Category Archives: Cancer

I’ll Be In The Home Gym

I went ahead and disappeared for a few days 1) Because I’ve been watching far too many episodes of The Wire and The IT Crowd, and 2) I’ve been playing in my new home gym!

“Home gym” used lightly here as it is still very much a work in progress. I set it up in an empty room in my dad’s house and there’s still equipment to add and clutter to clear out.

I’m really, really excited about it because I’m not allowed to work out in a regular gym due to my weakened immune system from chemo. When the weather was nice and I was feeling more sick, I was okay with getting my exercise with long walks. But now that we’re down to the minus double digits and I’m getting small bursts of energy again, I’ve got the bug to get some real workouts in!

For cardio, I’ve got my dad’s recumbent bike and my new elliptical. So far I am completely in love with the elliptical. It’s a real treat to just saunter downstairs and get my cardio in while watching whatever I want on television. I call it my “investment piece” based on what I’ll save on a gym membership in the long run. Plus, the equipment may come in handy down the road if I ever want to do personal training outside of a gym environment.

For strength, I got a bench, barbell, and weight plates for free from my step-dad. I already owned the confused looking dog.

There’s also light dumbbells, mats, skip rope, exercise ball, and a foam roller that I had already acquired over the years. Eventually I’d like to get some heavier dumbbells and kettlebells. I’ve also got a road bike and indoor trainer for it, but I’m in no rush to set it up with my broken arm and all. I’m going to try the Couch to 5k running program when the ice melts.

I have to say, starting to seriously workout again after six months of chemotherapy is rough. Way more rough than when I first started getting into fitness after years of smoking and drinking too much beer.

Among the many awful things chemo does, it also breaks down muscle mass. I used to shoulder press with 25 lb dumbbells, and now I’m struggling with 5 lbs! It’s really quite remarkable. And not in a good way.

I also suffered from lung toxicity over the course of chemo and I don’t feel like my lungs are quite where they were when I was healthy. My cardiovascular fitness has gotten pretty bad too. But I can’t push it too hard in case there is still a tumour wrapped around the vein that pumps blood into my heart.

Of course, there’s the added issue of my left elbow looking like this the last time we checked:

I’ve gained a lot of strength and movement in that arm over the past several months, but it’s nowhere close to being where it was before the skating accident. I still can’t bear a lot of weight on it. A push up for example is impossible. Even doing repetitions with light weights can be painful.

With aaalllll of that said, I’m really quite excited. Fitness used to be my life, and participating in it again makes me feel like me. It gives me a sense of normalcy that I so desperately crave. Plus, the endorphins do wonders for my mood. I’ll keep you updated as time goes on in the quest to get my fitness back. Maybe I’ll even update that ole’ workout page with some new workouts again!

Anticipating Life On The Outside

To someone on the outside, I bet it makes sense that going through the rigorous treatment for cancer would be the hardest part of a diagnosis. Getting the diagnosis is earth shattering and the following treatment is no walk in the park. Hospital stays, surgery, radiation rays through the skin. Yeah, on the outside that doesn’t sound fun at all.

But from the time of my diagnosis, I’ve been on a focused path of being cancer-free again. I stopped going to work and instead woke up every day with only one job to do – get healthy again.

But what happens when I am healthy again? For six months, my life has been going to appointments, taking pills, dealing with fatigue and illness, and of course, walking the dog. But when the cancer is gone and I get a clear bill of health, how am I going to jump back into “normal” life as a citizen of the world again? I haven’t even been inside a shopping mall for six months!

In my opinion, being told you’re cancer-free is arguably harder than the initial diagnosis itself. With cancer I was told what to expect, but I have no idea what to expect of life post-cancer. Even as my hair grows back, the chemo fog lifts, and the fatigue slowly melts away, will I ever feel truly healthy again? There will always be a looming scan in the future and fear of hearing another diagnosis from a doctor’s lips.

Currently I am in this weird waiting period between my last chemo and a scan checking in on its effect. The scan will either show lingering cancer the doctors will want to radiate, or show no signs of cancer and I get to skip out of the hospital cancer-free once again.

But waking up cancer-free knowing what it’s like to wake up with cancer is not as relieving and joyous as it sounds. Especially in the first few months as my body slowly recovers and I learn to adjust back to my old life. As I adjust to being a girl in her 20’s again instead of that sick girl who watches too many movies.

I remember driving home from the hospital after being chained to an IV pole in the oncology ward for a month. It is so, so weird to be stuck inside one building for that amount of time. Kind of what I imagine jail to be like. Even though I was in my hometown the whole time, as I drove toward my house, it all felt so strange and foreign. My house was the same, but I was walking through it differently with a whole new perspective.

As I come closer to my cancer-free date, I feel very similar. Although this time I’ve been free to move around, it’s as if the news will allow me to step outside this bubble I’ve been living in for six months. In some ways it will be a refreshing breath of fresh air. In other ways, it will also feel so strange and foreign. The world will certainly look a lot different, and that can be scary.

I am not trying to be poetic here. In all seriousness, the first thing I’m doing when I’m cancer-free is walking into a bar and ordering a drink.

And then another.

Holiday Highlights

Hellohello! I am checking in after a week off from blogging. Hope everyone had a good Christmas! I am finally starting to come through the other side after getting chemo last Wednesday. I also stopped taking Prednisone last Friday, so between the chemo side effects and withdrawals, I’ve been feeling pretty crappy. Here are some of the holiday highlights though!

Finally got my Christmas picture of Buster! He got so spoiled this year. All of my family members bought him gifts (a coat, booties, treats, and toys), not to mention nonstop love and cuddles from all the people in the house.

Archie however, kind of hated this Christmas. I think that cute spaniel ruined it for him. Poor poodle.

We had snow for Christmas! It’s all melted by now, but I hope it comes back soon. As much as I love warmth, I love my seasons. Cold and snowy ones included.

My dad bought the third-last Christmas tree in Moncton on Dec 23rd. It is so ugly. It looks even wider decorated!

My middle sister (I have two older sisters) came home from Quebec! I love having all of us girls together. Until we start drinking at arguing that is (joking!) (mostly!).

My oldest sister who used to live in Ottawa lives at home with me now. I keep her well fed, she keeps the house clean, ha.

We played games on Christmas Eve. I won, thanks to the help of my little teammate. Buster mostly just tried to catch and eat the dice.

For Christmas brunch we had baked French toast with sugared pecans. Usually we do a ham, egg, and cheese casserole thingy, but I can’t eat ham or cheese this year because of the drugs I’m on. Don’t even get me started on how lame it was to have food restrictions over Christmas…

And of course, on Christmas morning we opened gifts! Packed in reused gift bags over the years.

How sweet of Buster to get me something. Ha!

My step-siblings stopped by in their Christmas peejays. I’ve got five teenage step-siblings – three on my mom’s side and two on my dad’s side. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I also love being part of a big family.

Last but not least, my contribution to Christmas dinner, a pumpkin trifle! Recipe found here. I would definitely recommend this as a recipe to try, it was a fun way to change up our usual fruit trifle. Usually I make closer to half of the Christmas dishes, but this year I was just too sick and fatigued. The cooking is my favourite part so I was bummed to miss out on it!

Overall, this Christmas gets a solid “okay.” One of my grandmothers went into the hospital Christmas Eve after falling at home. She is fine, nothing is broken, but she is quite shaken up. I of course was sick from chemo and drug withdrawals. I usually take a lot more photos but didn’t feel inclined to do so this year, as I honestly don’t really care to remember the Christmas I was sick, bald, and had a swollen face.

Most of all, I am looking forward to the New Year. To put 2011 and all of its crappiness behind me. To start fresh chemo-free. The worst of my last chemo is behind me and I’ve got nothing but new days ahead of me to feel better and better. Four weeks until the PET scan to see if there’s any signs of remaining cancer. Please start crossing your fingers now!

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