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Thursday, April 1, 2010

One reason you never hear for maintaining a modicum physical fitness

That just might be my longest title on a post yet:)

We've all heard that we must exercise to help keep our hearts healthy, to keep our weight down, to help prevent diabetes and osteoporosis, to decrease depression, to help prevent cancer, yadda yadda yadda. But an excellent reason, one that I've never heard expressed, is that when you are at least minimally fit and/or active, it is easier to rehabilitate after periods of illness.

As you know, I've done nothing but sit on my arse since December.....mostly just sat on my dupa before that, too, at least since my blood counts bottomed out and, hence, my fatigue levels sky rocketed sometime in October; however, most specifically, since surgery in December and then the four rounds of chemo that I started in January and ended 3.5 weeks ago, I've not done much of anything physically.

However, the time has come for that to end. One of the side effects of the chemo drugs I've been on is peripheral neuropathy, which manifests in many ways, but one way is in muscle weakness and aches. Add to that my overall lack of activity, and I'm a flabby mess.

I'm still feeling quite a bit of fatigue, and I never know when it will hit. It seems like I crash mostly in the late morning and/or late in the day. When I say crash, I really do mean crash, very much like a teenager (I have the opportunity to observe that phenomenon nearly daily). That makes it hard to plan to exercise...I still feel like I need to pace myself. I still feel like I rejuvenate by sitting in the sun for hours. On some days, even that is tiring. Take yesterday for instance...after sitting in the sun in the front yard for an hour, I was so tired, I napped in the backyard for an hour.

Flabby + fatigue + the fear of fatigue = hard to motivate to exercise.

So I've decided that for this week, I'll walk each evening after dinner. Earlier this week, walking less than a mile made me out of breath and made my leg muscles shaky. Tonight, walking 2.3 miles felt awesome. I wasn't going at any speed by any means. My arms weren't necessarily pumping, but I felt great.

I can't imagine how frustrating and difficult this all would be if I hadn't been walking 5 miles every few days before I hit the wall of fatigue late last fall or if I hadn't been doing my best to stick with yoga before and after my surgery, regardless of my fatigue levels.

I have a long way to go with upper body work....between lack of use and age, I haven't had much upper body strength in years. It was never my forte. Now, though, it's embarrassing. I'm not too sure what to do about that, since I have to worry about lymphedema, which can be exacerbated by exercise but also may be helped by exercise. Actually, I love swimming, but the options for that are so limited in this area, especially with my previous teaching and childcare schedules. Now would be an ideal time to swim, but it's not recommended during chemo due to the potential germ exposure, not recommended during radiation due to needing to avoid anything drying to the skin, and prohibited for at least six weeks after surgery/reconstruction. That all means it's out for me until sometime in mid to late summer, I guess, if everything goes as planned. Once school starts in August, who knows how it will work with my schedule.

Meanwhile, I'm just happy that I'm able to feel stronger each day and that I at least started out, back before this whole stupid cancer thing started, with the ability to walk fairly long distances. With 20/20 hind site, I'd probably have put more emphasis on exercise so that crawling out of this cancer shit hole was easier.

I still feel like an old lady, and there are quite a few old ladies who are more spy than I around, but at least I'm out there moving, which three weeks ago seemed like it was never going to happen.


Dionna @Code Name: Mama said...

Good for you! I love it when I get into the exercise groove (it happens...rarely) and it starts feeling *good* to move.

Random aside: have you seen this article?

I read it and thought of you, because of a comment you made in our first email exchange.

melissa said...

I have thought about this topic from time to time (hypochondriac that I am, plus I have to go for a diagnostic mammo soon). If I do get sick, will I recover better b/c I do exercise. But it's hard to keep a regular exercise schedule up. Your post reminds me to do so.

As to the poster above, I wondered about your thoughts too on that study. However, it was funded by formula companies so it is suspect right there. Also, I could not tell when the mothers were diagnosed.

grilledcheesegoddess said...

The study mentioned above, although funded by formula cos, raises interesting questions. Evulution moves slowly. No way have we evolved to nurse our babies and eat the diet and live the sedentary lifestyle and absorb all of the toxins in our environment without some repercussions. Estrogen influenced cancers ARE probably inhibited by nursing, but from what I can tell, the actual decrease in risk is pretty minimal, quite a bit, I suspect by the increase in estrogen and estrogen-like influences in our environment. And that's just for breast cancers. There are gazillions of other cancers as well. And it is clear that there are breast cancers that are influenced by nursing and are more common in women who nurse, as several of my friends have been told by their oncos. I chose university affiliated and teaching oncos because my assumption is that they are more regularly (and capable) evaluating the research and wouldn't be fooled by studies, such as one conducted by formula cos. The study, as I read it, doesn't say that nursing for an extended period INCREASES the chances of getting cancer, only that it increases the severity of the tumor grade. That indicates a more aggressive form of cancer once it develops. Interesting food for thought. I've struck out on the whole benefits of nursing all around, apparently. Not that I regret doing it, but I don't really think it's nearly as important as I once did. I might have significantly cut my kids' nursing short had I been able to see the future.

I also think that the longer people nurse, the harder it is for them to do accurate and careful self breast exams. Your breasts are just different every day. If you are nursing when you start cycling, then your breasts might always feel oddly lumpy and bumpy. Plus, I would bet a lot of women while nursing don't do SBE, at least not regularly. Hell, I know for a fact, many many many women, including many of my friends, count on nursing to protect them. That's like counting on a seatbelt to keep you uninjured when you get hit by a semi.

Melissa, I think there is ample research that shows that the better shape people are in before falling ill or before starting long term treatments or having surgery, the faster and easier they recover.

grilledcheesegoddess said...

Speaking of exercise and recovery, there is a neighbor guy and his friend/roommate who have been walking past our house several times an afternoon and then again in the evening each day. We live on one of the most travelled streets in BG, I swear. More dogs get walked down our street than go to the dog park. Anyway, I'm not sure who these guys are. My husband and boys say they live in the next block and are roommates and that the one has had a stroke (my guess was heart attack, I don't see stroke-like symptoms). Anyway, they were walking to the corner our house is on, and turning around. Then a ocuple of days later, they were crossing the street and going to the driveway of the house across the street. Then I heard them discussing if they could make it to the house beyond that, and the one guy said, "You know you have to be able to do this on your own, when I'm not here. Just tell youself 'I can do it. I can do it.' And then you do it." In percentage of increase, walking 8 houses and then progressing to 10 houses is really significant. But I'd find it really frustrating myself to be reduced to that and I hope I never am. After my surgery, walking around the block felt SO GOOD but coming in and having to take a nap was SO ANNOYING; having to think about every move, every trip, planning out everything to make sure I'd have enough energy was downright annoying. It would be easier to just avoid it all and sit and watch tv. Which is what I did.