Thursday, June 25, 2009
As (I hope) you know, many people diagnosed with cancer are not unhealthy, cigarette-smoking, fast-food-eating, non-gym-going laggards just waiting for a terminal disease to punish them for years of not taking care of themselves. Although a little overweight (every time I say that, I think, “Over WHAT weight?!), I considered myself pretty active at the time I was diagnosed. I went on Sierra Club hikes almost every weekend and ate pretty healthy (except for the occasional cinnamon knuckle or chocolate chip cookie). Once I got on Adriamycin and Cytoxan, though, that all went to hell.
AC, as it’s called, makes you nauseous for 3-5 days after treatment, and you’re so tired, you feel like you’ve been a) hit by a truck or b) running for two days. You’re so tired that even simple things can wipe you out, and by the time you get your appetite back, you’re so hungry you want to EAT a truck! To make matters worse, I was beset by indigestion so bad that at one point, everything I ate either made me want to throw up, or gave me heartburn (later, I found out it was my gallbladder). By the time I was done with AC, it was onto Taxol, which didn’t give me nausea, but brought with it neuropathy in my feet and its own share of tiredness.
Adriamycin has a risk of heart damage in patients treated with it, and I knew that the road back to healthy, especially after 6 months of being pretty sedentary, would be a long one. Anxious to get my healthy body back, and feeling stronger now that I could see the light at the end of the chemo tunnel, I started jogging again, halfway through Taxol. I made sure I cleared it with my doctor, of course, and began very, very slow – 3 minutes at 4 miles an hour, followed by one minute at 3 miles an hour, for about 30 minutes, on a treadmill. I remember the day I did two miles in 33 minutes – I was ecstatic! Never mind that I use to run a 5K in 33 minutes – two miles was a marathon to me, and I celebrated by telling myself, one step at a time, April.
Running has always been my favorite way to work out, second only to hiking. You don’t have to think too hard to do it; it’s not competitive, and the more you do it, the better you feel when you do! Just put one foot in front of the other, at a pace you’re comfortable at, until you’re done – that’s it! If you want to push yourself, you just pick up your pace or change your route. It’s so easy to measure your progress, too – you can work to improve how far you run or how fast you run – and at the end of the day, you only measure your success against your own performance. It’s the ultimate low-stress sport, mentally anyway.
I’ve met quite a few people, of course, who hate running – just HATE it. They say their knees are bad or their back is bad or they can’t stand being on a treadmill or working out so hard. I say, if you don’t like running, try walking or hiking. Find a nice path or loop in a safe part of your neighborhood and just go for a walk. Walking is a safe, easy way to work your way back to health after an illness. It will get you your Vitamin D for the day, a chance to breathe some fresh, clean air, and some time to just clear your head and enjoy the scenery. So often, we are either going-going-going at a breakneck speed, or crashed, still and motionless from exhaustion. Running and walking give you an opportunity to move through life at a more relaxed pace, which might put things in perspective for you.
More more info on Running and Walking, check these websites out: