Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Combination Diagnosis

Presto, you were a healthy person, who in addition to going out for drinks and appetizers with friends on weekends, you also used to go to the gym, hike, bike, swim, blah, blah, blah. All sorts of activities. Then, the ball drops. Now you have cancer and another ailment which prevents you from doing much of everything.

You read about those 'other' cancer people, who took their athleticism to new heights after their cancer diagnosis. They climb not just mole hills, but Mounts Everest and Denali in the same month. They learn to stand on the big fat boards and pole their way across the Pacific. They boast about their return to health by stretching their athletic abilities 1000 fold. They walk 40 miles, or 39, or 60, to show their resolve to be healed and have their new normal. Their doctors and the rest of their medical team applaud their efforts to become and athletic over-achiever.

(Honestly, I find them a tad nauseating. I mean shouldn't you be happy doing everything you used to do once your hair grows back and you find some energy?)

During chemo, my doctors thought I was great because I would take a walk every day during treatment. Then my body decided to fall apart along the way.

Me, on the other hand, manage to walk to the end of the street and back on a good day. I try to fit in a little weaving and knitting as well.

Now I do go to the gym to help me along but it is a struggle. I only can go to the gym because I have the support of physical therapists and I was already exercising there before RA and fibromyalgia. I fight the urge to nap between making meals.... (what is wrong with a nap after breakfast anyway?)

Finally, I found someone else who feels the same way. Kelly Irvin, wrote for Cure Magazine and has Ovarian cancer and primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), said:

"My range of motion is severely limited. I recently graduated from a cane to a walker. A once active seven-day-a-week queen of aerobics, I now struggle to walk to the mailbox. How do the cancer ninjas in my boat reap the benefits of exercise that include reducing stress, keeping extra weight off or losing weight, maintaining muscle mass and fighting off the side effects of chemo such as fatigue and hypertension?"

Her advice includes;

"...we can exercise our joy muscles..."

"Find the activities that make you smile. Do them regularly. We can also find the spiritual exercise that calms our souls. For me, that means I can exercise my faith muscle—the one that offers me hope because I’m reminded that someday I’ll shed my scarred, limping body and dance the two-step with my heavenly Father. That muscle goes arm-in-arm with the empathy muscle. I exercise it when I pray for others who are paralyzed and receive cancer treatment in their wheelchairs. I need only look left or right to see others who exercise their courage muscles every day. Exercise comes in many forms. We don’t have to scale Mt. Everest or finish a triathlon to reap its benefits. We simply must get in the game—our game."

We cannot feel ashamed or upset that we cannot do what we used to do nor what we see others do. We must do what we can. I realize I cannot dream of climbing any mountains any more. But I can appreciate that I do the best I can. And that is all I can do. Our goals should be joy, empathy, and emotions.

1 comment:

Kelly Irvin said...

Kudos to you for fighting to stay active despite multiple diagnoses. It's a tough gig, I know, but I always feel better if I've done something during the day, even if it's not much compared to what I used to do. As my oncologist told me, we live in a new world now. We can't go back to the old world, but we're in a good place in our new normal. Positive attitude is half the battle. Hang in there!