As you battle Cancer, your primary focus becomes beating this horrible disease. You are aware of the potential side effects, but you do your best to block them out, so you can survive treatment and ring that bell as a survivor. What you do not realize is the effect that a year’s worth of treatment can have on your body.
As I woke up this morning, I am sore in places that I never expected could be so sore. Sure, your first thought may be that I overdid it at the gym, but my aches and pains are caused by something so many take for granted, running errands. Prior to my advanced Stage 3A Breast Cancer Diagnosis, carrying a basket full of groceries was something that I did without giving it a second thought. But a year worth of treatments took more of a toll on my body than I could have ever imagined.
While I was in the midst of my six rounds of chemotherapy that consisted of four different medications, Herceptin, Prejeta, Docetaxel, and Carboplatin. I received these treatments every three weeks and finished out the year with Herceptin every three weeks. Chemotherapy takes a serious toll on your body. Your sense of taste gets thrown out of whack, you deal with horrible dry mouth, nausea, and fatigue that makes you barely want to get out of bed.
For me, my treatments didn’t hit me hard until a few days after they were administered. This resulted in me spending hours either resting in bed or on the couch watching TV. I had very little energy to do much of anything, and even the almost mile-long walk to my desk was a struggle. I could barely think straight most days, and I seemed to lose all strength to do the simplest of things, like opening a new jar of pickles. I also developed the “dropsies”, a case where things would fall out of my hands unexpectedly like my brain no longer had control over my reflexes to catch something that was tossed to me or to maintain a grip on something I was already holding.
Climbing stairs became a struggle as just one flight of stairs would leave my legs feeling I had run a marathon. I knew I needed to rest as much as possible to allow my body to heal, but this is extended amount of rest had the same effects on my body as that of someone who has been placed on bedrest. Without physical activity, your muscles will atrophy, or begin to waste away. This is the number one reason why tasks that were easy prior to your Cancer treatment now seem like they are almost impossible to achieve. It also explains why a simple task like grocery shopping left my shoulders feeling like I spent the afternoon lifting weights, which I guess in some ways I did.
The path to regaining your health and muscle strength is not something that will happen overnight, but there are a few things you can do to get your body back in the same if not better shape than it was prior to your Cancer diagnosis.
One of the biggest changes I made was replacing my morning scrambled eggs and an apple with a protein shake. High-quality protein, like that found in my Isagenix IsaLean Protein Shake, helps support the body in retaining and building lean muscle mass. Items like beef, pork, and poultry are also good sources, but nothing can beat the 24G of protein a shake can provide. Soy is also another option, but if you happen to have been diagnosed with cancer that is Estrogen positive, it has been recommended to avoid Soy as much as possible as some say it can mimic estrogen in the body. There is still mixed information on this, so I do my best to avoid it as much as possible.
In addition to eating healthy, it is of the utmost importance to get your body moving. For me, this was the hardest thing to do because I was constantly paranoid that my body would not be able to handle any strenuous forms of exercise. My oncologist constantly recommends 30 minutes of strenuous exercise every day to help improve memory function, but my mind kept convincing me that she was wrong. While I would love to purchase a Pelaton Cycle and a NordicTrack treadmill, I started small by working out on my Total Gym again.
But then we got a snow storm last week, while my husband was at work, so I forced myself to go out and shovel, against the better judgment of the voices in my head that kept telling me I couldn’t do it. Surprisingly enough I was able to clear our whole driveway and front walk of a few inches of heavy, slushy snow, and it didn’t kill me. Of course, I am about four months out from my last Herceptin treatment, and a few months post-op of my reconstruction surgery, so my body has had a bit more time to recoup than someone who may have just finished treatments yesterday.
It is still very important to listen to your body, and rest when you know you need to, but you also need to challenge yourself from time to time. Take that walk out to the mailbox, or climb that flight of stairs. Sure it may seem difficult at first, but with time these difficult tasks will start to become easier, proof that your body is slowly regaining the strength it had prior to your diagnosis.
Just remember that healing will take time. Your body did not get this way overnight, so your path to health will be a long journey as well. Just be patient, and with time, life will return to normal, making your Cancer treatment a distant memory.