Prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer, I was a very active person. I had become addicted to boxing about four years prior. The sport, the community and the workouts were fantastic. I was very dedicated, 5 mornings a week at 6:45 am. That’s hardcore. I did not fight in the ring, but we trained and were taught the technique that a fighter would use in the ring.
There is no other release as fulfilling as hitting a heavy bag. I joked with my boss, that I would hit the bag every morning so he could live!! It was a joke, I liked my boss. There was a morning crew – the same group of people every day at a god-awful hour in the morning, hitting the bag. The trainers in the morning were the best. When I started boxing, these people motivated me and kept me coming back. We learned technique, supported one another and grew together. We excelled.
When I was diagnosed, this group of amazing people were right beside me. After surgery and recovery, I managed to go back to boxing a few mornings a week. Once chemotherapy started, I even managed a few classes when I was feeling alright. Eventually the chemotherapy took hold of my energy level and general well-being and I stopped boxing. The support from the community, my friends, never did.
After chemotherapy and radiation ended and my energy level increases, I wanted to get back to the heavy bag. I tried. I went a few times, but for me it was not the same. The joy had changed, the morning crew had moved on, developed more skills, maintained their level of fitness. Many of them had graduated to fighting in the ring, and that is not something I would consider now. I was scarred and sore and worried about lymphedema. I did not want anyone to hit my reconstructed breast. Holding plank was difficult, push-ups, burpees, mountain climbers – all caused me concern for my affected arm. I would stop going because I felt I was not the same, then I would try again. The same feeling came back.
The excuses started, I was opening a new business and I was busy. I was always tired and I needed to concentrate on getting the business up and running.
I went through enough excuses to gain me 30 pounds of reasons why I should be active.
Every cancer patient knows that physical activity reduces the risk of recurrence. It was now that I should be active. But I could not get there. I became very sedentary, I sit a lot of the day in the store and when I get home Netflix and I have a binge relationship. The couch has a permanent indent of my ass on it.
I realized something the other day, and I had to say it out loud to really believe it. I was my fittest prior to a cancer diagnosis. I exercised 5 days a week, I ate fairly well – I ate kale for heaven’s sake. I got cancer. I asked myself, if I got cancer when I was in the best shape of my life, then what’s the use? If I start exercising again, will the cancer recur? What if I got off my ass, started moving again and the cancer came back anyways.
I was at my first dry-land training with chemo savvy, the dragon boat team I am a part of. Of course, the first one I went to was aerobics. After an hour I realized a few things: I am no longer coordinated, I am extremely out of shape, my MS is getting worse in the way of balance and brain signals to tell my hips and knees to move at the same time, and I am extremely out of shape. The result and conclusion I came to is not about body image, but about health.
How can I continue this way – it may not be cancer, but it might be diabetes, heart disease or further complications of MS.
Physical activity is so good for so many things, like life. I am making a promise to myself so that I am here for a long time, not just for me, but for my children. I may not make it back to boxing but I am going to start a different path. The rowing machine is purchased and assembled. Putting it together was a workout, that’s how out of shape I am. It is in working order and in the middle of my living room. Seriously. There is no hiding from it – every morning when I come down the stairs – there it is. I have to step over it to get to the dining room. My kids ask where it is going? It’s not going anywhere – it will not become a clothes hanger. I am committed. #myrowingjourney has begun.
I am no longer afraid of cancer, I think this is simply another step in the journey called recovery. “They” don’t tell you this is the most challenging part of the diagnosis. But what’s another challenge at this point. I can do hard things.
What’s that saying – “Keep calm and ROW on”….