me since the start of my cancer journey and her voice is such a soothing sound…she also gives amazing hugs!
This week we covered Breast and Body Awareness, Menopause and Fatigue. While I’m not going to give too much detail there were a few things that we went over that I want to ensure I cover here for anyone who it may help! –
Breast and Body Awareness – Post treatment it’s hugely important to understand your new body so that you can check it regularly without worry. You should never compare it to someone elses or to what it was like pre-treatment. For me my lumpectomy changed the shape and the feel of my breast and that has altered again DUE to the radiotherapy, it will continue to alter over the coming months as my body RECOVERS from the radiotherapy. My lymph node biopsy caused a puckered scar in my armpit which has fallen and flattened, but my scar line is firm to touch…again this has and will change due to radiotherapy.
In the discussion we had, persistent symptoms were covered and I was quite concerned as I currently have all of the following:
Unexplained weight loss or lack of appetite.
I therefore, sensibly, spoke to Fiona afterwards who reassured me that all of those are normal at this stage post radiotherapy…and to remember I’m only just starting to recover from it and chemotherapy. It’s always however better to check than to chance it.
Menopause – I don’t hide the fact I was chemically put through the menopause last October before chemotherapy started. This was due to my cancer being so highly oestrogen receptive and the fact I was pre-menopausal. I don’t feel in the least bit sad that I’ve had to go through this at such a young age…knowing I’ll never have a period again is an utter blessing for me!
Things aren’t the same for all women but 70% will have menopausal symptoms during or after treatment – exacerbated by chemotherapy which can make symptoms more intense. Male readers please also note that male breast cancer patients can have the same symptoms, due to the hormone treatment given to them as part of their cancer treatment.
Fatigue – Unless you’ve had it never tell someone who does that you know how they feel…you don’t! Fatigue is way beyond being tired, it’s a constant state of exhaustion that no amount of rest aides. Exercise actually helps but energy conservation is key. My fatigue has worsened in the last ten days post treatment, I constantly feel like I need sleep and when it gets too much I get very emotional. It also makes it hard to concentrate, ramps up my anxiety, gives me palpitations and so makes me breathless and has created a feeling of overwhelming weakness with muscular aches. It will get better but they can’t tell me how long that will take – they can tell me that keeping myself active and healthy will help considerably!
I got chatting once the last session had finished and so didn’t make it to the buffet until everything was pretty much gone. Due to my bus time I had to travel feeling quite weak and hungry again, making sure I ate as soon as I got in was a huge priority…I had porridge for both energy and comfort. Thankfully the weak feeling dissipated and I managed a 45min Yoga for PTSD session. It was so calming and I felt focused afterwards in a way I haven’t in over a week.
I did try a spot of baking around cooking dinner and waiting for the grocery delivery…it was just too much all at once and nothing went well!
Saturday – I’ve started to try running less than 13K on just half a banana to build more energy endurance. Given how I’ve been feeling recently however, it was far more sensible to get up an hour before my 12.5K run and have a bowl of porridge and water. I definitely felt better for it during my run, still having a gel at 10K as I usually would for any distance over that amount, plus the fact I’d been running more than an hour. Everything flowed better and my left leg wasn’t too bad throughout…my right grumbling a little unnerved me more.
I spent most of the rest of the day with one of my oldest friends. I haven’t seen her since week two of chemo cycle one and so a good catch up was needed. Getting myself dressed up, a familiar face but not one of my regulars, different chatter, a new coffee place, a restaurant for lunch which I haven’t been in since October last year and foods I haven’t eaten in months…gosh it felt good. I do need to listen to her wisdom though “Remember what you couldn’t do even just a few months ago, realise how far you’ve come, and don’t be worried by how far you still have to go”!
Sunday – It’s my recovery day and one I intend to spend concentrating mainly on my art project. With rest where needed in preparation for an exciting week to come.
When you find yourself cocooned in isolation, and cannot find a way out of the darkness, remember that this is similar to the place where butterflies go to grow their wings.