Posted in about me, cancer, ebb & flow, gratitude, physical health

The cancer bus ride started 13 years ago

Lucky number 13!

Thirteen years ago, I started my cancer journey (though the diagnosis didn’t come for another week or so).

It changed everything and it changed nothing.

It was not a blessing in disguise. It didn’t “happen for a reason” (except for whatever the biological root causes were … for which science has guesses but not answers).

It did have a lot of silver linings.

I was lucky—as lucky as one can be going through half a year of chemo, a month of radiation, and continuing on afterwards—in that my long-term side effects have been minimal. (Long-term side effects of the radiation, if I have them, aren’t expected to kick in for another few years. And they are terrifying, so here’s to hope that they pass me by.)

“Still alive” is a good baseline, but quality of life matters.

That’s true whether you’ve had cancer or not.

New Year and birthdays are often calendar points where we might be reflective and introspective.

This date and my cancer-free date (one week before Thanksgiving) give me two additional calendar points to pause and reflect for a minute.

Privileged to be able to forget most of the time that I ever went through it all in the first place. To be able to plug along.

Grateful to be here, to be healthy, to be writing, to be photographing, to have a son (infertility is a common side effect).

My wish for you is to assess or reassess without death threatening you. Or, if you currently feel threatened by death, use it as motivation to introspect. Use it as an excuse to be vulnerable with your people. (And make that a habit.)

Here’s to the next 13 and more! Cheers!

Posted in about me, exercise, mental health, motivation, physical health

Another morning habit I won’t keep

I finally hit the wall. Which is funny, because I’ve mostly been sitting.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been going for a walk almost every afternoon, to get some sun and fresh air and get out of the house. Until recently, it’s been nice out. Now that it’s officially “hot” (100+ degrees), I’ve started using a sun umbrella and taking a water bottle.

We’ve been biking three to five evenings each week with The Kid.

We’ve been lifting out in the garage usually twice a week.

We’ve been running sporadically.

But I still don’t feel … active enough? I think there’s just not enough days with heart rate up. The bike rides tend to be slow, walking in hot weather with an umbrella is average pace. Neither of those raise heart rate.

Also, I’ve been waking up around 6 most mornings, usually just before or with The Climbing Daddy’s alarm. The Kid wakes up between 7 and 7:30. So I have an hour or more most days between when I get up and when the chaos begins.

Twenty of those minutes go to journaling; that still leaves time.

So I decided to go out and run. Not far—1.5 to 2 miles. If some day I’m inspired to run more, I will.

Today was the first morning to run. Today, of course, I woke up close to 7. Tired.

Laying in a puddle of sleepy shame, I decided to start tomorrow.

I got out of bed to go to the bathroom. The act of getting out of bed and starting to move was all it took. I decided that I could run today and that I would feel better if I ran today and didn’t postpone it for another day.

So I went. It was cool (relatively) and sunny and lovely outside. I did a slow-even-for-me mile and a half.

The run itself was fine—not amazing, not terrible—and the feeling of getting it done is excellent. The mood-boosting benefits of the run are always welcome.

As an added bonus, when I got home, I texted a screenshot from the tracking app to a friend. (We often text about exercise things and will congratulate or encourage each other. Kind of long-distance exercise buddies.) I included the text: “Almost didn’t do it. Feels good to get it done.”

She replied, “You inspired me. I was literally putting on my shoes to walk the dog, but I think we’ll run a bit now.” And they did.

Gotta start somewhere. I started today.

Posted in about me, cancer, ebb & flow, gratitude, motivation, physical health

An anniversary without which there are no others

It was a long, rectangular room, with posh reclining chairs lining three walls and turning the corners on the fourth. The remaining space had a counter with cabinets and maybe a sink behind it. I don’t remember more detail than that.

Except that attached to the front side of the counter was a small Liberty Bell replica, one that works.

On the last day of chemo, when you get up out of your comfy chair, poison coursing through your veins for the last time, you get to ring the bell.

Twelve years ago today, I rang the bell.

Of course, you’re nowhere near done with all that cancer or cancer treatment have to offer. The short-term side effects of that treatment were still looming. The long-term side effects … well … I’m not sure all of those ever go away. And of course, the increased risk of other cancers as a result of this cancer’s treatment? That doesn’t go away.

You really don’t know that cancer isn’t what kills you until you die of something else. I mean, it’s nowhere near acute any more, but I am, both medically and self-defined, at risk for cancer.

As per doctors, Leukemia, skin cancer, and breast cancer all gained some strength in their potential as a result of the treatments. They haven’t mentioned thyroid cancer, but they didn’t protect my thyroid during radiation treatments (that I recall), so I’d guess that one is on the list, too.

As per my own thinking, my body has already shown me that it’s willing to flip on the “good host” switch.

Sometimes being a good host is not a good choice.

So I do things to reduce my risk. As much as I possibly can? No. But quite a bit. (You could argue that it’s more than most people do, but how my body actually functions has nothing to do with that comparison, so I avoid it.)

I also work to reduce The Kid’s risk. Because there are even more carcinogenic materials in normal life than there were when I was young—and they affect fetuses and kids more than adults—but many of them are avoidable. (It might be my greatest frustration that making money trumps consumer safety, and the countless loopholes available to businesses who want to avoid inconvenient or potentially expensive restrictions on ingredients/components.)

All that said, it’s been a hell of a dozen years. The best of times, the worst of times, and all that.

I was doing well at living well, and then I got knocked off course. I’m on my way back to doing well at living well.

Grateful every day for health and mobility, even when it feels like being excused to lay on the couch for 6 months would be great.

I can vouch: it’s not great. (And I wasn’t even in bad enough shape from chemo actually to be laid up the whole time.)

I recommend being preventative as much as you reasonably can and picking one or two things to be diligent about. Don’t wait until you have a positive biopsy before you assess your habits. (Or, truly, any other unpleasant health diagnosis. Cancer is a big one, but it’s certainly not the only.)

You are worth the time, the energy, the effort.

 

Posted in know better do better, mindset, physical health

Just say no…?

This popped up recently in my Facebook memories. I was going to rewrite it, but it’s succinct and to the point as-is.

(The year this was written, Halloween was on the upcoming Friday.)

It’s red ribbon week (AIDS? heart disease? hemophilia? no—substance abuse!). As part of celebrating (?) at school, some information is included in the morning announcements.

This morning, a bunch of nasty long-term side effects of tobacco was rattled off.

All but one are also nasty long-term side effects of sugar.

But on Friday, we’re going to distribute that generously. (Don’t even attempt to argue “It’s just one day” because you know that’s BS.)

I’d be attacked for suggesting we just pass out cigarettes for Halloween…

 

Posted in food, physical health

What is this mysterious vegetable?

This vegetable provides 21% of your daily potassium. Potassium is critical in our bodies, helping to regulate muscle contractions, nerve signals, and fluid balance. Potassium is an electrolyte—one of those things that people talk about needing to replenish when they exercise (though most people don’t really know what it means). Also keep in mind that your heart is a muscle, so “muscle contractions” is not just talking about arms and legs and such.

(For reference, an avocado provides 20%, a cup of white beans: 18%, a sweet potato or a cup of spinach: 12%, bananas: 9%.)

This vegetable is also weighing in at 45% of your daily vitamin C! That’s not as much as an orange or a cup of strawberries, but it’s still a solid serving.

You also get some fiber, some protein, and a little iron.

What package brings you all this goodness?

A potato.

This package is for gold potatoes, but other types are similar. (The nutrition facts panel is for “one medium potato.”)

Potatoes get a bad rap, and they shouldn’t.

You’ll want to eat the whole potato (including the skin!) and eat potatoes together with a little more protein and some fat, for staying power and to avoid a blood sugar crash.

Some of the most-loved ways to eat potatoes aren’t ideal and would be best considered “sometimes (or less) foods” — like fries, home fries, hash browns, chips.

But a baked potato? Or some skin-on mashed potatoes? Nutritionally beneficial.