Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Getting back into "normal" shape

After your body has been pounded with surgery, chemo, and/or radiation there are two big things standing in your way to getting "better". First, the physical aspect, and secondly the mental aspect.

First of all I will deal with the physical side today, for me, this seemed to be like a more straight forward thing to deal with.

By the time I was finished a year of cancer treatments, I was left with no hair, no muscle, and barely the ability to go up and down stairs. I was easily in the worst shape of my life. Further to that, my leg where I had surgery (which had not really healed properly) had issues, and I had a pretty bad hip burn from radiation. A lot of things to overcome.

The first thing I did was let my body rest. Not having treatments anymore allowed me to start recovering. I still did not eat a ton, or eat "regular" foods, but I gave myself about a month to heal. Not having chemo or radiation any more allowed my leg to heal up a bit more, and my radiation burn to heal up as well.

After this month I found my apatite was returning, and I physically could eat some food again. I made sure to eat as often as I could and importantly, very healthy. i used to eat healthy before I was sick, but this became imperative now. Since my body could tolerate food, I made sure to give it what it needed.

I found I could start exercising again as well. After a few more weeks. I bought a gym pass and started to go there a couple times a week. Nothing strenuous at first, I honestly could not do weights, so I would use the exercise bike a few times a week, at very low resistance, for about twenty minutes.

As the weeks rolled by, I was able to increase my biking and start doing weights. I had lost basically all my muscle mass when going through chemo, so the weights I started with were very low. Lifting a five pound weight with one arm was my starting point. That was how out of shape I was. I started with machine weights as well as these were much easier. The big thing was to not overdo it. One time I tried to increase the weight at a pace of what a "normal" person would and hurt myself. It took what seemed like forever to heal. After getting chemo your body does not recover as quickly as it did before, I learned this the hard way. Don't rush. As frustrating as it is to go slow, I found I basically had to. Anyone who doubts my determination though should see my scars, I will not quit.

As the months moved by I was able to incorporate free weights, and gradually increase the weight, as well as get off the stationary bike and on to a real road bike. This was a huge step for me. I started biking all the time, and after a few months went from doing 5 km rides to doing 120 km rides (albeit very slow, everyone tells me I do it on grit and determination rather then being in the shape to do it), but I achieved my goal of biking from Vancouver to Seattle this year. And with weights although still not doing anything impressive, I have built my body back up to a good starting point for weight training again.

This whole process took almost eight months, and is still going on eleven months later. It is slow, but it is getting better. I have continued to bike, and although slow, I am working on speed, and working on strength training now too. If anyone out there has tips and advice, I will gladly listen!

I look forward to being in "good" shape again, not to be proud of my body, I am proud of my body for withstanding cancer, but to gain a bit of my strength that was taken away from me. It is a long road, but I am determined to get back into great shape!

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