Happy Spring everyone! Today is a beautiful, sunny Monday and I couldn’t have asked for more. We Oregonians know how much the sun makes a difference in our mind and attitude, and today I feel great.
I am entering into the second full week of radiation treatment. Last week went pretty well, and this week is off to a good start so far. I made it over the hump which was a lot of nausea and sleepiness, and I am starting to feel back to normal. I’m still feel fatigued time to time throughout the day, but it doesn’t take over like a title wave as it did when I first started.
Because my body is going through chemotherapy, radiation therapy and just getting back to normal from my surgery two months ago, it’s in a fragile state. My stomach is also super sensitive because it’s being radiated almost everyday, so I have had to adjust my diet and cut out acidic food and beverages to avoid getting an upset stomach. That means no coffee (I know!!) and cutting back on dairy, animal protein, sugar and processed foods, limiting grains, and upping my dose of daily vegetables and some fruits. I feel like I have finally found a good balance, and I’ve been feeling pretty good! I was sad to give up my beloved coffee and espresso (I LOVE my espresso machine!) but the bad far out-wieghed the good. I just walk down the coffee aisle at the grocery store to get my fix!
Physically, my body is weak and pretty out of shape from resting and recovering. I feel like I’m made of Play-Doug. My abdominals are finally healed from my lymph node removal surgery, but my ab muscles are so weak that they whine at me anytime I stretch or use them (they hurt). I think I might start looking like the Michelin Tire man any day now … lol! But, vanity is the least of my concerns right now. I need to focus on getting well and making my body strong. Not “fit”, or “hot”, or “skinny”, or “in shape” – just strong! I’ll tackle those other adjectives after all this is over. My recovery depends on it. I know I blogged about wanting to get in the best shape of my life while going through this, but that was just me trying to defy the laws of cancer treatments. Even though I can’t lose weight while doing radiation therapy anyways, it was an unrealistic expectation for my condition, and it’s best for my recovery to just take it easy and stop trying to show up my cancer. 🙂
Now that my energy has bounced back from chemo, I can start my Baby Steps to Physical Activity plan. First, I have to step back from my pre-cancer “No excuses!! Get off the couch, you fat ass!!” approach to working out; Baby Steps plan is about rehabilitating my body, not breaking bad habits and losing weight. I also have to have realistic expectations and be gentle on my body, especially because I tire easily (yay). Even though I want to wear my Big Girl Panties and attempt to run 4 miles just to say that I did, I know this is not being respectful of what my body can handle right now. Taking on physical activity should come from a loving place, not from being competitive (Me vs. Cancer).
On a side note, I am starting to redefine what it means to me to “fight cancer”. When I first began my journey, I thought that by still going to work and continuing to do my house chores and cooking for my husband I would be “fighting” cancer (“Ha ha! You can’t keep me from my normal life!!”). But I learned very quickly that doing those things while going through treatment is VERY stressful, and stress would have definitely hurt my recovery. I had to let them go. I also thought that if I tried to push myself physically, like going to gym regularly and doing the same workouts I could pre-cancer, despite being weak and fatigued, I would fight cancer. Again, I learned that this was a terrible idea. I started working out too early after my surgery and ended up hurting myself. When you’re on chemotherapy, your body can’t recoup from injury very well so I was forced to rest even MORE. I thought that “fighting cancer” meant not letting the treatments rule and take over my life. But I finally accepted that I had to put the treatments first and to stop trying to “prove cancer wrong”. I officially threw up my white the flag my first day of radiation therapy. I promised myself that I would comply with what my treatments asked of me and go from there. Once I gave up the power, I ironically felt more in control than ever. Yesterday I started cooking again for the first time in months – not because I felt like I had to to prove a point, but because I wanted to. And it felt great! While going through treatments, I have to take it one day at a time. I’m still learning what it takes to fight this fight, but so far I have learned that I have to love myself enough to let go of things that don’t matter, and discover strength on the outside as well as the inside. Stress and anxiety makes the treatments much harder to get through, and this can have a direct impact on recovery.
Back to my Baby Steps plan. I did yoga this morning in my living room for the first time in years, and I loved it! Even though I used to be at an intermediate level, I decided to start from scratch and do a beginner level program, and I could barely keep up. I’m not discouraged, it just makes me more motivated. If I do it every day I will regain the strength and flexibility I had before, and if I keep it up then I will gain even more. Along with yoga, I will also start walking and some gentle resistance training using my body weight. I would like to aim for 2 of 3 of these activities per day, but we’ll see how it goes. My next chemotherapy treatment is on April 12th, so I need to focus on gaining some strength and energy for that day by day.
Another update is that I am done with my wig phase! Yup, no more wigs. My hair is only maybe a half inch long, but it’s full and definitely coming in. My new color is light brown and blond under the light. Pre-cancer I was naturally a dark brunette. When I first started wearing wigs after chemotherapy, I thought I would be way too self-concious to go out in public with anything less than 3 inches of hair. I don’t like attracting attention to myself, so I just wanted to look “normal”. But as soon as my beautiful locks started growing in I was just so excited that I didn’t care if it made people stare – I love it! I want to celebrate the rebirth of my hair! And the only places I go these days are to doctors offices and the grocery store … no one to impress there! My biggest fear would be a little kid seeing me and yelling, “Mommy! Why does that lady look like a boy??” But I don’t know if even that would bother me now. I have found so much self love and peace within myself while battling this disease that a lot of my old insecurities have disappeared. I want to celebrate myself rather than change myself to fit other people’s ideal. Just in time for spring – new and refreshing!
I sort of assumed that strangers who see my short hair will know that I am cancer patient first before thinking that I voluntarily give myself a buzz cut. I don’t know why, I just did. I can’t read other people’s minds, but my few experiences so far have proved that people definitely don’t assume that other people have cancer! The other day I was trying on some clothes at a local boutique sporting my very short ‘do, and a young sales girl and I started chatting at the changing rooms. She goes on to tell me how much she LOVES my hair cut and thinks that I totally rock it. She asked me how long I’ve “had it” this way and tells me that I must have a lot of self confidence. I didn’t want to ruin the moment, so of course I didn’t tell her I have cancer. I just thanked her and took the compliment. I didn’t even get embarrassed or turn red (I used to turn into a tomato at the drop of a hat). I was totally not excepting people to actually take notice my hair, but maybe it’s something I should get used to?
Thanks for reading everyone! Much love and many blessings.