We’re here for a good time, not an easy time

I’m hoping this is going to be one of the last health updates I have to give for a very long time, simply because I’m hoping I won’t have much to say about it moving forward. But I do have something to say about the recovery process in general.

 

The last couple weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster, sure. But today I stand here in a good place, with a body that isn’t hurting very much. My mood has been up and down on my way here, and my brain has been seriously overthinking every aspect of my life – but I can happily say that pain doesn’t seem to be a major issue for me right now, and that is a good thing.  

 

The cortisone shot I got at the rheumatology office was pretty great, to say the least. I was feeling SO good – hyper – energetic – wildly optimistic about life – but then I crashed. On day 7 I woke up and I didn’t feel good, and my body hurt. The depression quickly followed, because I knew the effects of the shot had worn off, but worse I realized that everything I had been feeling was definitely because of that shot, and not because I had finally gotten back to normal. 

 

Normal. There is that word. I’ll get to that in a minute.

 

I was told the shot would have an effect for 2-3 weeks, and I was disappointed that it only lasted one week for me, but at least now I knew I had another tool in my pocket. I called the office to let them know that it worked, and to book another appointment to have it again. Then the disappointment and borderline anger came when the receptionist delivered the news that these shots can only be administered a few times a year. What.  

 

This is another example of a key piece of information being left out of the initial conversation with my doctor. Why does it seem like I keep getting half of the story when I’m making decisions about my health? I was frustrated, I’m still frustrated. I try to put myself in my doctor’s shoes – maybe most patients don’t need to know, don’t ask, don’t care… maybe they think it isn’t an important part of the conversation or maybe they straight up forgot – after all, they’re human too. But whatever it is, I feel like my emotions around it all could have been managed if I had all the information. 

 

So, this shot is only a once in a while thing. Cool. Not great, but it’s something I’ll remember if I need it in the future for important events or really bad stretches of pain or symptoms. You risk damaging all the tissue surrounding the injection sites, and it isn’t reversible once the damage is done. Essentially you could create new pain and issues down the road just trying to treat the current pain and issues you’re experiencing now. Good to know. Kind of important. Noted. Check. Thank you. 

 

Then over the next couple of weeks I felt my symptoms dissipating. Every day I felt a little better, and the pain became less and less. I found myself forgetting that I even had pain a lot of the time, or I’d realize ‘hey, I don’t feel pain right now, weird’. It’s like I am afraid to be excited or happy about it, because that’s usually when something happens to pull me backwards back into it all. So that’s where I’m at right now. A cautious optimism that maybe all I needed was WAY MORE time then I was ever prepared for, to recover from all the cancer treatments, surgeries and accompanying complications. 

 

What about my implants? Well, I honestly believe they will need to come out at some point – and probably sooner than later, but not right away. Although the pain has improved drastically, I am definitely not feeling my best. When I say that, I mean I believe that I can feel better – and I believe some less-pressing-yet-persistent symptoms are likely caused by the fact that my body is having some kind of reaction to the foreign objects inside my body. These plastic things full of chemicals are likely preventing me from my best state of health. It honestly creeps me out when I think about it, but I’m not ready. I’m not there. It’s hard being that honest with myself, never mind other people – but there it is. I’ll get there, but I’m still holding on to the idea that I’ll continue to feel better and better, and maybe if I wait just a little longer I won’t have to worry about it. After all, the doctors all tell me the implants are safe. 

 

When I think back, and when I think WAY back, I was always told that after treatment everything would be over. I’d be back to normal, good to go, I can move on, my old life would be waiting for me. So when that never happened it affected me deeply. I worried that there was something wrong with me. I worried I didn’t do it right, or that others were better at moving on then I was. I worried about pretty much everything and it dominated my thoughts. In short, it didn’t feel good to not feel good. It’s like I had to deal with the physical aspects, but worry even more about how I FELT about it all. Like there is a right way and a wrong way to recover. 

 

There is a huge gap in care after cancer. Because it pretty much doesn’t exist as a part of our formal treatment, and there really isn’t much direction to go seek it out on our own either. If my doctors shared some messages differently at the end of our time together I believe it would have been different for me. If my surgeons changed their messaging around my recovery then I know things would have been different for me, and it would have been easier to manage my expectations around it all. Here are a few things I would have liked to have heard, now that I look back. If you’re in my shoes now, or will be soon, or might be one day, or have a loved one in the middle of it all – here they are. 

 

From my oncologists:

 

Hey Lindsy, you’re going to need ongoing support for a really long time now that your treatment is over – don’t be worried, don’t feel ashamed about it, it’s normal and everyone recovers differently. In fact, some people and most people never feel back to normal, they learn to live with a new version of normal – but one thing I can promise is that it will eventually feel normal to you and you’ll be happy. And although some people can move on from treatment without many long term physical effects, there are lots of people who experience them for months or years. Here are some resources to help you if you’re one of them. 

 

From my surgeons:

 

Hey Lindsy, this is an intense and life altering surgery. If there are complications, it’s even more involved. It’s going to be a longer recovery than you’ll probably expect, but it’ll be worth it. The recovery doesn’t end when the wounds heal, it is a process of getting to know your new body and learning to work with it. It will not be the same, it won’t ever be the same, but it’s what you have to work with, and you will be able to make it work. Depending on what your expectations are, the time will vary, so let’s talk about your expectations so we can properly prepare you. Here are some resources to help you.

 

I can go on. And maybe I will. I think these messages can help others who feel the same way I do. Physical pain and complications are inevitable and very real – but how we react to it, feel about it and let it affect our mental health is the real area of concern here. There is a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is pain, but how we suffer from it is what really affects how we live our lives, and how we let it control our thoughts. 

 

There is an opportunity to improve how we send our cancer patients and survivors out into the world, because I have experienced the gap first hand, and I hear about it all the time from others in the cancer community too. I know our system is doing the best they can most of the time, and the care I received during treatment was amazing, and I’m here today typing this article out as proof – but we can always do better. More information and resources, better communication, and a focus on mental health is where we start. 

A shot in the dark

I feel great. That’s something I haven’t been able to say for a really long time, without some kind of ‘but’ attached to it. Isn’t that incredible? I feel great. End of sentence. 

 

I’ve been off my pain medication for about 10 days now, and I’m so happy to be done with all of that. I feel clearer and more focused on healing than I ever have, and being off pain medication was a huge first step I needed to take to move forward. It wasn’t easy, because feeling all the things I’ve been taking the medication to avoid for so long was incredibly unpleasant. But more than the physical effects, the emotional and psychological toll was much more challenging to get past. I had to really work hard at reminding myself that the discomfort would be temporary, and worth it. And I was right, it was temporary and it has been so worth it. 

 

So am I off pain medication and pain free? Technically yes. Which is something worth celebrating! But there is a little catch… I saw a second rheumatologist last week to see if there was anything that could come out of it – it never hurts to get a second opinion – and our conversation was very interesting. 

 

One of the things I asked him was about whether he had any insight on the whole ‘my body could be fighting the foreign objects (my implants) and creating an inflammatory reaction’ thing.

“I’ve seen it one time.” He said.

I was shocked – no doctor has ever even said that much to me! I was clearly taken back, and asked him more questions. He told me he had one patient who benefited from having her implants removed, and it cleared up symptoms she was experiencing that mimicked other autoimmune diseases. I asked how they knew it was her implants, and he said it was only figured out after surgery. Damn. Back to that. 

 

Then after lots of questions from him about my medical history and symptoms, he talked about how he thought my issue could be spondylitis  – a kind of inflammatory condition and arthritis in the back and spine. I asked him how it could be that, if there aren’t any markers in my bloodwork. He said it doesn’t always show up in tests. Oh, here we are again. 

 

So I’ve been told my implants aren’t a problem by many doctors because my bloodwork shows no inflammatory markers. But now this doctor is telling me that I can have spondylitis without any inflammatory markers in my bloodwork. Do you see why this is so frustrating? I’m always back to the same dilemma – how and when do I decide I have no choice but to remove my implants, as a complete shot in the dark. 

 

The reason why I feel great is this. The rheumatologist gave me a hydrocortisone shot. He said that if I got the shot and the pain went away then it would be a good indicator that the inflammatory condition in my back was likely a problem – maybe even THE problem. I wasn’t interested at first, the idea of taking a shot of medication as a guess didn’t feel right. Plus I was only off the Percocet for a few days at this point, so I wasn’t through the amount of time I needed for the withdrawal symptoms to wear off. To put it simply, I didn’t know what was responsible for the pain and discomfort. It wasn’t until he assured me it is relatively low risk for a possibly big pay off – OH and he may have mentioned that his schedule was booked so far in advance it was kind of now or never – so I decided to give it a shot. A shot. Get it?? Besides, it’s not like pumping my body full of medication was something I wasn’t used to… What’s one more try? I got the shot, booked a follow up and went on my way. He said that if the pain disappeared, and then reappeared in 2-3 weeks then it was a strong indicator that we were on the right track.

 

So here I am, a week after that appointment and I haven’t felt my achy and radiating pain in pretty much that entire amount of time. Sure, there is a bit of lingering fatigue and malaise… but where did the pain go? It’s gone. Was it the shot? Probably. Or has my pain been better for a while now, but the Percocets had me on the revolving cycle that perpetuated the pain and unwell feelings? I guess I’ll know in a couple weeks. 

 

The very optimistic side of me thinks that maybe this shot will wear off and I will feel as good as ever. Maybe my body just needed time to get back to a place where I didn’t have to worry about it as much. It isn’t impossible for things to just get better – and I’ve been putting in the work with my mind-body connection, mindfulness, mindset and physical rehab – so it isn’t impossible that I just may have made the best effort and a lot of good decisions lately to support this. I am doing this, everything I’ve been working for could finally be here. 

 

My energy level fluctuates, but for the most part I’m happy and hyper. My workouts at the gym have been better than I imagined this early on, and I think being back at the gym (now that you need to have your vaccines, it made me feel comfortable going back) with machines that can help stabilize me so I can be more targeted with my strength training has been a game changer. I’m less likely to hurt myself, or overdue it, or tweak something when I’m being so intentional with what I do. It feels great to be back! And I’m stronger than I thought I would be, so that’s a bonus. 

 

As for the Spartan race I spoke about a few weeks ago – I’ve decided I can’t do it. It pains me to make that decision, because I love jumping into challenges like that… but I’m terrified of hurting myself and setting myself back. Doing hundreds of burpees and all those intense obstacles would definitely be risky, and I just can’t take those risks. My husband is going to do it, and my kids will do the kids race. So this year I’ll sit on the sidelines and cheer them all on, the same way they’ve sat on the sidelines cheering me on so many times before. And next year will be my turn of course.

 

Well, here’s to another week of strength and optimism! 

Quit it and hit it

Earlier this week I woke up one morning and I thought to myself ‘today is the day’. The day I won’t take any of my narcotic painkillers, and the day I’d try something new to feel better and live better. That was the day I had the courage to let it get worse before it got better, if that’s what it took. It was the day I had to quit taking something that I’ve grown very used to needing to get through my days – for almost nine months. 

 

I’ve been wanting to stop taking Percocet for many months now. I didn’t like being so reliant on medication like that, and there is a huge stigma that follows opioids, making it something I didn’t particularly like to share with many people. When I did mention it to people, the amount of times I heard ‘be careful, those drugs are super addictive you know’ are too many to count. Yes, yes I do know, thank you. 

 

I started taking them in January of this year, 2020. It started a couple days after we rang in the New Year virtually with friends – when I realized I wasn’t nursing a hangover, I was just straight up not feeling well. I remember thinking ‘Oh no… I must have another infection’, because that is exactly what it felt like. A flu-ish type malaise, body aches, headache, sore muscles, fatigue, etc. were my symptoms – but I couldn’t figure out where the infection actually was. I hadn’t had any operations or surgeries for a few months, and there wasn’t any visible sign that my body was fighting something, like it had in the past. 

 

I had an appointment with my family doctor, and after trying anti-inflammatory medications and muscle relaxants – we switched to the Percocet because I had success with it in the past, and I tolerated it well. I also really needed it, the symptoms were getting really bad and it was hard for me to get through my days. It started with just one dose a day, eventually moving to twice a day, and a few months in – since this past summer – I have been taking it three times a day. 

 

A drug like Percocet can begin to lose its effectiveness over time, so I assumed that’s why I kept needing more of it. My doctor assured me that since I was on what was considered to be a very low dose, it was more likely that my symptoms were getting worse. I was taking the medication at strategic times during my day so I felt well for specific or important parts. I’d try to hold off as long as I could in the morning on days when I had later nights, or I’d take them much earlier in the day sometimes for things like work and it meant I’d have a more challenging evening. It was exhausting constantly counting the hours in my head, analyzing every little thing I felt in my body, and knowing that I couldn’t be on this medication forever… I have to be careful you know…

 

I hated taking it, I felt guilty, I was worried about addiction – because even though I was fine, I’m smart enough to know that no one starts taking medication like that with the intention of becoming addicted – and there were negative side effects as well. I couldn’t imagine being on it for so long, but that’s how time works… it just keeps ticking by, one day at a time, while I hunted for answers regarding why I was dealing with everything I was dealing with. 

 

BUT. Here I am. Opioid free for almost a week. I know it doesn’t sound like a very long time, but I promise you, the days have been incredibly long while I wait out and analyze everything I’m feeling, to see what I’m actually feeling. I knew I had to be off the medication so I could really know what my symptoms are, and how bad they are, before I make huge decisions about what I do next. I couldn’t keep silencing the symptoms, because there was always a chance that things had been improving, but the medication could be masking it, or the side effects could be disguised as my original symptoms. It was complicated. So I’m trying to make it simple. No drugs, just symptoms. 

 

Of course I can’t even trust my symptoms right now, because there is definitely a period of detox. Although I was on what would be considered a low dose, you can’t consistently take something like that and expect there to be no withdrawal symptoms for at least a small period of time. I couldn’t get an appointment with my doctor fast enough, so I did what all humans would do in my position – I googled the shit out of it. 

 

Let me tell you, Google was not kind. When you google this kind of thing – ‘how to stop taking opioid medication’ or ‘how to ween off Percocet’ or my personal favorite, ‘how long do withdrawal symptoms last’ – you get a whole bunch of information that was designed to help people kick a serious addiction, and although I would never consider myself an abuser of prescription drugs, it definitely doesn’t make me feel good to be reading up on all of it. And it definitely didn’t make me excited to go ahead and stop taking it. The internet told me it was going to suck, so it was going to suck.

 

But I had to quit. I knew what I had to do, and I had a timeline in my head. For a little while, every day I hoped it would be the day, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was scared, and I didn’t want to feel like shit, because well quite frankly, it sucks. But then one day I got an advertisement on my Instagram feed for the Spartan race. It’s happening at the end of October in Ontario, and it’s the race I did a little over three years ago, before the whole cancer thing went down. Maybe I could do it. This gave me the push I needed to make it happen. This is the kind of unrealistic goal that makes me overcome and thrive! It’s what I do.

 

So, in an effort to kick the drugs, and determine if it was actually a realistic possibility for me to be able to do the race that definitely requires a considerable amount of upper body strength – I decided my strategy would be to keep moving and exercising through all of the withdrawal symptoms. I would walk, strength train, run when I felt good, and walk some more. I even did three full sets of proper burpees on the first day, to see if I could do them. In the Spartan race, if you can’t do an obstacle then you have to do a 30 burpee punishment, and I know I’ll be doing a lot of burpees – like a couple hundred –  if I decide to take this on. 

 

It was hard, but I believe I’m through the hardest part. I obviously felt the aches and pain that the medication used to cover up, but I also dealt with insane restlessness, insomnia, hot flashes and chills, fatigue, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, excessive yawning, and really bad nausea. Plus, my head was not in a good place. I was depressed, unhappy, irritable… and even though rationally I knew that it was the effect of not having that happy kick in the brain the Percocet used to provide – it didn’t make those psychological symptoms any easier. I have been taking regular strength anti-inflammatories like Advil to help me get through the busier parts of my days, but that’s it. 

 

Then yesterday I woke up and my body and mind felt lighter. I got up early, had a really great strength training session, walked it off afterwards to help my body recover… and had a really good day. Was it totally normal? No. I still have some shit to deal with. BUT, I will admit, my symptoms are not as bad as I worried they’d be. In fact, I’m even optimistic that in a few more days I’ll feel even better. Maybe – just maybe – my body just needed all that time to straighten itself out. I’m choosing optimism, and hope. 

 

My rheumatologist told me that it is possible that my body hasn’t recovered from the serious infection I had last summer. He told me that when someone goes through something like I did, and dealt with all the harsh treatments and surgeries that I did, my body’s pain receptors could have been affected, and essentially they could have been malfunctioning. He told me that it wasn’t impossible to be experiencing all these symptoms and issues even a year later. It’s frustrating to have all sorts of guesses about what the problem could be, but no answers. I’ll have to get comfortable with the fact that I may never get a proper explanation, but I’m not against never knowing as long as these symptoms go away and I can enjoy a pain free existence. That’s a problem I’d love to have – never knowing. 

 

So what’s next? More time off medication, another appointment to get a second opinion with another rheumatologist this week, a naturopath appointment with a specialist in the mind/body connection, more mindfulness and meditation practices – something I give a lot of credit in my ability to work through pain and discomfort everyday – and lot’s of moving. Remember, moving not only helps you physically, but it does even more mentally. Plus, apparently I have a spartan race to train for! (wink)

 

It’s the perspective for me

I had been contemplating sharing where I’m at with the decisions I have ahead of me for a very long time. In the beginning of my cancer experience I was very public about everything, but a couple years in I definitely felt the fatigue of sharing everything, with everyone, all the time. It was tiring trying to think of worthwhile captions for my posts on social media, it became a chore to take pictures that I could share, and I worried that I was sharing too much and it seemed like the interest in my story was diminishing. It simply became something that was no longer serving my happiness and peace of mind. 

 

Of course, since the beginning of the year I’d share every once in a while some of the fun things I was doing, or something with my kids… so to the outside world it probably seemed like I had moved on in terms of my health and everything was ok. Sometimes I’d go a couple weeks without posting at all, and I’d always be so touched – and honestly surprised – when many people noticed my silence and would go out of their way to check in with me. To those of you, you know who you are, thank you for that. 

 

The chronic pain I was experiencing was hard to explain, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share what was happening because at that time I was worried that if it was something serious, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through it so publicly the next time around. I felt like I wanted to keep it close because I didn’t want anything to take my focus away from fighting whatever was coming – or from my kids who’d need me more than ever. 

 

It was in January when my physiotherapist was doing her normal treatments and assessments on me when she questioned me about a small lump on my chest, just above where my implant sat on the right side – my cancer side. My chest was hurting a lot everytime I did any kind of cardio exercise, and she was focusing on the scar tissue in the area in an attempt to help that. I honestly wasn’t concerned at first, because it was so small it was hard to find, and it didn’t feel like my first lump. Besides, I had a double mastectomy – what would be the chances. 

 

Well, according to google and about a million websites on the subject, I was reading that around 5% of women will have some kind of a regional recurrence in the first 10 years after a double mastectomy. Although my breast tissue was removed, there is always a chance that some breast tissue cells get left behind, and it only takes one cell to cause another problem. One teeny tiny cell. I was declared cancer free the day of my surgery in November 2018 –  but the chemo, radiation and hormone treatments were all done to maximize my chances against recurrence of my HER2 positive cancer, the kind of cancer that if left alone after surgery had something like a 25% recurrence rate, an incredibly dangerous number. 

 

It was my physiotherapist, who knew all of the physical symptoms I was experiencing at the time that began to question if something could be seriously wrong, and she asked me to go get the lump checked out and talk to my doctors as soon as I could. It seems silly, but the idea that my cancer could be back never even crossed my mind until then – and then all of a sudden the dots began to connect in my brain. Suddenly, I knew I had a problem. 

 

My plastic surgeon who was following up on my case regularly since all of my surgeries was my first appointment. After examining me, he agreed that I needed an MRI to determine if the lump was something to be more concerned about. After all, I was experiencing more pain and symptoms for a longer period of time than really any patients he had before me, so there could be an explanation here. A really shitty explanation. It was a couple days later when I got a call from my hospital telling me I was booked for a bone scan – which is not what I was expecting. I was immediately alarmed and after I hung up the phone my stress and anxiety shot through the roof. I know how things worked by now, and for my appointment to be switched to a bone scan after they reviewed the request for an MRI I knew my situation was being escalated, and now they’re looking for a cancer recurrence elsewhere in my body. 

 

Not good. I was not good. I was emotional, my heart was beating a mile a minute and I couldn’t help but worry that everything here was beginning to make sense. I called some people, explained what was going on, and tried not to think about what it would mean if I got bad news. I was really worried, and my people were really worried too. 

 

If you look up breast cancer recurrence online you’ll see a few different numbers. In conversations with my oncologist I was told that it happens in about 5-7% of women with my kind of cancer, at my age, with all of my diagnosis and treatment details. That means 5-7 out of every 100 women like me will be told that their early stage breast cancer has metastasized into a terminal stage 4 diagnosis within their first 5 cancer free years. Do you know how many women there are like me? A terrifying amount. Did you catch the word terminal? Because it is. 

 

Surviving a stage 4 diagnosis is not something that happens. You hear about some women who are considered miracles if they get 10 or more years, but the average survival rate after that diagnosis is more like 3 years. And only about 22% make it to 5 years. In short, it’s a devastating situation. A situation that I now had to worry about for myself. 

 

My scan was in just over two weeks, and I’d get the results a couple days after that. At first it felt like it would be impossible to wait that long to get an answer – and many people voiced their outrage at the fact that I had to wait so long. But the truth is it didn’t matter, if this is what it was then two and a half weeks made no difference. It was a busy COVID season, we were in lockdown, and to be honest I truly felt like scans needed to be prioritized for people who were just beginning their cancer experience, because timing does matter a lot in those situations. I was at peace with the timing, and I couldn’t help but be grateful that I had some time before I couldn’t unknow what could be coming.  I needed the time to get my thoughts and feelings together, and to enjoy life as we knew it. 

 

I’ve been through this before, the days leading up to my original breast cancer diagnosis are something I can’t properly describe – but there is a certain peace and happiness you feel, grateful for life, and a new perspective at just how incredibly fragile life is. You see every single moment in a different light, you realize how much you have to be thankful for, trivial problems in life suddenly disappear from your worries and are forced into the present moment in everything you do. The days suddenly go by so fast, and you find yourself promising yourself that you’ll worry less, be more grateful and will do so much better if you’re given a second chance. 

 

In those two and a bit weeks you’ll notice a change in the camera roll on my phone, and I’ve actually reflected on that a few times since. I was taking A LOT of pictures, I was dancing with my kids, reading, lying in bed with them listening to them tell me all their stories, thoughts and plans for the future. I would quite literally just stare at them in awe, and then at the same time a sense of dread would come over me that they would have to learn how to navigate this world without me. They weren’t ready. They needed me. I had so much to teach them and I couldn’t stand the thought of them being so hurt, so sad and so traumatized at such a young age. They’ll never understand, and there will never be enough time. 

 

It’s incredible how emotional I feel right now, six months later, typing this out. If I’m being honest, I’m having trouble seeing my screen as the tears fill up my eyes as I reflect on this experience. I had to come to terms with the idea that this could be how my story ends, and in turn this would be my kid’s story – losing their mom to cancer during childhood. Those two weeks were harder than all the hard things I had been through leading up to that point – because I never worried about not surviving before. It wasn’t even an option. I knew I’d beat it, I knew I’d be ok, and that was that. Absolutely no question in my mind. Was that actually the reality of my case? No, of course there was always a chance this could have gone wrong for me – but I didn’t go there. It served no purpose and I believed that my mindset mattered more than anything. 

 

So why was I having a hard time feeling so confident at this time? Well, I felt like shit. I’ve explained before what sypmptoms I’m exeriecing, and at this time it seemed pretty fucking clear that all my symptoms added up to a breast cancer metasisis to my bones. My bones ached, and the aches radiated out from my ribcage, back and would travel into my legs, arms, feet and hands. It was worse at night when I wasn’t moving very much, and pain relief never really came even when I was taking painkillers. I had a general feeling of malaise, fatigue and sensitivity, and there were no other answers, or even suggestions at this time. 

 

The emotional roller coaster I was experiencing was intense. I found myself reaching out to people I hadn’t talked to in a while, and I treated those interactions as if it might be some of my last… I know it might sound extreme, but I couldn’t help but feel the need to wind down some of those relationships, and lay the groundwork to prepare them for the next thing I would tell them. I didn’t get into the details of my situation with many people, because I wasn’t sure yet and I honestly didn’t want to waste any of the time I had with them talking all about me or cancer. And I definitely didn’t share any of this on social media, because I had decided that if this was happening again, it would be private this time. 

 

The morning of my scan didn’t feel good. There was a certain deja vu feeling in the air with the heaviness I’d felt a few times before. My husband made me a big breakfast with the help of my children, who of course had no idea about the gravity of the situation at all (because that’s something you don’t address until it’s necessary, in my opinion, call that a big fuck NO) and we sat and enjoyed each other until I had to leave for the hospital, as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. 

 

“How long will you be at your doctor’s appointment?” They asked, like they do every single time I leave the house for an appointment. 

“Oh not long, maybe an hour… I’ll be back as fast as I can.” I explained. Hugs, kisses, smiles, normalcy. Off I went. 

 

Because of COVID, I had to be alone. I drove alone, I cried alone on the way there, I parked alone, I took a deep breath in my car alone, I checked in alone, I waited alone. I was injected with a nuclear tracer alone. I waited some more, alone, and I walked into the room alone. I was given instructions by the technician and layed down in the bone scan machine before he went behind the glass panel where a small team would watch my scans and prepare them to be reviewed by the radiologist. It was an awful 40 minutes of trying to avoid looking at the screen, where I’d see different colors popping up throughout my body – what did that mean? Did it mean something? Would it be possible that I’d see something myself? Or no, they wouldn’t let that happen, people would freak out. I was freaking out. 

 

It eventually ended, I was shaky and nervous but I headed out and went home. There was nothing left to do now but wait, so I did everything I could to distract myself and remain calm until I had a reason not to. 

 

The next morning I was teaching a virtual fitness class at 9am when my phone rang at about 9:10am. I panicked, so naturally, I ignored it and continued teaching. But that was it, that was the call. I couldn’t leave my class, and truthfully I didn’t want to. The call was coming from my oncologist – she wasn’t even the one who ordered my test – oh my god it’s already in the hands of my oncologist – it’s not good news. And the results came back in less than 24 hours, that doesn’t happen unless it’s bad…. I was spiraling… with a smile on my face while I told my class to keep doing lunges for another 30 seconds. 

 

Then I got another call, two minutes later. Not good. Then the notification that I had a voicemail. Fuck. 20 minutes left in this class… What was I doing again? Where was I in this workout? I managed to finish the class, and immediately called my oncologist, left a message and waited. I told Brian that I was worried because of who called and how fast this call came… I told him I’d make sure he was there when I got the news. 

 

About an hour later – I think – she called. Brian abruptly left his video meeting, and stared at me like if he stared hard enough he’d be able to read my mind. I didn’t put it on speaker phone, which in hindsight was pretty brutal – but I wasn’t thinking clearly – and my doctor quickly told me that she had my bone scan in her hands and it looked good, no signs of cancer. IT LOOKED GOOD. I looked at my husband, gave him a thumbs up, and tried not to cry while she went on to tell me about it. I felt relieved, sure, but I also felt really fucked up. This was the news that I wasn’t dying – I wasn’t dying people. This was good news! 

 

After a conversation bringing her up to speed on everything that had been going on, she told me she wasn’t concerned it would be a cancer problem. I was cancer free, this wasn’t it. I was told that there really isn’t evidence of long term chronic issues after breast cancer treatment, she really didn’t think she could help me. She recommended I see a rheumatologist next, because it sounded like it could be an autoimmune disease or disorder of some kind. She told me the lump is likely a build up of fatty cells and scar tissue leftover from surgery… they’re scary to find, but are harmless, and aren’t even that uncommon. Not common, but not uncommon. Ok, makes sense.

 

Before we got off the phone, I asked her about her opinion on breast implant illness, and wondered if it’s something other women have come to her about. The response I got was pretty much that she didn’t know enough about it, there wasn’t enough medical evidence that it was something I should be concerned about, all of the evidence out there is compelling but it’s anecdotal and without proper research and information she didn’t see any way this could be my issue and really couldn’t speak definitively on the subject. I felt silly for even bringing it up – because it isn’t real – silly me. This was the 4th doctor who had maintained the same position on BII in my quest for answers, so I could let it go now, right?. The next step was following up with my family doctor, the doctor who was managing my pain treatment, and getting referred to a rheumatologist. On it.

 

But first I had a few very important phone calls to make. My parents, and closest friends were waiting, and this was news I couldn’t wait to share. 

Breast Implant Illness & an impossible decision

I shouldn’t have to trust my gut when it comes to making important medical decisions. I have doctors, science, diagnostic tests, experts and specialists for that – why am I being told to trust my gut? I can’t trust my gut because it’s wrong all the time, but it’s right a lot of the time too. Is it my gut telling me this is what I have to do? Or am I just desperate for an answer? 

 

For almost a year I’ve been dealing with chronic pain and feeling unwell. It got worse in January 2020 and I’ve been on painkillers pretty much everyday ever since. My bones ache, my muscles feel weak, my skin feels sensitive to hot, cold and touch, I’m fatigued and I compare the feeling to having the flu or an infection. In fact, it feels like the post op infections that I fought off for the better part of 2020 have never fully left my body, it feels like I’m still fighting an infection. 

 

Of course, I’ve been tested for all of this and there has been no stable sign that anything is happening in my body. Blood work comes back fine, X-rays show nothing interesting, ultrasounds are clear, bone scans and MRI’s are cancer free and my symptoms don’t line up with anything specific. This means no specialists have been able to diagnose me with anything – so there is no treatment or course of action. No answers. No end in sight. 

 

In the process of ruling everything out, I’ve had my eye on the growing evidence that Breast Implant Illness (BII) is a real thing. It’s something that tens of thousands of women have had experience with, and are advocating for the medical community to recognize it, treat it and explain it as a risk for any women who are considering implants. It’s a controversial subject even though more and more doctors are operating on women and finding irrefutable evidence that some women have adverse and in some cases very serious complications and reactions after implant or reconstructive surgery. The physical evidence being documented by these doctors are shared in pictures and video online and in the media and it’s becoming increasingly hard to ignore. 

 

There have been about 60 peer reviewed studies (that I’ve come across) on how breast implants have created adverse health complications and reactions, but there is still a long way to go. The information you find on the internet is a little all over the place, but a number I see over and over again by many reputable websites and organizations is that about 20% of women experience this illness and have to resort to having them removed permanently. 

 

I can’t find any numbers that compare breast cancer reconstruction surgery to general implant surgery – and although I often see ‘women with autoimmune disease may be at higher risk’ there aren’t any solid numbers or information available on that either. It’s a lot of anecdotal evidence, women sharing their stories, and a relatively small number of medical professionals that are driving the movement to have this studied and shared further. 

 

Are my implants making me sick? This is a question I’ve been trying to find answers to, and it’s apparent to me that I’m never going to really get them. I have autoimmune disease, so it seems like I’m at a higher risk. I’ve had multiple post op infections, so I’ve been told that my implants should have probably been removed a long time ago, which means this puts me at a higher risk. I definitely seem to run into all the uncommon annoying weird complications, so I’d say that this could totally be just my dumb luck that I’d also have to deal with something like this. 

 

My family doctor, plastic surgeon, rheumatologist, an infectious disease specialist, a second opinion doctor after all my infection drama last year, my oncologist, my gastroenterologist, a headache and women’s health specialist and another doctor have all told me that there is no evidence that BII is a real thing. A couple doctors told me they couldn’t really speak to it, but from what they know, it isn’t a real thing… and even after pressing a second or third time in repeated visits to some of these doctors, the message is the same. 

 

I recently had an appointment with a plastic surgeon who has a reputation for believing in BII, and operating on women who have chosen to explant (take out their implants) for almost 10 years. In fact, I just had to explain what explant was in this paragraph because my word program sees it as a spelling error – it isn’t even a real word online and in English! I found this surgeon who runs a private practice through a BII website, and read more on social media and other BII groups – that he’s the guy. He’s one of only four doctors – FOUR – in Canada who really have any kind of tie to BII at all. It’s incredible how many doctors won’t even treat or operate on women who want their implants removed at all. 

 

Now, I’m waiting on my next step diagnostics, but as it stands he believes that my body is likely having an overactive immune reaction to the foreign objects in my body. In fact, he is quite certain that’s what is going on and he believes that I need to have them both removed, along with the capsule surrounding the implants. 

 

A capsule is the product of what the body does to protect itself from the foreign object. The body begins to protect itself by creating a layer of tissue around the implant, eventually becoming encapsulated in it entirely. Many capsules become problems because it tightens, can sometimes move or become misshapen. Other times the capsule isn’t an issue at all, and is simply just what happens. The surgeon I saw can see evidence of a capsule on the side where I had radiation and extra surgeries, but he doesn’t see any major issues just by looking at it. 

 

Reading all of this you may be thinking that this is a no brainer and I need to at least give it a try. But here is the catch, there is no way of knowing if this is the issue or not until the implants are removed. I have to literally have a life altering surgery – again – in order to see if this works. I can’t do tests, I can’t get a biopsy, imaging doesn’t show anything unless there is a rupture… there is no way of knowing if this will work until days and weeks after it happens. 

 

Oh, and the really fun part is that it is not covered by OHIP. This is a roughly ten thousand dollar surgery and I am responsible for paying it. I’m not exactly sure how it makes sense, especially since I had to have this surgery because of breast cancer, and OHIP will cover a seemingly unlimited amount of corrective reconstructive surgeries – but not to have one final surgery to have them removed. Read that again – I can undergo many more surgeries that are paid for, as long as I keep the implants – but I have to pay a hefty amount of money to have them removed for good. It is a lot of money, enough money that I know women who have to take that into consideration into their decision making process. I know women who haven’t been able to have the surgery – and their symptoms are even more convincing than mine – because they can’t afford it. I don’t want to spend that kind of money on something like this, because I can certainly think of about a million more things I can do with it – but of course if it’s what I have to do, I’ll do it. My health and well being is obviously an investment worth making. Unless of course this isn’t the answer… then I’ll be out ten thousand dollars with a flat chest and that scares me. 

 

So what if this isn’t the answer? What if I’m so distracted by the possibility of BII that I’m being blinded by it and I can’t see what else might be going on? What if I’m so desperate for an answer that even this completely uncomfortable and borderline unbearable answer is something I’m willing to consider, and move forward with? And worse, what if my doctors and I are missing something serious. Something that needs to be figured out, and something that can have serious consequences long term. After you’ve been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, a disease that is incurable once it spreads – your ignorance to these types of bad luck situations is kind of taken from you. Every once in a while my paranoia sets in that something is REALLY wrong, and no one is even trying to help me. 

 

Because that’s how I feel. I feel like my doctors aren’t even trying to help me anymore. They try to figure it out, and when their initial guesses don’t pan out they refer me to someone else. Once I go through it all again with the new doctor, and they can’t figure it out, the process repeats itself again and again until today. Still now. Here I go again I think, every time a doctor starts to explain to me that they just don’t know if they’re the one who can help me. Where is the effort? What would they do if it was their loved one in my shoes? Would they try a little harder, and think outside the box? I can feel it happen when a doctor gives up. And every time it happens I feel myself begin to give up too. 

 

I have to WORK at not giving up. I have to work at picking myself up every single morning, and doing it all over again – with a smile on my face and a certain zest for life that I am determined to keep. Life is worth fighting for, and life without pain is something I’ve been fighting for pretty much since I heard ‘it’s cancer’ almost three full years ago. I get tired of it all the time, for sure. I get discouraged, sad, angry, frustrated and scared weekly, and maybe even daily. My brain is always thinking and analyzing, I’m always dissecting every little thing my body does or feels. That is something that’s become normal for me, but I know it isn’t normal, and I wish I knew what it felt like to use my brain energy for other things. If this is me keeping my life together with all of this in my head, imagine what I could be capable of if I could just let it all go. 

 

I want to let it all go. I really do. But how do I make a decision about what to do next? It doesn’t feel right to have a surgery with no physical evidence that BII is my problem. It especially doesn’t feel right to move forward with something that eight doctors – EIGHT – have told me isn’t even a proven thing. One doctor said it was the problem, and he’s basing it on the hundreds of patients he’s seen with BII in the past few years alone – which is hundreds of surgeries that he’s performed successfully and those patients afterwards felt amazing, and would tell you that it was without a doubt the implants that were causing all their problems. That is something worth noting, I get it, and I want it to be the answer because it is at least that – AN ANSWER… but it’s still really hard to make the call when there doesn’t seem to be anything even close to a consensus on the subject. 

 

So what do I do. Seriously, what do I do? I can’t trust my gut, it’s been hijacked by everything I’ve been through. I am at least rational enough to know that, and to know that it’s hard to make a decision without letting my emotions get involved, which is basically impossible when we’re talking about amputating my breasts – or what look like breasts – for good. I’m 36 years old, and maybe I’m not supposed to care, but I do. It’s a huge fucking deal, it’s something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life. It isn’t just aesthetic or what I look like in clothes – it’s a part of who I am, it’s confidence, self esteem, femininity, and function. It’s being able to wear a sports bra without it riding up. And before any of my small breasted friends think ‘I’ve been flat for years!’ please stop – I know you have good intentions, but it is absolutely – most definitely – NOT the same thing. I’m sorry for yelling. 

 

Losing my reconstructed breasts feels like I’m having a mastectomy again. In fact, it’s worse, because this time it’s permanent. The first time, I was told I’d be good as new when it was all over – better even – which is a problem that can be saved for another day… But the point is I didn’t have to worry about coming out of this feeling much different. Now, I will be feeling many different things, and as strong as I am, and rational as I can be, it’ll be one of the most emotional experiences of my life and it’s going to take work to get through it. I’ll admit it, because so many women before me have admitted it and it helps me know what I’m in for, even though you don’t know until you know. 

 

I don’t have a plan yet. First, I need to get off pain killers to really know what I’m dealing with here – I won’t make it until I experience these symptoms without any kind of altered pain. Maybe it’s better? Maybe it’s worse… All I know is that after prolonged use of painkillers you really can’t trust your body’s pain receptors properly. Or at least that’s what google says. Second, I haven’t exhausted all of my options. I am waiting on a call from my family doctor to get referred to a new specialist. I need someone with fresh eyes, maybe someone who doesn’t know my health history and maybe someone who is willing to look at everything together and can connect some dots that all my separate specialists haven’t thought of. 

 

I’ve done homeopathy, reiki, and other alternative treatments. I’m seeing a naturopath who comes highly recommended in the coming weeks. I’ve been in therapy, done spiritual work and even strongly considered the idea that this was all in my head. I thought maybe I’m creating this, or maybe this is a thing that happens to people after surviving a near-miss or maybe I had unknown deep emotional trauma that was creating physical symptoms. No, no and no. What I’m trying to say here is that I am really trying to objectively look at my situation and consider everything. But I’m not a doctor and I’m certainly not qualified or equipped to solve this on my own. 

 

You only live once. And being present in the moment is really all you have. I am very good at being present in the moment because it’s something I have been practicing most of my life – first unintentionally, and then very intentionally. I am very happy every day, and I enjoy doing all the things with my kids, my family and my friends. I joke, I post on social media, I have other things to do and to focus on. I help take care of others and I do what I can to be there for anyone who is going through something hard. I work out – not the way I want, and not the way I used to, but I do what I can when I can. I teach fitness classes and personally train clients, and I enjoy being a seasoned fitness professional. I’m currently enrolled in a program to become an internationally accredited life coach so I can really dive deeper into helping those with health issues and challenges – because that seems to be something I’ve become specialized in lately, and it’s giving me new purpose in my work. It’s something I’m looking forward to so much. As I navigate through my stuff, I hope to be able to successfully help others do the exact same thing. 

 

What does the future hold for me? I don’t know. I’ve always wanted an unconventional and uncommon life… I guess I should have clarified exactly what that meant. But the truth is that everything I’ve ever wanted for myself I have made happen. And figuring this out, moving forward, and maybe even enjoying a pain free and healthy existence is something I can make happen too. One day at a time, with gratitude and persistence – I’ll get there. And I guess all that will be left will be to figure out what to wear… 

Some comebacks take longer than others

It’s been a while since I’ve written in detail about what’s been going on in my world, and because I don’t believe in wasting time by dancing around anything delicately, I’m going to go ahead and just hit you with the headline – I am not technically ok.

I’ve been hesitant to share publicly because to be honest even I was becoming tired of hearing myself talk about all the health challenges I’m constantly facing. Plus, retreating into a quieter and smaller social media and ‘I’m an open book’ existence for a while felt good. I needed the break to deal with the things and gather the thoughts.

But as I think about entering the fourth quarter of this year, I can’t help but think about who else might be struggling out there. Are you struggling? So many of us are quietly dealing with our own shit storms, and I know how incredibly lonely that can be. You don’t have to be experiencing exactly what I’m experiencing to relate – you just have to be a human dealing with the hard human things. If you’re one of those humans, you have my empathy.

So, what’s the deal with me? I’ll be writing in more detail in the weeks to come, and the full stories will be available on my website. You can click on the link in my profile if you’re interested in more – and if you’re one of those humans who are also currently dealing with something hard, please send me a message – I’d love to hear from you.

I haven’t been feeling well for as long as I can remember – and I always had an explanation for it, starting with the fact that I was in cancer treatment, I just finished cancer treatment, this is probably just long-lasting effects from cancer treatment… you get the picture. I had reconstructive surgeries with complications, infections requiring serious treatments, I’m immunosuppressed due to my lifelong treatment for my Ulcerative Colitis, I’m a busy mom… I’m a working fitness professional… I slept wrong… it must be the weather… I was running out of things to blame.

My main problem is pain. No pain, no gain they say. But the gain part has been way harder to achieve then I ever expected. When was my comeback going to happen?? The comeback is what I’ve had my eye on this whole time, there is always a comeback. The bigger the setback the stronger the comeback – right?! Isn’t that a quote I shared on this account a couple years ago? Yes. Yes that was me, an eternal optimist. I still am, I’ll get my comeback – this is my comeback, I guess… I just suppose some comebacks take longer than others.

Every single day my bones ache, if I let it get bad my joints will also begin to ache. I feel fatigue, malaise, headachy, and overall unwell. I describe it to others that it’s kind of like what it feels like when you have the flu, or an infection. My back is a problem. The daily back pain is getting to the point that this body feels like it’s 100 years old and even the simpler things like sitting down while I write this story is becoming incredibly difficult. I’ve been managing my pain with medications and physio, osteopathy and myofascial release sessions. My schedule is full of doctor appointments, diagnostic tests, treatments and follow ups.

Now, what you see on social media is real. I’ve been sharing some happy moments, some smiling pictures – because I’m also incredibly happy and enjoying life the way I know how – to the fullest. Dealing with these kinds of setbacks and challenges have always fueled my determination to propel forward and reinvent the way ‘sick people’ live their lives. After all, I have an inflated understanding of how precious our health is. And how precious life is.

I am also hyper aware that time is quite literally the only thing that matters, because it is one of the only things that we can’t manipulate – time ticks by no matter how you live your life, and more specifically time ticks by whether your back hurts or not. You must do everything you can to make the most of your time. It’s a daunting task I know, but I can’t think of a more worth while one.

My kids will always have a fun mom. My husband will have an energetic, charming and attractive wife. My friends will always get my full attention and support, and I’ll always strive to be the life of the party! Ha. My family will always get my good mood for the important moments. My clients will always get maximum effort with their fitness training and life coaching. My business will become a bigger part of my life. I will be who I want to be and do what I want to do.

At least that’s my intention, and I think I’ve been doing a pretty good job so far. I’m feeling something in the air, a certain renewed energy to continue the quest for an above average life on this very loooooong comeback, and to help others along the way. That’s the purpose in all of this, isn’t it? To be human, with humans, for humans. We’re so lucky to be human, on this beautiful earth. I will continue to live every day with that on my mind. Gratitude and optimism wins, every single time.

And listen, I know it isn’t always rainbows and fireflies – and I can assure you it isn’t. But I’ll save that for another day. For now, I’ll stop there. Thank you for reading.

My experience with cancer as a personal trainer + my favourite fitness-during-treatment hacks

As a personal trainer, a breast cancer diagnosis not only put my career on hold – it also changed my relationship with fitness and my body forever. In the beginning it was hard to accept the fact that the strength I’ve built and all of the hard work and progress I’ve made up until that point would ultimately be undone and it would be taking a back seat in my life for the foreseeable future. I know, it wasn’t what was important – because surviving was all that mattered – but it was something I had to work hard to accept.

 

For me, exercise helped me feel normal. It gave me purpose, it gave me coping mechanisms and it gave me a personal sense of power and freedom. This was something that was important to me, and this was something that I needed even more now that I was going through something incredibly challenging, and life altering. Who was I? How would this change me? Can I get out of this alive, and still be who I’ve always been? What if exercise makes it worse? What if exercise makes it better?

 

During conversations with my oncology team, exercise was always a topic I brought up in appointments and following their advice was something I took very seriously. One piece of advice has particularly stuck in my mind, still to this day. It was my mantra for a long time, and it’s still something I focus on when I need it.

 

“The more physical activity you do, the faster you’ll feel stronger and more like yourself.”

 

This advice is what helped me through the tougher times, and helped me be determined to stay strong, especially after every major part of treatment. Walking during chemo was a big win for me – I even managed a couple light jogs here and there when I was having a really good day. During radiation, stretching and basic resistance training exercises were highly beneficial for my body, and my mind. And after every surgery I took the recommended amount of weeks off, and then got professional help through physiotherapy to make sure I recovered safely and properly before getting into anything too heavy.

 

Whenever I experienced setbacks that landed me back in the hospital or some kind of treatment – which happened more than a couple times for me – I would figure out something that worked, like walking. There are always options, they just may change a lot during the course of your cancer treatment. And you will feel like you again, just a new you, a stronger you, and more determined you.

 

(Featured image was an outdoor Bootcamp class I lead during my radiation treatments, July 2019)

 

Try this! 

 

5-10 minutes of full body stretching

 

15 minute walk at a brisk, but comfortable pace for your level

 

3 sets of the following exercises:

10 body weight squats

20 body weight alternating lunges

10 push ups (modified standing against a wall, or from knees on floor)

20 crunches or sit ups

 

5-10 more minutes of full body stretching

 

Find this blog post at https://waroncancer.com/experiencing-cancer-as-a-personal-trainer/

Find more information on the War On Cancer website, and don’t forget to check out the War On Cancer social app!

Happy Cancerversary to me

It’s my cancerversary.

 

Today, November 7th, is officially the one year mark of my official cancer diagnosis, and a hell of a lot has happened! I keep rewriting this post, because I’m not really sure what kind of a vibe I’m giving off, but I just took a breathe and reminded myself to type as if I’m having a conversation with someone… so let’s see where it goes…

 

I’ll start with the fact that today I’m grateful – because look at me now! I’m through the thick of it, I’m healthy, I’m recovering and I’m alive. So if that doesn’t represent the meaning of being grateful then I don’t know what does. I look at my kids and I’m grateful they have no freaking idea how serious of a situation it was, and how much worse it could have been.

 

I’ve been reliving everything, which is… interesting. It is hard to describe how I feel, but there are definitely some feelings about it all. I can’t help but think about everything I’m doing these days in the context of ‘then I got cancer’ or ‘because I had cancer’. It’s not negative, or anything like that, it just is, and I can’t help it. So I’m trying to allow myself to feel all the feels, without judging it, or myself.

 

Also, I’m a little annoyed. Is it ok to admit that? This diagnosis was a major disruption in my life, to say the least. It has changed my career, it has changed my relationships with people and it has changed my outlook on life. This was a life changing experience, for me and for a ton of people in my life.

 

I am a bit scared that it isn’t over. I know that it technically ISN’T over because I’m still in a form of treatment, and I still have a surgery ahead of me. But I also know that it technically IS over because there is no evidence of cancer in my body, and I’m finished with all the hard stuff. But what if they missed something? What if it comes back? I hate to think of these questions out loud, but they’re there. I don’t let it paralyze me or anything, but it’s a tiny little voice that speaks up almost every day, if not a couple times a day. I’m sure it’ll fade with more time, and trust me I look forward to that!

 

     breast cancer, mastectomy, cancer, lindsy matthews, southlake hospital

(Me, last year. Nov 7th diagnosis and Nov 28 surgery)

 

All cancer patients seem to have a different ‘cancerversary’. In my conversations with the many people in my situation, it seems to be most common that it’s the day they found out they were cancer free. And this will obviously have a different definition for everyone… because we have all had different experiences all together. Some have a scan months after treatment ends, some consider it to be the their last day of treatment, and for some it’s a date they’ve chosen because of something significant in their experience. BUT MINE feels like today, because it was the day everything changed, for the rest of my life, because of cancer.

 

So it was on this day last year that I was diagnosed, a plan was set in place, and I had approximately 3 weeks to prepare myself, my family, friends, colleagues, clients and basically all aspects of my whole life for what was to come. Then it came, and then it went.

 

So, happy cancerversary to me.

Fitness after Cancer treatment

Getting back into my fitness routine has been anything but easy. My workouts felt challenging at a fraction of what I was capable of before cancer, my endurance was non existent after treatment, and when I didn’t immediately snap back to my ‘old self’ I was honestly pissed off.

 

Oh and I literally still have a port in my chest, that delivers medication directly to my heart (*shutter*). All I know is that consistency, determination and a positive mindset is what helps me.

 

I FOCUSED on the breakthrough that was always around the corner – whether it’s a 3km run, being able to hang straight from a pull up bar (still working on this one thanks to 2 surgeries!), adding small plates to the bar at the squat rack or being able to tread water in a pool -these are all small wins BUT they lead to the bigger wins!

 

Whatever challenge you are working through physically, keep working on your mind and your body will follow!

Forever scarred, yet so much stronger

A common theme I’ve noticed by talking with many cancer patients and survivors is that life after cancer treatment is challenging in a whole new way. We all mostly ‘move on’ with life, but will never be the same again.

 

We are exhausted, but so grateful; we are anxious, but full of hope; we are scarred, but so much stronger; and we are extremely aware that this is the only life we have.

 

We’re changed – because our cancer experience now plays a part in all aspects of our lives. It’s a part of our decisions, it comes with us to work, it helps us raise our children, it intensifies some relationships while minimizing others, and can even send some of us on a completely different life path.

 

It’s a lot to accept, but ultimately out of our control. So, one day at a time it is, doing our best, always moving forward.