I have been back to work full time (and then some) for about three months now. The first few months were pretty rough. But, I am adjusting and every day gets better. My stamina and energy are getting better all of the time. I am working more than full time and as a result I don’t do much else, often just working and then going straight to bed afterwards. At first this routine felt pretty grim. But, the fact that I can do it, is to me, a real accomplishment. And I feel like I am back in warrior mode – like I was back when I was going through treatment. This time is its own type of battle – just getting through the work day. As much as I am exhausted, it feels good. It is, after all, empowering to grab back parts of your life . . . even if they are hard parts.
Getting the news of clear scans last week has made it far easier to deal with the physical limitations (I have a bit of trouble with my arms – writing on the board when I am teaching seems to cause some lymphedema, the daily headaches, bouts with nausea and dizziness continue – but, I now know the source is not a cancer recurrence). I am told that it will continue to take time to get past these things and that some of it just may be what I have to contend with post cancer.
Of course I would prefer that I get back to my pre-cancer physical state. But, the fact that I am here at all is pretty great in my book. I wake up each day in varying levels of pain. And prior to getting my clear scans result from last week, this daily painful wakening was pretty depressing. But, given the choice between waking up in pain or going back to chemo or worse . . . not waking up at all . . . well, I think you know where I stand with that
It was a good wake up call to go through the waiting of getting the scans and to be reminded of how much worse it could be.
For some time now, in between surgeries and starts and stops with medications that cause nausea and dizziness, I have gone running and walking. It has always been in short spurts – a couple of days or a few weeks of getting some exercise and then it was surgery or surgery recovery or restarting meds that sometimes physically make me feel completely upside down.
It has been discouraging to get to a point physically and then feel like I am going backwards.
Just this past Monday I was able to run three miles for the first time since before cancer. I don’t know if it is going back to work or perhaps just time, that has made a difference. During treatment I walked two to three miles a day on many days. But, I have not run now much in the past two years.
It was a real achievement for me. I felt like more like me than I have since this whole thing began.
My body is so different now. Of course I look different – I am scarred and have had parts removed and parts recreated from silicone and flaps of skin and muscle taken taken from my back. But, it is far beyond what I see in the mirror that is different. There is not a moment that I am free from feeling my breast cancer. It is a place I actively work hard at not going – to cancer, thoughts of it, worries over it, anger, etc. But, every time I reach for something I feel the pulling in my back, the movement of my rebuilt parts and the pain that shoots around my back, underarms and chest. I am always uncomfortable. And, the weird thing is that over much of this area of my body there is numbness and lack of feeling. Yet somehow, my body makes sure that I still feel pain in these areas. It is odd.
But, I am here. And on Monday I ran through all of that and felt like I didn’t have cancer. The run was tough like it always would be tough the first time running that far (like BEFORE cancer). It did not feel any tougher than that – than what I might have experienced in getting back into running prior to having gone through cancer treatment and surgeries.
So, that is truly something. Now, today is Friday and I have not been able to run since. The three miles proved to be a bit much and I have been pretty sore since. But, it is better and I will go out and run again as soon as I can.
I am encouraged that I was able to do it and believe that I will eventually get back to doing many of the things that I used to do before.
- Cancer survivor learns to get the most out of every moment (healthzone.ca)
- Dr. Coomer Battles Cancer (foxnews.com)