I can’t believe I’m running again! Actually, I can’t believe I’m running at all.
Greg has always been the athletic half of our union ~ wrestling, running, playing baseball and football. Me? I’ve tried the odd get-in-shape program here and there, but my preferred mode of exercise has almost always been walking.
When we were living in China in 2009 and Greg was training for a marathon, he encouraged me to run with him. I can remember panting halfway around our apartment complex and growling, “I don’t understand how anyone can enjoy this!”
Enter Prevention magazine. My mom gave me the July 2009 issue when we arrived back in North America that year. When I read the article “Turn Your Walk into a Run,” I thought, I can do this, and started on the program right away. I kept at it for several months and *gasp* found myself enjoying the run/walk days more than the walking days because I could go farther faster!
Sometimes my busy schedule derailed my exercise efforts. Sometimes my body didn’t cooperate . . . plantar fasciitis, back pain, hip pain. A physiotherapist told me he suspected that I had osteoarthritis. When I asked, “Will I have to give up running?” I wanted to cry. At that point, I knew I was a runner. And I was . . . surprised. His answer: “That’s tricky. It’s actually better to keep moving when you have arthritis; but you may want to take your running to a treadmill. It’d be easier on your joints.”
Not having a treadmill, I sought other, gentler places to run than a concrete sidewalk. And I tried to find the perfect mix of running and walking to reap the most benefits with the least amount of pain.
Then breast cancer treatments stopped me in my tracks. During chemotherapy, there were days when I could barely get out of bed before noon, much less take a walk. There were days when I had to push myself to walk 10-20 minutes around the neighborhood. But there were also weekends when I felt strong enough to walk for over an hour. In fact, by God's grace, I walked my first 10K with my family one week after my second round of chemo!
The second half of chemotherapy brought different drugs and new side effects: bone pain, muscle pain, joint pain. My walking grew slower and more difficult. My muscles were incredibly tight by the time I returned home, and stretching was painful. But it was worth it. It felt good just to get outside and to know I was giving my body what it needed.
I finished chemo at the end of July and started radiation at the end of August. This meant traveling 30 minutes every Monday-Friday to the nearest cancer center for six weeks of treatments. Fatigue seems to be the universal side effect of radiation, and I did require a rest time almost every day when I returned home.
But I was beginning to feel like myself again. I was strong enough to drive alone to most of the treatments; and I took advantage of the fact that I was already out to plan a walk near the hospital either before or after almost every appointment. We were blessed with an incredibly mild fall, and I looked forward to my daily dose of fresh air and exercise.
During the last three weeks of radiation, I began to feel stronger and stronger. Nearly every day, it seemed like I had more energy than the day before. I was surprised, and mentioned it to my radiation oncologist. When I told her that I’d been walking regularly, she said, “Oh, walking is so good.”
“For energy?” I asked.
“For energy, mood . . .” She rattled off several benefits of walking (I’m pretty sure one of them was weight loss). And I knew I had to keep it up!
I had hoped that chemotherapy would help me drop some unwanted weight. But hormone changes, steroids, and a topsy-turvy appetite actually resulted in a net gain of 10 pounds. My medical team was not at all surprised, but I hated seeing that scale climb. When I expressed my frustration to Greg, he graciously reminded me, “That’s not the battle you need to be fighting right now.” And he was right.
But now that my treatments are over, I’ve been told I can run again. I’m ready to start my next battle.
So I recently pulled out my tattered copy of Prevention. With a family member or two in tow, I’m turning my walk into a run again. And it feels good.
I thank God for the ability to walk (and run). I thank God for the motivation to get going. And although the scale still appears to be stuck, I feel better about myself, I’m getting stronger ~ and when I run, it clears the cobwebs and I can breathe again. And that’s important, too.