Obviously, our bodies are far more hardy than we give them credit for. Less than 12 hours after my six-hour surgery the nurses were encouraging me out of bed and to move about. I thought they were insane but I was discharged after four days so I should have just trusted them. In fact, when I was released I don’t think I got the balance of resting and moving right which landed me back in the hospital a couple of weeks later for three days with an unidentified infection and high fever.
They thought it might be an infection in the lymph’s as I lost so many nodes during surgery. Not moving enough created cysts that weren’t draining (I was tested and cleared for literally everything else you could think of). After this, I started trying to walk every day. At first, it was just a walk around the block to eventually walking my 5k run route. The difference in my body was dramatic and I soon realised on days I was not active, my body was sluggish and heavy.
I feel I have been very lucky at this point with side effects of the chemotherapy. I have constipation, a little nausea, a little bone ache, very mild neuralgia and flickers of tingling in my hands and soles of the feet. If I can keep active then I hope to keep any other symptoms at bay! Therefore, the plan for my first run was to slowly jog the first leg of my usual running route along Dalvy road and stop when I got to the entrance of the Botanic Gardens with the idea of walking for a bit and then running again in the last leg if I felt up to it. This gave a 0.92km run to start and would normally take me five minutes to complete.
I completed this stretch in eight minutes. I took it incredibly slowly but I gained confidence by just spending time feeling how my body responded to the exercise. I was amazed that my body was enjoying it and happy that I wasn’t the slightest bit out of breath. My brain kicked in though so I chose not to run any more on this outing and was just content to walk the rest of the 4k at a reasonable walking speed. I’m glad I chose to listen to my body because even that fairly moderate exercise made me pretty tired that night.
This run also confirmed that the biggest challenge in my previous Couch to 5k training was my brain telling me I can’t run. I was concentrating on how my body felt so I barely noticed I was running. Ironically it was the easiest run I have ever done.
I was so encouraged by my successful run, I went out again a day later doing the same route and managed another two runs before round three of my chemo, gradually running for 2k without stopping.
I’m only one week into my activity but I already feel a massive impact on my recovery journey, I am less fearful of my body and its current abilities. I feel I have taken control in a situation that doesn’t give you many options to take charge and I feel I am benefitting from it both mentally and physically.
There is no doubt about it, cancer is scary, chemo sucks and there are days where you doubt yourself and your ability to stay strong and fight. It is so apparent to me that a positive mental attitude is half the battle and running has really given me a head start with the positivity.
My body is being ravaged with chemicals yet I feel good, I feel fit and I feel strong. My journey is only really just beginning and I don’t know where it will take me but, I am determined that running and exercise will be a part of my routine moving forward.