A Journey of 1000 Miles Begins With a Single Step
It’s been a while since I wrote my last post, apologies to anyone that has been waiting in eager anticipation to hear me moan some more. I have been really busy and loving my freedom from the constant cycle of chemo I lived life by last year. I was very surprised and disappointed how down I felt after my last treatment. I was hoping I would be feeling fresh and full of energy a few weeks after finishing but the physical and mental effects of chemo dragged on well into the New Year. The psychological battle is definitely not over once treatment finishes and there is a stark difference between relief and happiness.
Christmas and New Years celebrations were very challenging but it was fun and it felt great to be free. I got a bit too excited about having a small amount of energy and over did it which meant I was still feeling rough and really weak into the New Year. One of the biggest highlights over Christmas was being surprised with a holiday to America in April from my amazing friends, brother and sister. Such an incredible and generous gift from an amazing group of people. I was almost speechless but a lot of thank-yous and f-bombs were dropped. These past few weeks I have been feeling well enough to get back into training finally! I had a massive smile from ear to ear all day after my first session back and my morale has improved dramatically. Not only am I back doing what I love most but its helping me sleep better, getting out the house, gives me focus, I feel better about myself and obviously the added benefit of endorphins being released. And it’s better for those that have to put up with me when I’m not exercising. So all is better when training!
To start off with I attempted to run a couple of times while walking the dog. He was confused as he had never seen me break out of a slow walk. I didn’t last long and could only keep it up a few minutes. The few days after I had a really painful chest. I don’t know what I did but I think it may be down to straining my intercostal muscles which haven’t been used much for a year, other than getting out of breath walking up the stairs. Having a painful chest was obviously playing on my mind a lot but all good now.
I’m so determined to get the best result possible with the new shoulder so I have been religiously doing a couple of hours of physio and mobility work every day. Since starting back in the gym I have been focusing on building my base fitness back up. Lots of time spent on the bike, cross trainer, squats, lunges, skipping and I’ve even attempted to row a few times. I’m loving it. My legs are getting a beating as that’s all I can really do at the moment. I’ve had a few strange looks from people that don’t know me when I’ve attempted to shoulder press the 2kg dumbbell with a look on my face that I’m going to burst a blood vessel and anal prolapse. Then given up, put the dumbbell back in the rack and walked out the room. A little disheartening when my push press pb was 120kg before. Being back in the gym has been a challenging reality check. I’ve had to literally start all over again after spending 15 years training and developing my fitness. There are many things that I cant do anymore which I loved doing before but I know I need to be grateful and focus on what I can do, and I also know that I am lucky to be here and this could have been a very different story. I’ve been told off a few times by my physio and surgeon when they found out what I was doing, but I’m stubborn and I don’t like being told I can’t do something. I stupidly see it as a challenge when someone says you wont or cant. Nevertheless we are all extremely happy with the progress I have made and as long as I don’t do anything stupid I will keep getting stronger.
I’ve always been a very sweaty bloke when I exercise. My t-shirt regularly looks like I’ve jumped into a swimming pool. However due to having glands and nerves cut through during the operation my shoulder doesn’t sweat anymore, which I found out during my first session back (see pic below). I hope this doesn’t mean the rest of my body will sweat even more now to compensate, I’m sweaty enough as it is! I’m going to start to get in the pool more as I can do breast-stroke. It’s great for rehab because it improves mobility and provides a small amount of resistance while still supporting the weight of my arm. It’s great exercise for my shoulder and very important to mix training up and keep things interesting.
I am the lightest I have been since school after losing around 15kg of muscle. My haemoglobin (red blood cells) will take about 3-4 months to get back to normal so I still get tired quicker than usual and my energy levels crash most afternoons after training in the morning. I am also still suffering the effects of ‘chemo brain’, which is a cognitive impairment. Due to this I zone out a lot, I’ve forgotten so many things and I find it hard to focus. Other side effect of chemo brain are difficulty finding the right word, difficulty following conversations, fatigue, confusion, mental fogginess and mood swings, which those around me have witnessed unfortunately. All really annoying side affects to say the least and makes me feel a bit stupid, helpless and not like myself. At least I have an excuse now anyway! Chemo brain can sometimes last for years and can cause anxiety and stress, which would explain a lot. Let’s hope it doesn’t stick around. The chemo drugs affect the whole body right down to a cellular level and can take up to 18 months to get back to normal. The important thing is my hair is very slowly coming back with the moustache leading the way…Moustache power!!! But most importantly the drugs did their job.
I had my first scan last week since finishing treatment and will hopefully meet my Dr this week to get the results. Inevitably this is playing on my mind a lot and I’ve been increasingly anxious and restless leading up to it, even though I’m confident it will all be good news. I’m planning on getting away for a quick holiday to get some much needed vitamin D from the big shiny fella before I return to work in March so it bloody better be good news!
Looking ahead I have a lot planned this year. I’m going to continue to increase my training and hopefully book a few challenges into the diary and raise some money for charities that have helped me, like Macmillan. I’m thinking a couple of decent bike rides this year to start off with as that’s something I can easily start to train for but still thrash myself in the process. Next year I am planning on climbing a mountain in Alaska called Denali since getting the mountaineering bug after climbing Mont Blanc in 2014. However Mount Denali will take a lot more training and organizing so we are planning a week in the Alps this year to bag a few peaks and a few weekends in Wales and Scotland to measure fitness with the other lads doing it. I’ve always been a keen sailor but rugby has taken up the majority of my time, now I can’t play I’m planning on sailing more and seeing where that goes. I haven’t been away for 2 years so I have a few holidays planned, some festivals booked, lots of weddings which more importantly means stag dos and a few weekends away planned, so 2016 is already looking very positive, challenging in the right way and busy which makes me happy.