Posts Tagged ‘exercise

02
May
10

Paging Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine. . .

In reality, this post is a tribute to Dr. Awesome, a naturopath whom I met last Thursday for the first time.

Well, she’d come up behind me the week before and touched my hat, asking if everybody wanted to pet it? Truly, the hat I was wearing at the time, yes, people do want to pet it. It’s made with mohair and poly eyelash yarn and is extremely soft and feels good both to the hand and the bald skull beneath; with short-row shaping so it swirls; and instead of weaving in the ends, I braided them together so it has a little tail, too. Lovely hat in shades of maroon and purple, but getting too warm to wear much any more.

Of course at the time, I didn’t know this mystery petter was Dr. Awesome, but it tickled me that she was so willing to feel up a complete stranger’s hat in the middle of the doctor’s office.

My main goal for Thursday’s doctor appointment was originally nutrition, with a side of stress relief, and pain management for dessert. That was, at the time I made the appointment, the order I was most interested in covering the subjects. As it turned out, after talking to Dr. Awesome for 5 minutes, we rearranged it to pain management, nutrition, and stress relief.

For those of you who read this who have been through cancer treatment, you may understand immediately what I mean when I say it is a relief to talk to someone who “gets it”, particularly a doctor who not only understands but who validates what you’re going through and provides immediate, concrete solutions to some of the problems. You can talk to fellow sufferers all day and it’s good to hear that they have had the same problem and what they did for it, and in many cases, it will be of help to you when you encounter the same problem – never diminish the power of what experience can do for you.

But I at least tend to dig into the depths of my head and don’t even bring up problems in group, not because I don’t want answers, but because the group isn’t all about *me*, nor should it be. There are probably 12 – 16 regulars, and for any of them to get enough of a chance to talk, we often have to limit the number of speakers, and sometimes the depth of the discussion.

So having a medical authority validate that what I’m going through is real, is normal for cancer patients on chemo, and most important, isn’t just in my head, and doesn’t *have* to be dealt with just in my head makes me feel whole heaps better.

Pain Management: make sure I take the pain medications *regularly*, not sporadically; and take the smallest dose I can get away with. This might mean taking a higher dose in the morning than I think I really need, because for the pain to be worse in the evening means that I’m not giving it enough attention during the day. Also, hot baths with Dead Sea Salts are good, massage is good, and possibly acupuncture in the future.

Nutrition: Now, we all know the “Big C” is the cancer, right? Well, once you have cancer, there are other contenders for the title. Chemo might be considered the “Middle C”, since it is at one and the same time the treatment for the “Big C”, and the cause of the “Low C” (back into euphemism territory, here). I still think of the “Low C” as being the “Big C”, because it is much more immediate and pressing than cancer, and can make life pretty miserable. The pre-chemo drugs, the steroids and anti-nausea drugs they give you, and the pain medications I’m on all contrive to keep me from moving on. So Dr. Awesome prescribed something a lot less virulent than the clean-out liquid used for colonoscopy preparation, although she gave me that option if I wanted fast results. I chose the non-fireworks route. So now I’m thoroughly revising my menu, making sure I get lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of whole grains and fiber, coffee (yay!) and supplementing with this product that makes moves smoother than an Italian gigolo.

And finally, Stress Relief: Exercise is a component of all of the three topics I initiated with Dr. Awesome. Exercise can reduce pain, if not overdone; it can help the diet and supplements do their nutritive acting; and it can help with stress relief. But for chemo patients, taking the dog for a walk even around one block may not be possible except when you’re at the end of a two-week break. Especially shortly after chemo, exercise may mean getting out of your chair and walking around the house once, or making that trip upstairs to get the medication bottle. And some days, it may mean standing up out of the chair for a minute or two. One’s body is under attack, and while it’s good to push the boundaries a little bit, pushing them too far, or having too high of expectations about what your body can do when it’s just out of chemo is bound to create a feedback loop that eventually immobilizes you by trying to do what you were able to do two days ago, when you were on your 2-week break, but since you just had chemo, there’s no physical way you can do it.

I’ve been beating myself up because my focus is so bad, and I have always had great powers of concentration. I’ve been taking it as a personal failure that I am not able to keep my mind on something for more than 15 minutes. With one sweep of her hand, Dr. Awesome pushed that self-blame out the door, and helped me see that I can live with it, and even manipulate it to my advantage. It isn’t a solution that is going to allow me to be able to work better, as that still demands unbroken sweeps of time to focus on a particular project; but it means that I don’t *have* to focus on anything for longer than 15 minutes. Pick up my knitting, and if my hands are cooperating right then, work until I feel the focus slipping. Then put it down and read a book, or play a game on my phone. Write a blog for a while, and if I feel like it, do some beading or quilting. As soon as I feel the attention slip, set whatever it is down. And try just resting instead of sleeping. Sometimes, just sitting thinking rather than sleeping is enough rest to let my body recoup the energy for my next couple rounds of knitting or reading or whatever.

Brian was there for this appointment, and although he has never indicated that he thought I was being a drama queen or exaggerating my symptoms, Dr. Awesome’s immediate understanding and recommendations of solutions tailored to my specific case made him understand just how difficult it can be to look physically well on the outside, and yet to feel like crap on the inside.

So all hail Dr. Awesome! She has empowered me to quit being my own worst enemy, and feel much more like a human being than a lump of bruised potatoes.

Truly, I have the fortune to be surrounded by so many wonderful, caring, knowledgeable doctors and nurses that I just wish everyone with cancer could be so lucky as to work with my team. I would not hesitate to recommend a single one of them.

14
Jun
09

The Bridge Over the River Exhaustion

I finished my second week of full-time work on Friday, and although I was tired, I wasn’t totally wiped out. Slowly I’m starting to build some stamina. I am trying to park farther from work, so that I have to walk farther; and I’ve been having to do some physical stuff at work – moving boxes and stuff in preparation for shipping to events. But come Saturday, I don’t have much energy, so again this weekend I have spent a lot of time reading.

One of the ways to work a dog to exhaustion is to make him think – we find that if we start training Robin to do some new trick, and spend enough time at it at any one time, he is as tired as if we took him on a long walk.

We had dinner with Sharon and Gary Saturday night, and then they started teaching us how to play Bridge. Taking tricks is nothing – all the important (and confusing) part happens before you ever lay a card on the table. By the time we’d played 5 hands, I was so tired that I totally forgot the conception of a trump card, and was playing as if I was playing Hearts. Fortunately, Gary (my partner) was not only kind, but forgiving also ;-}

This afternoon, Robin was in dire need of a walk. So I girded my, um, feet, and we walked around the block. I’ve measured it in the car, and it is 1/4 mile. Having thought ahead a bit, I headed downhill to start, because then I was walking uphill on the middle of the walk, and downhill again on the way back home. I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason I made it all the way around. Once we got back in the door, I collapsed into my recliner and just lay there for about 45 minutes.

I really need to start getting out with him every day, the way I used to – *both* of us need it. I also need to start working on some strength exercises. There’s a balance between pushing to get myself back to being relatively fit and overdoing it; so far, I haven’t been pushing at all, because it has been such a struggle just to be able to get back into work. Now that I’m back to full-time, and as it levels off to being normal, and not such an effort, I am going to start adding in the exercising a bit at a time. It’s really tempting to start by just doing everything I used to do, but I actually recognize (without having to have a doctor tell me) that I’m not ready for that yet. Patience isn’t really one of my virtues, but I’m working on it, and trying not to let patience be an excuse for total sloth.

It doesn’t help that I’m still having trouble sleeping – I find that I am getting somewhere between 4 and 6 hours a night. I really try to get to bed earlier, but I have trouble falling asleep, so I’ll get up and read a chapter until I feel tired again; then I lie awake trying not to think about not falling asleep; eventually I do sleep, but it’s very broken. I have been having very interesting dreams, though. Guess I’m making up for the lack of sleep by trying to make what sleep I do get worthwhile. Recently I’ve been dreaming about a book I was reading; and last night I dreamt about Robin, and about Brian and work, too. It’ll probably be the only time I ever see Robin go swimming.




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