On Betrayal Of The Body

Back in August, I wrote a post called “Radically Free.” It came about because I was feeling disillusioned by my healthy lifestyle after being diagnosed with cancer.

A lot of people will report they feel betrayed by their bodies when they are diagnosed with an illness. I’m not sure if I would use such a harsh term to describe how I felt, but there’s no denying that it definitely hurt my feelings and ego.

The first thing anyone does when diagnosed with a disease like cancer is ask “why, when, and how?” It just didn’t make sense to me how I could end up with lymphoma. I exercised 5-6 times a week. I followed the food guide recommendations. I didn’t drink that much. Generally, I was a pretty happy person.

I mean sure, I’d had my party hardy days like anyone else my age. I smoked for six years, but hadn’t touched a cigarette in just as long. I cleaned up my act to be a healthier person. But I still ended up really, really unhealthy in a way I never thought could be so possible so soon in my life.

Beginning from the time I was admitted to hospital, I started to doubt what I preached as a personal trainer and nutrition specialist. Did any of it really matter? My grandmother eats nothing but white bread and soup with MSG, and she’s 88 years old with no physical health issues.

Time however is a funny thing, and as time has gone on my perception of this has changed.

Cancer, illness, accidents, we can’t control these things. We can do all we want to prevent them, but in the end we don’t get the final say. We just don’t.

Instead, I’ve come to be thankful for the time spent being healthy before my diagnosis. Why? Because it’s made being sick so much easier.

Treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is no walk in the park. There’s a reason why it’s so effective. They weren’t fooling around when they cooked up the cocktail for the 14cm mass in my chest. So while I have indeed been on my ass these past couple days because of treatment, I really do think I am overall handling it okay. And I credit that fully to the good shape my body was in before I started treatment.

I hate to think what treatment would feel like if it weren’t for the healthy eating and exercise habits I’d already established beforehand. I might be weaker. I might be sicker. I might be more susceptible to infection.

So I guess it’s safe to say I’m not quite so disillusioned anymore. Perhaps treating my body well won’t ever be able to prevent illness, but I’ll still treat it right if it helps me get through illness stronger. If anything, I’m happy I had the good sense to take care of my body while I could. So when the time came, it could withstand what it needed to in order to live.

Chemo #11 went as well as it could on Wednesday. Buster is feigning chemo fatigue and we’ve been napping lots. My oncologist said he can’t imagine I’d need to do any more chemo after this round, so I’ll be sitting in the treatment chair for what may be the last time in FIVE days! I don’t have my appointment for the PET scan yet, which will show if there’s any active cancer left and decide on the rest of my treatment plan. But you can tell Santa all I want is Zofran for Christmas.

Have a great weekend!

Posted on December 16, 2011, in Buster, Cancer, Pets. Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. Great post.

    “Perhaps treating my body well won’t ever be able to prevent illness …” — This is true. One thing I’ve learned in the last year (my mom passed away of breast cancer) is that cancer DOES NOT CARE who you are or what you’re doing. It doesn’t care if you’re Steve Jobs, or if you’re a 25 year old personal trainer, or if you’re a vibrant, joyful grandmother. It just doesn’t care. So the really important thing, as you say, is treating our bodies well so they are more resilient and able to weather the storm of a serious illness.

    Wishing you the best as you go into your last treatment.

  2. My theory is that it’s better to be proactive than reactive with most things, including physical health. Most people wait until something happens to take the necessary steps towards wellness of any kind, when in actuality, taking care of yourself beforehand makes anything that arises just a little bit easier to handle.

    Does it prevent things? Not all the time, as there is SO much out of our control. However, it can prevent the additional mountains one might have to climb if they were starting out from ground zero instead of where you (and others who take care of themselves) begin that journey of regaining your health.

    I’m SOOO happy you’re almost done. Also, Buster completes me. The end.

  3. My mom’s best friend had cancer and used to get mad at her “You smoke, drink and eat crap and I’m the one who’s sick”. It doesn’t always make sense. I live with a man who is the same and feel like I’m more susceptible to getting sick than he is. But if our healthy lifestyles keep us strong and make your treatment better than yes, there is value.

    I had an ATV flip over and onto me twice in Mexico. It was right after I had decided to put on weight and start running. I was fine, but remember thinking had I been fragile and weak it could have crushed me. It really helped me value my health over anything else.

    I am grateful for your health, your words, and sharing this process.

  4. i’ve been reading for a while but don’t think i’ve ever left a comment. it is so wonderful to hear the news that this could be your last chemo treatment. i also wanted to add that i agree 100% about treating your body right, even if we don’t have the final say. 2 years ago a good friend of mine was shot 6 times in his chest in an altercation. he was in the hospital for months and underwent 11+ surgeries and still has 4 or 5 bullets lodged in his body. for anyone else, this would have been a death sentence, but he survived because he was in such amazing physical shape (captain of the lacrosse team in school) and took care of himself pre-accident. just wanted to share. hang in there, you’re taking all of this in stride and it’s truly inspiring.

    • Yes, that is exactly what I’m talking about!! Oddly, when I broke my arm last February, my surgeon chose a somewhat “experimental” surgery because I was young and healthy and he was confident my bones would heal. Little did we know cancer would prevent that from happening, which I suppose is telling in a whole other way. Thanks for sharing that story, I hope your friend is doing okay these days!

  5. I think people do underestimate the benefits of being active and strong. It’s not just to look good in a swimsuit, but to weather the hard stuff – which is really the most important thing.

    That is *good* news that there is likely only 1 more treatment!

    I love Buster’s sweet face. What a cutie :D

  6. Another great post. The worst is behind me; I was most at risk before I was even admitted to the hospital. Reading pulmonary embolism stats is sobering, but I 100% believe that thanks to the healthy habits I had, my body was able to fight and keep me alive when other people aren’t so lucky. I also believe that the healthy base I had will help me recover that much more quickly and that I will eventually be back to my regular fitness level. I do get frustrated – a month out and I still get winded walking up the stairs – but two weeks ago I couldn’t do a flight of stairs at all. I thank my healthy lifestyle every day. Health problems happen no matter what you do; we are proof of that. But it’s how our bodies respond as we recover that is so very telling.

    • I still get winded very easily too (for different reasons, but I have lung issues as well) and sometimes get frustrated by it. The idea for this post actually came to me while I was walking up a hill and out of breath. I thought bitterly about how I used to fly up hills running. Then remembered I was in the hospital with patients who had to get physio just to walk the hospital halls, while I can still walk 3-5 miles every day. I’m not sure if I’d be able to do that if it wasn’t for all of that running before!

  7. Wonderful post. You are so very right about that which we cannot control and that which we can. I continue to be amazed and encouraged by your spirit! :)

  8. Hello : )
    I don’t think I’ve commented before, but I have to on this one. Not that I have anything profound to add, but just wanted to let you know that another stranger in another part of the world is reading and greatly appreciates your words.
    This is so brilliantly written, and I think you’re spot on. People don’t get to choose, but we can do what we can to help our bodies, if we work with our bodies.
    I’ve never been in a situation like you, and I can’t pretend to imagine what it’s been like for you. The majority of my family seem to get cancer at some point (that, or Parkinson’s. Horay for the gene-pool!), with two family members right now, and again it’s often a case of the health-conscious ones who get it. I do worry that it’ll hit my parents or sister, or even me. You’ve kind of been demystifying cancer for me, breaking it down into something that isn’t just a Big Scary Thing, and into something biological and real and therefore able to be tackled, so I thank you for that. I had to get a neck lump checked out a couple of months ago, and I was terrified of the results, but reading your blog brought me reality-based comfort of what it might’ve been (it’s fine, but the not-knowing fear was very real). I think it was your blog that also made me get it checked out sooner rather than later.
    People may not be able to prevent cancer, but by looking after our bodies, perhaps we will notice warning signs sooner when something’s up, and have a greater chance?

    I really do wish you all the best. You and your body are amazing. I raise my (imaginary) pint glass to you in the utmost respect.
    Thank you.

    • You brought up another good point in the end too – taking good care of our bodies may help us identify anything that’s wrong sooner. And of course, taking care of ourselves includes going to the doctor!! (a lesson I learned the hard way, I think). Happy to hear the neck lump wasn’t anything too serious. I think we can both agree the fear of not knowing is still better than the anger of learning you put something off for too long. xoxo

  9. Hi Susan another one I can relate to …when I found out I was sick I would cry in the bathroom and look at my body and be so frustrated to think that my conscious and healthy life style before cancer had all been for not.. No smoking or drinking here I was always careful about what and where I ate. And I thought all for what to end up with of all things cancer (although I know it could be worse) and i felt so let down but then I would try to look at the fact that if I would of led a different lifestyle than recovery and chemo perhaps would of not been as smooth as it has been (I still feel like crap after each chemo but I think you know what I mean) I am so glad you won’t need anymore chemo ! Yay!

  10. i love that you found a positive way to look at the situation. even if being healthy and exercising can’t prevent disease, it certainly isn’t hurting you or your recovery. have a great weekend!

  11. AHHH i love you. i love your ramblings and i love that chemo is almost over. and i love that photo of buster.

  12. Buster is too cute with his little wink hehe :)

    I am so excited for you! I hope you get everything you wish for, for Christmas. I want you to be healthy again!!!

  13. Such a great way to look at it – you are fighting this thing far better than someone going into this illness having not lived a healthy lifestyle just before being diagnosed. SO important to remember that this is the same strength that will pull you through in the end. Your spirit continues to amaze me, as usual.

  14. Great post, as usual! So glad chemo is almost over for you! Buster is so flipping cute!!! I’m glad you have him him to nap with! :)

  15. YES!! No more chemo – can’t wait to celebrate with you in MAY!! :)

  16. Susan, you could not have said it better! So many people say to me, “well this person drank and smoked and ate whatever they wanted and never got sick and this person ate extremely healthy and exercised and still got cancer”, and yes, I can see their point. However, if they are unhealthy and get sick, they may suffer even more complications than someone who took better care of themselves. Glad to hear your chemo is almost done!

  17. Buster is the cutest. I will be keeping all of my fingers and toes crossed that you will be chemo free soon!

  18. There’s an interesting book by David Servan-Schreiber called “Anticancer” – from the standpoint of a doctor battling his own brain cancer, it takes a really scientific approach to the ways we can combat cancer in terms of prevention and during treatment. The book focuses a lot on diet and the scientific proof behind anticancer foods (he also uses rats to experiment – so beware, if that is a sensitive issue for you!).
    One of my favorite things he says in the book is about prepping our terrain. It is exactly like you said – we can do what we can to be healthy, and at the end of the day some of us will still be dealt an unlucky card. But when you prep your terrain (i.e. your body) properly, you give yourself every chance to prevent disease and (most importantly!), to fight it off.
    Cheering for you in your battle!

    • That was one of the first books I read when I was diagnosed! I really liked it, I was quite upset to hear of his passing.

      • I was, too, but I’m glad he found purpose within his disease regardless.
        My dad is fighting a weird hard-to-identify type of sarcoma cancer. In light of what this book taught me, I am hoping to eventually wean him from his newfound Kool-Aid habit! It is the only way he is able to choke down all the water they need him to drink to keep his kidneys working properly, so, for now, I guess Kool-Aid is okay :)

  19. Wow, what an insightful post, yet again! Being healthy and fit before your diagnosis absolutely did help you! And I am SO glad to hear that you might be DONE with chemo in mere days!! Hallelujah!

  20. Done with chemo in five days! Fantastic … wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and happy 2012!

    Buster … as always … you bring a smile to my face!

  21. this is so true. And well said as always susan. Your health before has helped you recoup during cancer, that i believe. I believe your body knows what its like to be at the place and it will fight to get back. COngrats on the last chemo!!

  22. What an amazingly honest post. I’m so happy youve found hope and optimism during your treatment. My dad was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma 2 years ago and I think he went through this similar thought process. It’s a hard reality to face but one that makes you stronger.

  23. I know you’re handling the treatment better because you retook charge of your health. I consider the so-called “healthy living” I do (and it’s only partly how I live anyway) as an insurance policy or a backup plan. It won’t keep the bad stuff away but might lessen the blow. Love you and yay for no more chemo!!

  24. Been reading for a while. Just finished my ABVD treatments a little over 3 weeks ago and bouncing back to my old self more and more each passing day. Happy to hear this ordeal is coming to an end for you and hope that your PET scan results come back with no hot spots! Best of luck to you.

  25. We do the best we can in the areas of life we can control and have to keep that smile through the uncertainties. I’m so happy to hear your chemo news. Hug buster for me!

  26. That Buster cracks me up! I do think being healthy before cancer makes you stronger and better able to endure the “treat”ment now. Just imagine how hard this would be on your body if you were out of shape or in poor health at the outset. Hang tough! Hope you have a very good Christmas week!!

  27. I am so so so so wishing Santa brings you an end to chemo!!

    And, as always, your posts really resonate with me. This one actually made me choke up because I felt (and still feel, but I’m really trying to work on it) this weird guilt associated with my diagnosis – like there was something I did to get cancer. I kept saying “But I eat KALE and run and am nice to people?!” I don’t get it and might never will, but I do know that I didn’t bring this on myself – it just happens. It sucks, but it happens and can happen to anyone. And we deal with it the best way we can and thank god that our bodies are strong enough to handle it. xoxox!

  28. I could definitely see how the word betrayal could come about, Susan. This is exactly why I try not to stress if I don’t get a workout in, if I eat an extra cookie, or if I drink a little too much on a Friday night. Just because someone is 100% strict with “being healthy” doesn’t make them better than anyone else, and doesn’t guarantee anything.
    On another note, I think it’s great to hear you have a sense of pride for keeping healthy habits. <3 hugs, Susan!!

  29. Praying this is your last treatment!! XOXOXO

  30. Wonderful post Susan!!! Sending all the “last chemo” wishes I can to you!!! LOVE the comment about Buster feigning chemo fatigue. :) He’s such a cutie.

  31. HUGS & here is to a good holiday for you & hopefully a 2012 without chemo!!!!!!

    Love Buster & being there for you!

  32. Hi hon,

    can I ask if your diet has changed since getting cancer? (also, you in the recent posts above: you are stunningly beautiful).

    This post is so true. Illness does not happen because a person “deserves” it…it just happens …to anyone…healthy or not…good or bad…young or old.

    • Believe it or not, my diet has actually become less healthy since getting cancer! However, that’s 100% because of chemotherapy. I feel nauseous and sick a lot, so I base my foods on what I’ll be able to keep down (toast, sandwiches, potatoes, cooked vegetables, etc) and not on their nutrients. I also had a lot of food restrictions because of the chemo drugs I was taking. For example, I’m not allowed to have antioxidant rich foods because it interferes with the chemo, which I know sounds counterintuitive.

      Now that I’m done chemo I hope to pay better attention to what I’m eating. More organic, no eating out of plastics or cans, more green veggies, less meat, etc. I’m at a high risk for recurrence, so I plan on taking all the precautions I can.

  33. No worries. I think some people try to eat so “perfect” that the mental stress can actually deteriorate your body and mind…so try not to ever ever stress about it.

    I do not battle anything like the battle you have, but I do try not to feel guilty for things (i.e..i’m not vegetarian and actually eat quite heavily in animal-foods…dairy…plus because of low low money I can’t really afford organic and all that..we have to do the best we can i guess and not stress about it. Take care and lots of good cheer and fortune in the New Year.

  34. I like your perspective. We don’t know if healthy choices will make a difference when it comes to certain illnesses, but they can’t hurt! I hope that this is your last round. I also hope that your counts are okay, given the cumulative effects of chemo. xoxo

  1. Pingback: Things I Learned In 2011 « The Great Balancing Act

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: