Lazy Girl Crockpot Curry

It has been exactly 138 days since I last set foot in a gym. In other words, 19.7 weeks, or 4.6 months. I know this specifically because I went to the gym the day before I was admitted to hospital with a 14cm mass in my chest. In retrospect, a moderate elliptical workout when there are veins protruding from your neck is NOT a good idea. But going to the gym was just a part of my day. It was a habit I spent a long time establishing and became one that was not easily broken.

I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about the gym a lot lately. When I first got sick, exercise of any kind was the furthest thing from my mind. I was on bed rest in the beginning, so walking wasn’t even an option. By the time I started chemotherapy, the cancer was pushing on my lungs and making me short of breath. The biggest roadblock so far has been the fact that the most active part of the cancer is wrapping itself around my superior vena cava – one of the main veins that brings blood into my heart. I have to be careful when I get my heart rate up and blood pumping because that area is being squeezed.

Even though I was a self-professed fitness fiend (so much so, I even turned it into my work as a personal trainer!), giving up fitness has been strangely easy for me. I still try to move my body every day for the sake of keeping it healthy for treatment. Since getting Buster, I like to save my energy for dog walks lasting 30-90 minutes each day depending on how well I’m feeling. But for the most part, I haven’t spent much of the last 138 days missing my old fitness routines and active lifestyle. It’s actually been a nice break to be lazy for a while!

That is, until recently. Over the past few weeks I find myself daydreaming about how I’m going to learn to run again, what kind of exercises I want to focus on to get my strength back, and even rejoining the gym. The trainer in me is thinking up schedules and plans to get my fitness level back up when this chemo thing is over in two months (so long as I don’t need radiation after). It’s nice to feel that motivation again, and start to feel hope that maybe, maybe, I’ll be healthy enough one day to take on an active lifestyle again.

Apart from the cancer and chemo business, I still have more roadblocks to get through until I can get there. There is of course my broken arm, which surprise, is still broken! I’ve gained a lot more mobility with it over the past few months, particularly with rotating my hand. But I’ll never be able to straighten my left arm fully, and I still can’t put any weight on it. I mentioned before that I took a gentle yoga class a few weeks ago. While I could do most of the movements, I was still very limited with my arm. Sun salutations and downward dogs are officially out of the question for me, most likely forever. Upper-body strength training will always be a challenge.

On top of that, there’s the new development of lung toxicity. The chemo poisoned my lungs and I’m experiencing decreased lung capacity because of it. I’m on Prednisone steroids now which have helped with the coughing and shortness of breath a lot. Before, I couldn’t get off the couch without gasping for air. Now I can at least yawn without breaking into a coughing fit. Next week I will start the two month process of weaning myself off the steroids, so hopefully the symptoms won’t come back. I’m also going to start seeing a respirologist to help “rehabilitate” my lungs. Here’s hoping the damage to my lungs is reversible and that they’ll be able to withstand running again someday!

I know full well that I won’t be back to my “old fighting form” as soon as all of this is over. I have learned too much throughout this experience that I don’t desire the same sort of vanity fitness goals I had before. The trainer in me is instead considering my roadblocks and thinking of ways to work around them to still have a healthy, happy, post-cancer, post-injury body.

Like any endorphin-junkie, I can’t wait to work up a sweat again. But until then, I know to keep up my daily walking routine, while enjoying this rare opportunity to be lazy. This past weekend that included lots of Beverly Hills 90210:

Chemo brain food.

As well as near-effortless meals made in the slow cooker and rice cooker:

Crockpot Chicken Coconut Curry:

Cube and brown 4-6 chicken breasts in a pan.

Cube 2-4 medium sized potatoes, slice 2 small onions, and add them to the slow cooker.

In a bowl, combine:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp curry power
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Kashmir chili powder (or cayenne)
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

Add chicken and sauce to the slow cooker, cooking on low for 9-10 hours, or medium for 6. This is not a super spicy curry, despite all the curry powder (which isn’t very spicy to begin with). Just enough heat to make your nose run a little, but all the flavours are able to shine through.

The rice was an extra special treat. I finally cracked open the saffron I brought back from Toronto!

I’ve been hoarding this and knew it would lose its flavour if I didn’t use it soon. This little box cost $10!

I used this recipe with the addition of 1 tsp parsley flakes and 1 tbsp salted butter instead of fish sauce. It was perfect in every way.

Now, I will admit that it is sometimes really hard to sit back and watch people around me do the activities I love. I’d be lying to say I don’t feel a pang of jealousy when I see a runner out on a gorgeous day, or hearing about the fitness goals and accomplishments of others. Seeing as I can’t currently do most things fitness related, my interest in it has kind of plummeted.

But I keep reminding myself that this is my time to heal. I am currently doing what is best for my body, which is completely different than what is best for someone who is in a different stage of their life. Fitness is not a linear path. It’s all about the ups and downs and dealing with the roadblocks as they come. I am trying really hard to enjoy my lazy days with 90210, the slow cooker, and casual walks, while using my daydreams of fitness routines at the gym as something to look forward to and work towards.

Posted on November 7, 2011, in Cancer, Injury, Recipes and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. You WILL be strong again and I’m so glad that your mind is thinking about how you’re going to get there! Hoping and praying that radiation is not needed when chemo is complete so that you can start to take your life back from this disease. I hope this week is full of things that make you smile. :)

  2. You are so strong! Right now what matters most is healing:) You will be back in the gym before you know it. Have a wonderful week!

  3. yes this is 100% true.. Now I need to learn to listen to your advice, this is also my time to heal.. “just keep swimming, just keep swimming” as my good friend Dori the fish likes to say :)

  4. Don’t forget…while you might not be doing high-intensity exercise, pup is probably still keeping you more active that the average person. I love the way that you write, Susan. Your posts are very easy to read and your voice is strong.

    • Yes! If it weren’t for Buster, I wouldn’t have the motivation to get out walking a lot of days, so I’m thankful he’s around to keep me moving :)

  5. A daily walk is more than I do and I don’t have nearly as good of an excuse! I know it’s hard though when you are comparing your current circumstances to your old life. I know as soon as you are cancer free you will get back to an active lifestyle quickly!

    I haven’t watched 90210 in years! That is something I’ll have to sneak and watch while my husband is working late so he wouldn’t make fun of me! lol!

  6. I personally get very annoyed when people look for “the bright side” in a bad situation like a cancer diagnosis, so forgive me if I turn into one of those people here. But if there is a “bright side” to your situation, it’s that if you choose to go back to working as a personal trainer, you’ll have much more understanding of the difficulties that some people face in becoming physically active. I’m sure that people who struggle with physical limitations will appreciate the first-hand understanding that you bring to your work with them.

    Also, that curry looks fabulous. I may need to steal the recipe, as it’s definitely getting to be crock pot weather here.

    • Don’t worry, I am one of those “I’ll never be thankful for cancer” people too. I’ll take healthy ignorance any day! With that said, I do have hopes of using my fitness knowledge to help cancer patients in the future. There isn’t much we’re told about how we can stay active and healthy during treatment, and it would be really nice if there was a person who could work one-on-one with them outside of a hospital setting to teach them how to do it safely. Perhaps a side project for when I’m all better :)

  7. Yeah, now’s the time to enjoy your lazy. Rest, recover and Netflix it up girl.

    I thought of another thing that makes cancer and pregnancy similar…..I constantly think about my fitness routine, all the things i’ll be able to do AFTER the baby. How i’ll get my body back in shape and what it was before pregnant. I should just move to a Canadian cottage now and we could take slow walks together. hehe

  8. I am totally stealing/borrowing your ‘lazy girl’ crockpot curry! Looks SO good and I was just saying to M how much I wanted curry, we haven’t made it lately. And you are right, now is the time to rest and recover, but I can imagine it is very difficult some days when you just want to work up a sweat. At least you can maybe put together your plan of attack workout-wise when you can safely go back to it? Daydream?

  9. OMG OMG OMG 90210 is on demand?!?

    • I know!! Seasons 1-6 are on Netflix now. Although, that’s Canadian Netflix, which is completely different (and usually suckier) than U.S. Netflix. I now have enough material to occupy me until I’m off sick leave :)

  10. The curry looks delicious, I love crockpot food. I’m totally making this…

  11. This is your time to heal. I know you iwll be stronger from this. You will come back with a endurance like no other.
    I want curry now tonight!

  12. I wonder if you could specialize in helping people regain fitness after illness/injury and recovery in the future. Be someone that a person like that would feel comfortable going to.

    • I am definitely thinking about maybe putting a few hours a week into training cancer patients when all of this is through. Inpatients meet with physiotherapists, but outpatients don’t get any advice or counselling on what specifically to do to stay active, apart from being told to stay active. There’s certainly a need for it!

  13. You’ll get there soon enough!! And I’m totally making this curry…except i don’t have $10 saffron…crap.

  14. i know it must be hard not to be active, but you are doing everything right. taking time for you and your body to heal!!!

    and wahoo for 90210, haha loved that show

  15. WHY OH WHY does marshall not like coconut milk?

    I am so sure you miss sweat sessions. I can’t imagine how frustrating that must be because you are such a mover. Booo, hiss, cancer blows.

  16. I’m certain that I would be feeling exactly like you are feeling now. Frustrated not to be able to do what you want to do. But you are one smart cookie and by realizing that this is a very very important time for your body to heal, you will come back even stronger. If you push yourself TOO hard now, you won’t be able to make the “rocky balboa” comeback! :-)

    And yes, I’m sure that Buster is helping you be active on days that you’d probably rather be in your PJs.

    I’m Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo in love with my crock pot right now- so I totally cracked up when I saw that you were using yours. I did make that lamb shank casserole with root veggies and it was soooooooooo good. Now I want a coconutty pot o-goodness.

  17. I wonder if that’s a sign that you are truly getting better that you are starting to think of fitness routines again- you know like before you just felt SO terrible that it was easy to stop being active and now that you are starting to feel better you are thinking about it again? If so, yay :)

    Also this crock pot recipe looks delicious :)

  18. I was SO happy when I scrolled down to the 90210 picture that it was of the original cast and not this new crap they’re trying to pass off as 90210 :D This recipe looks amazing, I LOVE Indian food but most recipes I come across have about 296 ingredients in them that I don’t have so I’m really excited to see a simple (slow cooker, yesssssssssss) recipe and I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for the inspiration as always. Good for you for slowing down and taking care of yourself, you’ll be back to your old routine (or something close to it) in no time!

  19. I think there is a time in life for everything. Some moments in life are best spent bein active and hikin tall mountains or whatever, and some are meant for healing and resting. You have a long life ahead of you. No need to be concerned about being “active”. And who’s to say you aren’t being “fit” or “active” by doing what your doing? Chemo, healing, cooking (even lazy girl cooking”) is pretty incredible and not every marathoner can hack it.

    • I agree, I think it’s much harder to be still than it is to be busy. As much as people say they want spare time, I think a lot of us would go kind of crazy if we suddenly found ourselves with nothing but free time and the inability to do anything useful with it.

  20. DUDE. We just broke out the crockpot and I want this immediately.

  21. I have had to take 2 different breaks (a 6 week and an 8 week) from running (and repetitive strain on stress fractured bones) and while neither involved COMPLETE rest (I was able to do yoga and weights) I found it surprisingly easy to not run. It was nice not to think about it, not to worry about scheduling it, and to just take a break. But by the time the end of those breaks hit I was itching to go again- so after your 138 days, I’m not surprised you’re feeling ready to go.

    How on earth will you choose what to do first?!?

    • RUNNING. I am dying to run. I know I’ve always been more of a weights and gym girl, but I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately and I reeeeeally miss being able to go fast. I want so badly just to be able to pick up my feet and cruise along the street in sneakers! Sumo squats and bench presses? Notsomuch ;)

  22. Susan! I made this yesterday for dinner tonight so it would have a day to hang out in the fridge – it was so good even my dad (who is well-known for never leaving his culinary comfort zone) ate it! I did make a few minor changes and got adventurous with my vegetable additions. Thanks for the inspiration, I’d been craving Indian food for about the last 3 years and thanks to you I finally got some! Have a fantastic weekend!

    • Yayy! Happy to know! What were the vegetable additions? I was thinking of maybe adding peas the next time I make it…

      • I also put in carrots, sweet potato, zucchini (wanted eggplant but it wasn’t looking so hot at the store), some red/orange/yellow peppers, and chickpeas, along with a few cloves of garlic. I LOVE chickpeas in my curries so had to have those. I did think about putting peas in but I had about 20 minutes to throw it in the crockpot, and the vegetables I chopped wouldn’t all fit in anyway so I just called it done! Another thing I wanted to put in but missed was cauliflower but it was expensive. I got everything to make this with about $15 and it fed my parents and me with PLENTY leftover – enough to freeze several portions for myself, about half of a 9×13″ dish. The other thing I did was make it with chicken thighs. Cheaper and I kind of wanted the fat in there (plus it’s really hard to screw up a thigh in a crock pot). Delicious with basmati rice!

  23. new to your blog and I’m so happy Stephanie directed me here. It sounds as though, without the sweaty workouts there are outlets: your cooking, your walks and fun shows. I just bought a slow cooker and love curry can’t wait to try this.

  1. Pingback: What a Crock « Leftovers For Lunch

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