Resilience of the Human Body

IMG_20170608_191945_361I went to yoga last night. It was a Yin class. Yin yoga is more passive and slow-paced and exactly what I needed. I really thought I wouldn’t be able to do much, but really I was able to do almost everything. My body remembers yoga! I want to take a minute to give a shout out to Robyn at Healium Hot Yoga who has been so nice and generous with me. She runs a wonderful yoga studio in Bay View and I highly recommend it to anyone in the area. There are all kinds of different classes and I can’t wait until I have the strength and ability to do more of them. I am in no way being paid or compensated for saying this.

20170604_090516I keep being amazed by what my body remembers and what I am able to do. My body remembers how to run. My body remembers how to bike. The human body is an amazing thing. Mine has been through hell and back in the last year, but it’s finally my body again. I’ve moved up to walk 3 minutes/run 2 minutes and am running under a 10:00 minute pace during those 2 minutes. It feels so good to run again. I’m taking it slow and at some point I’ll be fully running again. I’ve decided to be reasonable and nice to my body and mind and not even try to run a half marathon until spring 2018. I’m running the Race for the Bacon 5k at the end of July and am pretty sure I’m going to sign up for the Milwaukee Marathon 10k in October.

IMG_20170609_182317_314I didn’t get to run Ragnar Chicago this year. It would have been year 7 for me. It got difficult for me when race week hit. I volunteered for my team instead. That was a lot of fun and made me not miss running it as much. Plus at 9:30 I got to go have a beer with my fellow volunteers, then go home and sleep in a bed. It was fun and I’m really glad I volunteered for it. I’m still part of the running community and that never went away.

It’s sometimes baffling to me that almost 5 months ago I was in a hospital room unable to get out of bed. All those little walks down the hallway, that I didn’t want to do while I was stuck in the hospital, were worth it. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t fun, but I’ve made it this far. If I ever stop running it will be my choice and not because of what I went through this last year. I could lie and say I don’t think about it every day, but I do. I don’t know if I ever will stop, but at least now there are a lot of positive thoughts related to it all.

Cancer is life-altering, but not defining.

 

Living my life

20170521_162454On Monday I was sore from yard work. That has to be one of the most normal things I’ve said in months. I mowed my own lawn. I planted flowers. I cleaned my house. I did laundry. All on my own. This is a big step. I still had to sit down and rest a few times. And watch an episode of Billions. But I was able to do all of that.

On Saturday, May 20, four months since surgery, I ran for the very first time. It wasn’t much and it wasn’t far, but I ran. It felt weird at first but my body has not forgotten how to run! And that is amazing to me. A few weeks ago I went to Door County with my friends for the Door County Half Marathon, which is an awesome race, that I did not run this year. I only teared up a little driving into the park and then enjoyed my day. I did decide I will be there in 2018. I will run those beautiful hills. If I ever stop running it needs to be on my terms. It can’t be like this. I wasn’t done. I know I can run a faster half marathon. But it’s baby steps right now. My goal is to do a 5k by the end of the summer. I know I can walk it already so I just have to see how much I can run.

I can do so much more than even a month ago. I’m at work full time now. I am not physically and mentally exhausted on a daily basis anymore. I have good days and bad days. Sometimes I still feel awful enough I need to go home and rest, but that doesn’t happen often.

I’m starting to feel like this is my body again. For a long time it didn’t even seem real, that this was happening to me, to my body. And then it wasn’t my body for so long. It was a weak, sick body. I am now waking up muscles and starting to really use them again. I finally believe that I will get my strength back. It’s going to take time, but I believe it possible.

I’m trying really hard to not think about my cancer diagnosis all the time and it’s getting easier day by day, but I can’t forget it and I can act like it didn’t happen because it did. I think about things differently now because there is now way not to. I have more good days than bad days and intend to keep it that way.

Now What

On Wednesday April 19th I received the best news in the last 9 months: CLEAN SCANS! No evidence of disease. My totally horrible, invasive surgery and recovery were worth it. I’ve never seen my doctor looks so happy. I choked back tears as he gave me the results and then spent most of the day in tears. I was so nervous going in for this appointment. I was terrified of more chemo or another surgery.  After the elation my fears have risen back up. My scans might not be clear in another 3 months, 6 months, 5 years or 10 years, but I can not dwell on that. I think this is why my surgeon told me to live my life and not think about the cancer diagnosis.

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And live my life is what I plan to do. It started with drinking champagne four, no five, days in a row. It started with a giant sigh of relief. I got together with friends. I took my parents to dinner as a thank you for something I will never truly be able to thank them for. I joined a friend for her son’s soccer game. I walked around the entirety of my park for the first time since fall. I’m going to Door County with my friends even though I won’t be running the half marathon. I’m going to Madison. I’m finally going to Italy, after two cancelled trips, to visit my brother, sister-in-law and baby niece. I’m going to Portland for a wedding. I’m going to enjoy my summer. There will be grilling, kayaking, swimming, fires and even baseball games.

There are not enough words to express my gratitude to everyone who has supported me through this: friends, family, internet friends, high school and college friends I hadn’t spoken to in years, friends of friends. Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

A difficult reality

It’s truth time. It’s easy to write posts about the good things and the progress I’m making. It’s fun to write about having fun with friends. It’s also only a small fraction of my time. I still spend a lot of time on my couch. I spend a lot of time wondering what the hell happened to my life? I used to be busy all the time. By choice. I filled my life with friends and family and exercise and travel. I miss all of this.

As most of you know I’m an independent person. Often stubborn as well. My doctor called me fiercely independent which I really think meant stubborn pain in the ass. This translates to me wanting to be able to do everything for myself, but I can’t. I literally cannot do it all. I end up curled up in a ball upset about it. People keep offering to help, but I don’t know what to tell someone. I’m never going to be the person to ask for help. I don’t even ask my parents for help until I’m so upset I call my mom in tears over laundry or dinner or one of my cats annoying me.

I don’t want to be at work. I really thought I would want to be back. I mean, it’s great to see everyone and use my brain, but I don’t want to be there. This isn’t the normal I don’t want to go to work. This isn’t I hate my job and I don’t want to go. It’s something different that I can’t exactly pinpoint. I guess I can ask for help sometimes. I’m not driving myself to and from work, my parents are. I waste so much energy driving myself, it’s not worth it. I wish I didn’t have to work. Or didn’t have to work full-time. But I like my house and my car and eating.

I still have a terrible relationship with food. I hate that more than anything. I used to love food. I tolerate food now. I’m still not able to eat a normal amount. I’m still underweight. I still don’t want to eat half the time. I miss being able to eat like a normal person. It is improving, just not very quickly.

I miss running. This isn’t something I have been missing the whole time, but it’s spring and people are racing and I want that feeling. I legitimately miss running for two hours. Instead I’m walking. Not far. Just walking. I got excited Saturday when it was nice out and I went for my longest walk yet, but then later got upset over how stupid short it was and the fact that I got excited about it.

I don’t write this all just to whine and bitch. This is the reality of what I a going through. I never wanted to believe the doctor when he said it could take 3-6 months to get back to my “normal” life. I’m not at three months yet. I’m trying to be patient, but I’m not.

TL:DR What the hell happened to my life? I’m making progress but I’m impatient.

 

Returning to Life

Sometimes it feels like nothing has happened over the last few weeks, but really everything has happened. On Monday I turned 32, I drove for the first time in two months, I went back to work and I had my first drink since surgery (naturally it was champagne, it was my birthday). I have more energy every day. I’m moving back upstairs. I haven’t had a mini meltdown in over a week. My life is by no means what it was, but it is more normal. I’m not sure it ever will be the same again. On Wednesday I had the best doctor appoint I’ve had in I don’t know how long. My blood counts are normal! Not on the very high end of normal, but normal. I am finally gaining weight which is not something I ever thought I would be excited about, but I am. I won’t get my first post surgical scans until 12 weeks so I get to go a whole month without going to see a doctor. I haven’t done that since any of this started. I am in a holding pattern once again, but it doesn’t seem as bad as some of the other ones. I have no idea what the scans will show. I don’t know what next steps will be, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have to do any more chemo.

Going back to work has been an adjustment. I got a little to used to doing nothing. It is really nice to use my mind and to be around people. I missed my coworkers. I went in four partial days and worked from home the best. Once I have the energy for full days at work I might balance full days at home and at work instead of having to drive in every day. It’s definitely going to be a figure it out as I got thing. Once again I’m incredibly grateful for such a great workplace and great coworkers.

This weekend two of my DC friends came to visit. One of them I had not seen in years. I will always be grateful for friendships where it doesn’t feel like time has passed. I was able to do somethings and sometimes we just sat around my house and watched mediocre movies.

One thing I never really talked about publicly was losing my hair. I didn’t lose any of my hair on the first chemo drug (the first 5 rounds), but with the second, strong drugs my hair began thinning. And for someone who has had thick curls her whole life this was something new and unexpected. For a long time I just ignored that I was shedding at an alarming rate. In early December I had a breakdown over my hair and went and met with the hair and wig specialist at the Cancer Center. By that time I had maybe a quarter of my hair left and I didn’t feel like me anymore. She helped me find something that felt like me. I know some people noticed. Some people may not have. Some just thought my hair was darker. Now that I am three months removed from chemo I have MY hair growing back. It is thick and I’m pretty sure there is curl or wave in it. I desperately want my long curls back, but that is going to take a long time and I have almost accepted this. I have stopped wearing the wig at home.  A few friends got to see me with it and without a hat, but I was still uncomfortable going out in public. My wonderful friends convinced me to go out as me this weekend and I realized I am more comfortable with my short hair than I am the wig. So this is me and someday I’ll have my long curls back.

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I’m home! For real this time.

I’ve been home for a week now. There is really nothing quite like home after being in the hospital for 5 weeks. I was initially told my stay would be 8-10 days. My first stay was 13. Then I was home 3 days and back in for a week and then home for less than 24 hours and back in for two weeks. To say I’m happy to be home would be an understatement. I have a bit more freedom. No one is waking me up several times a night. I have my kitties, who will not leave my side. It almost gets a bit suffocating at times.

I don’t know what I initially expected. I listened to the doctor, but this was so much worse. I keep having to remind myself that my body went through a 12 hour surgery and needs time to recover. I came home on IV antibiotics for whatever infection I managed to catch. It’s not so bad, but I can’t wait for it to be over. One of the meds I have to get three times a day.

I’m supposed to be in Italy right now showering my niece wp-1488726732795.jpgin love and spending time with my brother and sister-in-law, but that obviously couldn’t happen. The Delta app mocked me on Friday and kept reminding me to check in my for my cancelled flights. Thankfully I was smart enough to buy travel insurance when I bought this ticket way back in November. There’s really nothing more I want right now than a hug from my brother and I don’t know when I get to see him again. I don’t know when I can go visit. I don’t know when they might come back to Wisconsin.

On Saturday I went and got a pedicure with my mom and omg did it feel good to do something normal. Except as we were sitting there I was staring at my legs and starting lamenting all the muscle I have lost. I worked so hard to get strong in the year and half before all this started. I miss my strength. I miss being able to be self sufficient. I miss the old me.

I know I’m making progress, but it feels so slow. I want to be able to do more. At least I’m starting to notice improvements without my parents having to point them out. On that note, my parents have been nothing short of amazing. They basically put their lives on hold and have been there every step and misstep I’ve made. I will never be able to thank them enough for that.

All in all, I think I’m doing pretty well right now. I am walking more and it’s not quite as difficult. I am socializing again and that is wonderful. I’m up for visitors. As long as everything stays on track I’m taking a little getaway to warm weather before I go back to work thanks to Southwest points and family that lives in a warmer climate.

 

An update, kind of

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Where I’d rather be

I know there has been a lot of radio silence from me. I’m still in the hospital and basically feel like I live here. It’s horribly frustrating. I want to be at home. I want to feel better. Basically there is something wrong with me, but the doctors don’t know what. There is a huge, extended team working on it. Some days I just don’t want to talk to anyone. It’s not personal if I’m not responding to you. Some days I don’t want visitors. Some days I do.

It’s so many ups and downs. It’s exhausting. It’s never ending.

My doctor reminds me that I had a huge surgery and I need to be patient with myself, but that’s easier said than done.

I still appreciate all of you out there sending your positive thoughts, prayers, cards and everything else. Thank you.