Tag Archive | exercise

Making change

Our toy cash register

Our toy cash register

It’s been awhile since I posted in this blog.  The good news is  life is back to “normal” in the sense that I am not undergoing any treatment for cancer.   I am feeling pretty much recovered from all the side effects.  There’s still some aches and pains and sensations but at this point I honestly don’t know if it’s still from treatment or if it’s from aging, LOL.  The joke among my “cancer friends” is that we can blame most any symptom we are feeling as a lingering side effect from chemo!

Here we are at the start of 2014.  A new year.  A clean slate.  Another fresh start.  It’s probably a blessing that we don’t know ahead of time what the year may bring.  One thing I learned through this whole journey is not to worry about what may or may not happen but to take one day at a time and to enjoy life to its fullest. (Matt.6:27) Whatever comes my way, I am confident that God will give me the strength I need and will not leave me to walk  alone. (Deut. 31:6) He has brought me through some very tough days.  The road ahead may include some steep inclines, rough terrain, deep valleys, curvy and winding roads, an occasional bump in the road, and detours but my GPS (God Perspective System) will keep me focused knowing that He has my best interest in mind.  We won’t always understand the course He has us on but we can be assured of where we’ll end up ultimately.

I enjoyed the bike the most for cardio...actually steered on the courses selected!

I enjoyed the bike the most for cardio…actually steered on the courses selected!

New Year’s is a popular time to make resolutions on changes we want to make in our life as we reflect on how we did the previous year.  Some things are out of our control but many are not. We have a choice on how we’ll travel our journey through the year. Probably some of the most popular resolutions are health related…exercise, lose weight, eat healthier, get more rest, etc.  Most of these are broken within a month and then people just give up completely.  I wish more people looked internally to make changes…attitude adjustments and heart issues…than just externally.

My graduating class...12 weeks of sweat and tears.

My graduating class…12 weeks of sweat and tears.

I think the success of a resolution boils down to desire, motivation, discipline, and wisdom.  You have to really want to reach a goal bad enough in order to do something about it.  There has to be reason to reach it.  You have to have an obtainable plan to get there and it has to be plan that if followed will indeed get you there.

As a child I enjoyed playing “store.”  When I was teaching my own children, we used a play cash register and they learned how to make change.  We would set up toys and other items and put price tags on them.  They would “shop” and purchase items or be the cashier, but either way they had to learn how to count money and make change. It was a process and took time to learn.

Receiving my diploma and yellow rose at Livestrong graduation

Receiving my diploma and yellow rose at Livestrong graduation

doing the leg press

doing the leg press

Do you really want to make change in some areas?  Then do something about it.  I know for myself that last year I set a goal to run in a 5K and to start getting myself back in shape physically after going through cancer treatment.  I did run the 5 K in September and then I also signed up for the Livestrong program at the YMCA.  It is a free 12 week program for cancer survivors that encompasses cardio, strength, and flexibility.  It was a big commitment.  I had never even been in a gym before.  Not only did I learn a lot and get healthy and fit but I met a great group of people as well.  Now at the start of the new year I am ready to take on the challenge of trying to maintain my fitness.  I am still not sure whether I will join a gym or do it on my own at home but I am determined to follow through.  I feel better than I have in a long time.

Whatever my journey this year encompasses, I am determined to go through it feeling my best, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well. “Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.” (1 Tim.4:8 MSG)  Change is hard but if we stick with it and really want it, with God’s help we can achieve it.  Here’s to the best in 2014.

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“Running” out of Excuses

It’s been awhile since I have posted on my blog.  Thankfully I am done with all my cancer treatment at this time.  A year ago I had finished my chemo and was in the middle of radiation when I felt like I needed to start doing something about getting my body back in shape.  I felt weak and stiff and was 20 pounds heavier from the steroids.  I felt like I was walking around in a fog from chemo brain during the Fall.  By January I was starting to feel a little better.  I went on diet and lost about half of the weight I had gained during treatment but still hadn’t started any kind of exercise regime.  If you recall, I was determined to do what I could to start exercising and still hadn’t really done anything.

When this summer came I knew I had run out of excuses and so I started running…literally.  Last September I was aware of a running-600x4005K in my town and had set a goal in my head to run in it the following year when I was finished with all my treatment.  Am I a runner?  Let’s just say that  I hadn’t jogged since college.  We’re talking over 30 years here.  I put an app on my ipod called C25K (couch to 5K).  This aptly describes where I was coming from and the direction where I was trying to head to.

It’s a 9 week program that has you train for 30 minutes/ 3 times a week.  I figured that was easy enough.  It didn’t go according to distance but by time spent training.  Day one starts you out jogging for 90 seconds at a time and walking in between.  It sounded easy enough until I started  training.  That first 90 seconds seemed like 90 minutes!  I kept looking at my watch thinking the app was broken or wasn’t working.  I kept waiting for the voice to say, “Walk.”  It was not easy but I was determined to do this.

How long is a 5K? It’s 3.1 miles or it would be like “running across a football field 54.68 times, running around all four bases of a regulation baseball diamond 45.47 times, running the length of an NBA-regulation basketball court 174.12 times or running a little less than 1/4 the length of Manhattan.” As I built up endurance I mapped out a course from my house that increased as the weeks went by.   I kept with the program all summer, running mostly in the early morning before it got too warm out (or before too many people saw me).  I only had one fall.  It was a face plant where I landed on both of my palms in August and my hands are still peeling as they heal. It was on days like that that I questioned myself wondering if I was crazy for starting this in the first place.   I also scraped a shin one time rounding a corner too snugly where there’s a low brick wall.  Other than that I survived and hopefully didn’t look too ridiculous although one of my son’s friends saw me running when he was stopped in traffic and mentioned it to him.

By the seventh week I was able to jog for 30 minutes but then I started back to work.  I wasn’t able to fit in running before work and I was hot and tired at the end of the day.  I tried running then but it was too laborious.  My training was limited mostly to the weekends.  I paid and signed up for the 5K knowing that if I didn’t commit I might back out.  A portion of the proceeds were going to help victims from Hurricane Sandy at the Jersey shore.  The race was the day after I completed the C25K app.  Initially my goal was to run the entire race but I realized I would not be able to.  Rather than getting discouraged I changed my goal to simply completing the 5K but I wanted to do it  in under 40 minutes.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect at the event.  I went to the race way too early.  I had to pee and then the only bathrooms they had were quite a distance away.  There was probably about 240 racers there and they had some children’s races first.  The start of the race reminded me of a herd of cattle initially and was a little difficult with bodies everywhere but pretty soon it starts to spread out.  Some move way out ahead of the pack and others trail behind.  I was somewhere in the middle, passing some and others passing me.  Probably more of the latter.

I was afraid that I might not know where to go but the course was clearly marked and crossing guards and police were at intersections stopping any traffic.  I could usually see someone ahead of me to follow as well.  Unfortunately part of the course was going up streets on an incline.  I chose to briskly walk those parts of the course, taking a breather then.

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My bib! They have some kind of timing chip in them to record our times.

I crossed the finish line 158th out of 225 racers who finished in under one hour. A small crowd was gathered at the end cheering us on as we crossed the finish!  There were more runners but they only record the times of those who finish in under one hour. My time was 38:28.83.  I could have pushed myself a little more but chose not to. I had reached my 40 minute goal! My pace was a 12:23 mile and I was happy with what I accomplished.  Now I have my own official time to beat should I ever do another 5K.  I would like to but the bottom of my feet are really killing me from all the training so I don’t think I will.  The following week after the race I started my next goal…Livestrong…a 12 week program at the YMCA.  More to come…

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (NLT).  While training for this 5K this verse came to mind often.  I learned very quick that even a sweatshirt was too burdensome to have with me if I wasn’t wearing it.  Any weight, any excess was a burden and would slow me down.  Days when I was having trouble with my ipod or earbuds and was preoccupied with them would slow me down.  An uneven sidewalk tripped me up that one time and my injury was bothersome for quite some time.  It took a lot of endurance (or some translations read perseverance) to train and run the race.  It wasn’t always easy; wasn’t always ideal circumstances, but I had to keep at it in order to reach my goal.  There were witnesses not only at the finish line but along the race course as well, watching and cheering us on.

In The Message, Hebrews 12:2-3 says, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls.”  We are all runners in this race of life, in our walks of faith.  Even in training I had my eyes set on goals along the way…just make it to that tree, the next intersection, to the park, to the cul-de-sac, etc.  There will be distractions, things to slow you down or trip you up, hurdles to get over.  The good news is that Christ has gone on before us.  He’s waiting at the finish line for us!  He’s cheering us along on the way!  He’s showed us how it is to be done and given us what we need to make it there!  He’s marked the course for us.  Read your training manual (Bible) and follow it!  Don’t be lazy.  Hang in there.  Get moving and I’ll see you at the finish line.

A weighty issue with chemo

Who would ever have guessed that chemotherapy would put on extra pounds?  Not I !  I was actually looking at the bright side of all this and figured once I started chemo that I would actually lose a few pounds without any effort.  I had always pictured the stereotypical chemo patient as thin and gaunt.  Right? In the past yes, but not so much anymore.

No thanks to the drugs they have found that suppress the nausea and vomiting, a downside is that the steroid medication  given actually contributes to weight gain. Corticosteroids contribute to fluid retention and increase your appetite as well.  I had to take steroids beginning the day before a treatment until two days after, in addition to the ones they give you intravenously the day of treatment. Your metabolism slows down.  The chemo leaves you fatigued and you are much less active.  The strange taste bud changes take away your appetite. Then when you do feel like eating, it’s the wrong foods. Intense food cravings with chemo often involve sweets and carbohydrates.  There is a change in body composition as your body gains more body fat and loses lean muscle as they redistribute muscle mass from the extremities into the abdominal area as fat.

“Unlike typical weight gain caused simply by overeating and lack of momentum, where you are gaining both lean and fatty tissue, the weight you gain during chemotherapy is comprised only of fat. The change in body composition that is brought on by chemotherapy is normally seen as a part of the normal aging process. Unfortunately, in terms of body composition, a woman going through chemotherapy ages 10 years in the course of a year.” http://www.thebreastcaresite.com/tbcs/InTreatment/Chemotherapy/WeightGain.htm

Before each chemo infusion you have a mini checkup with a weigh in, temperature taken, blood pressure and blood work.  The scale is a digital one in a hospital calibrated to the tenths and I have a strange feeling that it is pretty accurate.  Each time I stepped on, it went higher.  It ended up averaging one pound per week over the course of treatment.  I now weigh more than I ever have in my life.  I started inquiring with other patients and heard that it was referred to as the “Chemo 30.”  Fortunately for me it was the “Chemo 20” although everything I have read says the typical gain is much less.  So much for being typical.

It’s bad enough going through chemo and losing your hair but then to have to deal with all the extra pounds is kind of discouraging.  I recently looked a full body picture of myself sitting with my daughters by the ocean and all I saw was a plump pirate!  I had to buy new clothes for the summer to fit into and really don’t want to buy a bigger size fall wardrobe.

OK, so for most of my life I never had to watch what I ate or how much I ate.  I had one of those metabolisms that everyone wants.  Even after three pregnancies I went back to my pre-baby weight within one  month after giving birth without even trying.  Then with a combination of my fourth pregnancy and nearing 40, the inevitable happened.  The pounds did not disappear and for the first time in my life I had to start watching what I ate.  After a few years I figured it was easier to carry the pounds around because now I was approaching middle age and it’s acceptable to not have a skinny waist.  Right?

I have never been to a gym.  However, prior to going back to work full time last year I worked as a dog walker.  I loved it.  I loved the dogs.  I loved being paid to walk daily.  I would push them to a brisk pace when possible although anyone who walks a dog knows that it is not always possible.  This was my exercise and I loved it.  Some pounds started coming back on once I had to stop dog walking and these were the pounds that I was hoping to LOSE once I started chemo!

Cancer survivors that are overweight are more likely to have a re-occurrence than those that are thin.  I WANT to lose this weight!  I NEED to!  Like I said, I don’t do the gym.  I do have to do something however.  I am hoping the GAIN part is over now that my chemo cocktail is finished.  I am blogging this so I can be accountable (and also so you understand why, yes, strangely I have put on extra weight).  I have a cousin who has lost over 100 pounds in the last year and is blogging about “Tomorrow is a lighter day.”  She has inspired me to do something about this.  So what will I do you ask?  I still feel crummy from my treatment last week but know that my energy will be returning.  I do have a mini trampoline and a stepper in my basement and found some exercise tapes.  They are all dusty and so is my basement.  I plan to dust them all off, well maybe not the basement.  I also plan on starting to walk again even though no one will be paying me!  Perhaps after a bit I will add a little running to it.  “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint,” Isaiah 40:31.  I did jog in high school and college and enjoyed it then, although that was over 30 years ago.  I need to be careful with any  upper body lifting to prevent lymphedema.  Any other suggestions?  I will take it slow so as not to get discouraged but I will start doing something!

I am really praying my taste buds straighten out so I can get on track with eating right again as well.  You have no idea what it is like when everything tastes like cardboard, metal, chalk or absolutely nothing.  You stand in front of the refrigerator or cabinets and nothing looks appealing.  Or you sink your teeth into something that does look appealing and then you can’t even take another bite.  One thing that has remained appealing through this ordeal has been the Word.  No surprises there.  Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

I’m not going to be a “pirate who doesn’t do anything but stay home and lie around…” like in Veggie Tales.  I’m ready to soar…