Decided to take my lunch break today to write a little bit about exercise and having cancer. A close friend of mine gave me this topic suggestion awhile back and I sort of put it on the back burner, unsure of how I was going to talk about it. But today, I’m eating a salad for lunch and I really wanted to eat mac and cheese, so here we are.
This one requires a little bit of a backstory…
I’ve never considered myself to be a particularly healthy person. I don’t really put a lot of thought into what I’m fueling my body with and I tend to make food decisions based on what I’m feeling in the moment (which is always something with cheese). As far as exercise is concerned, for the longest time this consisted almost entirely of just walking my dog. Exercising wasn’t a priority for me. I felt so out of shape that getting into shape seemed too overwhelming and impossible.
Well last summer, a couple of my coworkers dragged me to a spin class at the Madison. For those that are unfamiliar, The Madison has classes called #PartyOnABike with loud music, bright lights, dancing, etc. and it’s actually a ton of fun (and a ton of work!) Despite being asked to join my friends for quite some time, I was insanely reluctant because I didn’t think I’d be able to get through a 45 minute class. Turns out, it’s a judgement-free zone and I’ve been taking spin classes regularly there ever since.
Since I started spinning last summer, I also decided that I was going to figure out how to run. As a swimmer, I’ve never quite understood how to do “land” things. Put me in the pool and I could swim a mile straight right now, yet somehow I can’t run one. You probably think I’m being dramatic and exaggerating, but it is 100% the truth. Since I was now focusing on exercising with my recent spin obsession, I decided to also sign up for a 5K to give me something to work towards. I spent most of the summer last year and early fall spinning and (attempting) running. I even started basic quick workouts in my living room for days that it was too hot to go outside (even at 5am cause Arizona sucks). I was spinning at least two times a week and had worked my way up to running (a very slow) mile and was so proud of myself. This was great! I felt better, healthier and like I was taking care of my body the way I was supposed to.
And then I got sick.
For a solid 6 weeks, I was rolling out what I thought were muscle knots in my legs. I tried EVERYTHING. I had friends helping and I actually bought two different kinds of rollers on Amazon because I was struggling so hard to get rid of these knots. I assumed all these activities I started doing were clearly the cause. I hadn’t exercised like this probably ever, so what else could they be? Turns out they were actually malignant tumors. Yep, I had several friends help me attempt to roll out my tumors as if that’ll make them disappear. Sorry, guys.
Even into my early diagnosis, I tried to keep exercising as much as I could. I was going through a lot mentally and thought it’d be a great way to escape. But all of that came to a screeching halt when I was hospitalized. It took me nearly two months before I could step back into a spin class again. The 5K I signed up for? Conveniently about two weeks after I was released from the hospital. I ended up walking it because I didn’t have the energy and stamina to run like I had planned (AND I needed a giant nap when I got home).
Nearly 8 months after diagnosis, I’m almost back to a normal exercise routine. I swim 1-2 times a week, spin 2 times a week, and walk Zazu regularly (so he isn’t a monster). It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a huge accomplishment for me. Some days my joints hurt, or I have lower back pain and I can’t seem to move quite like I want to. One time in spin class, I couldn’t sprint like we were being instructed to because my lower back was killing me (drug side effects). God bless the girl behind me who saw I was struggling, tapped me on the shoulder and said “you can do it!” But I couldn’t. I immediately burst into tears and felt so defeated.
Last summer, I was arguably on my way to being the healthiest version of myself. And that is SO FRUSTRATING. Pre cancer diagnosis, I had finally figured out how to prioritize exercise into my daily routine – something that was very hard for me for a very long time. When it was finally becoming a healthy habit for me, I was then thrown the biggest curve ball of my life. To be honest, it sort of made me question what’s the point of all this exercise bullsh*t?! It clearly didn’t help me not have cancer.
But, then I realized something very important. I’m spending so many resources (time, energy, effort, money, etc.) on fighting stage four cancer, it’d be silly if I didn’t prioritize taking care of myself too. Just because I have cancer, doesn’t mean I can’t work on being a better, healthier version of myself.
Now, someone bring me a cookie? 😝