From Bed to Ben Nevis
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has had a significant impact on my physical health and fitness. It has also made me appreciate and want to challenge myself to experience and try new things. In honour of this and to help me on my road to recovery, and with a bit of help from my friends, I have set myself (and them) a challenge. On the year anniversary, of finishing chemotherapy and treatment, we will scale the three highest peaks in the UK. We are unlikely to do it as the proper challenge in 24 hours, as that may be bit too much!!
Here I plan to chronicle my progress towards that target and share more about my personal challenge. Currently my treatment continues so the date of the event is yet to be decided, but with my new fitness tracker watch in place and knowing how much I am able to do at the moment. I am hoping to be able to gradually increase my activity levels over the next few months.
My Physical Journey
I signed up a my sister, best friend and better half up to the challenge and with the help of my new fitness tracker watch could begin to see how much of an uphill battle it would be. In March, I managed an average of 2300 daily steps, 4% of the estimated number of steps I will need to be able to do for the challenge (although there were definitely no hill steps included).
I had two really positive days this month, where I managed to top the 5000 mark in number of steps achieved, amazing what friends can help you achieve. Although there are still low days, that is to be expected, and I know it will take time before I am able to be consistent in the number of steps and amount of physical activity I am able to achieve. In April, I improved my average daily step count by nearly 700, which I am very happy with. Still no hills, but 2% closer to that final step count!
This month was full of ups and downs, I had a positive start to the month and managed to do another two days where I topped the 5000 mark and seven days where I achieved over 4000 days. Unfortunately sickness later in the month followed by chemo on the back of not being fully recovered led me to register my lowest average day count since I have started recording to. But I know this journey isn’t an easy one and like everyone out there trying to do the same, it will have its ups and downs. There is positivity in the fact that despite my illness I still achieved the same average this month compared to last month. I still have a long way to go before I am in a position to climb those mountains, but what an achievement and journey it will be.
So this month there have been some real highs. I achieved one day ,thanks to best mate trip to London a whooping 11,288 which combined with some family days out of over 6000 steps, I managed almost 20,000 steps more then any other recorded month to date in this journey. Now don’t get me wrong, I have had some really low days too where I have literally felt like my body has hit a wall and the fatigue is insatiable. Those days are really hard! I have had to take on more of my usual childcare role due to other half having significant work pressures, and nursery runs add quite a lot of steps to my daily routine. But I rest when I need to and encourage myself to be active when I can. This month I have also managed a few Yoga sessions (not as many as i hoped but it all helps) and a couple gentle gardening sessions. This all combined has jumped me up to just over 7% of my end target that need to be able to manage. Still away to go but its on the up!
My trip to London was really enjoyable but it really did bring home to me how hard a journey this is going to be. By the end, I was struggling to climb the stairs up to the bridge and walk back to the station. I got a few funny looks from strangers as I granny walked up them. But I did it, and although exhausted when got home and could feel every muscle in my body, I rested and I was proud of myself. I didn’t shy away from having a good time, just cos my body isn’t 100% game. I’m determined to get myself back together, and its gunna be a real challenge and a long journey. But I will do it. There is just too much life to live.
This month has been much more of an emotional rollercoaster than physical for me. As many of us will know, emotional ups and downs impact on your physical capabilities. I was on target for averaging over 4000 steps per day, and then after my final chemotherapy, Bob took one last punch and a bout of sinusitis lasting over a week towards the end of the month knocked me off from that target. The positives though is that I managed to maintain my average step count achieved in June. Once again I managed a few Yoga sessions achieving longer sessions this month compared to last month.
The biggest achievement this month, is that I officially finished chemotherapy and officially in remission. This means that we now have a target date!! For me there were a number of big milestones that happened in completing my chemotherapy that all occurred over about three week period. They were, my last chemo session, removal of my PICC line and results of my scan. Each of these mountains will represent one of these massive milestones. I can already see that this will be a very emotional challenge to achieve. So all being well weekend of 12th July 2019 will mark the start of my three peaks challenge. I have a very long way to go but the main focus now is about rebuilding myself; emotionally, psychologically and physically.
What a difference a few weeks can make, I am definitely starting to gain more energy and getting a bit of a spring back into my step. My main issue is definitely endurance but as the month has gone on I have seen small improvements in this already. This month my priority was to try and gain some consistency in my abilities as oppose to having great days where I managed lots and then crashing and burning for few days. I set myself a target of 4000 steps a day (roughly speaking a 1000 steps equates to 0.5mile), and I wanted to build up to being able to achieve this 5 out of 7 days of the week. This week I achieved that goal which I am really stoked about. At the beginning of the month I managed 3 days of 4000 steps, middle of the month 4 days, and last week of the month 5 days. Overall this is a 15% increase in my activity levels for the month!!
In addition, to this I have managed a few yoga sessions, and attended my first aqua fit class which was hard going but was enjoyable. Although as yet there has been no impact on my weight, I have noticed improvements in my posture and feeling that my muscles are more switched on then they have been for a long time. I have also signed up for the colour run 5k next year, which looks super fun and be good starting fitness activity before we climb the three peaks a few months later.
Its been on the whole a good month. I wanted to aim for 4500 steps a day, building up as last month to achieving this 5/7 days of the week but my fitness app had other ideas. They only go up in 1000 step intervals!!! so the new target was set…5000 it was. I achieved this on 19 out of the 30 days of the month, managing 5/7 days by the end of the month. That equates to 63% of days. compared to achieving it on 54% of days last month.
On top of this, I have started weekly aqua fit class. I have set myself the target that when I can complete a class without looking at the clock, then I am ready for aqua Zumba! And there has been improvement in this, the first class I looked at the clock after 10 minutes and every 10 minutes there after, and the last one managed 20 minutes before looking and only looked 3 times in total. To me all of these may seem small but they are achievements in themselves. They help to demonstrate to me small improvements, helping to keep me motivated and engaged. I find aqua exercise a really good place to start especially as it has been significant time since undertaking exercise as well as the impact lymphoma and chemotherapy have taken on my body. It works my muscles hard, but the water is soothing and helps to reduce impact. In addition my cardiovascular system has experienced stress from the chronic anaemia and this exercise works by cardiovascular system without putting it under too much stress, giving me confidence to exercise again. I am starting to see improvements in this area too which is really reassuring with my average heart rate daily sitting more often in the 80s then in the 90s or 100s.
All in all it has been a positive month, and even with a little blip in the form of a throat infection that lingered a bit too long for my liking I was still able to continue to press forward with my physical programme, hit the goals I set for myself and move onwards and upwards. For the next month though, I want to gain consistency, as I feel to enable myself to make longstanding changes I need to embed changes that enable me to make my target daily step counts into my day, every day. So for October I am continuing to aim for 5000 steps per day, but am aiming for this level on 90% of the days.
The consistency in trying to obtain the 5000 steps per day is coming. This month reached the target in 24 out of 31 days, that means a 78% achievement level, still not the illusive 90% but still 15% gain on last month. Also meant almost achieved a whopping 175000 steps in the whole month; over 30,000 more then last month.
This was a big month for me from a professional perspective since having cancer. I got accepted to give a presentation of work at UK physiotherapy conference, and it will be the first significant public work thing I have done since being diagnosed. I was definitely anxious about it and concerned that I would have lost all my skills and knowledge as a result of chemotherapy but it went really well. Very, very tiring though, the whole weekend resulted in me crashing and burning and feeling generally run down but I am really proud that I did it and its a step forward in terms of thinking about returning to the workplace.
This month has not been a good one. Crashed and burned completely. Multitude of reasons; mainly psychological and emotional impacting on my physical wellbeing. I’ve dropped my average step count again back to averaging just under 4,400 so quite a way off the 5000 daily target that was set for last month. Sadly, a dear relative is sick with cancer too, a reoccurrence. I live within a driveable distance and so I am have been trying to give support where able to with things that she needs some help with. It has been hard especially when going to hospital appointments. I am sure that exercising would probably help but I am feeling drained and without the tools to motivate myself to move beyond the fatigue.
Another difficult month emotionally with the loss of my dear auntie and uncle, matter of couple weeks apart. It is good that they are not suffering anymore, but when faced recently with your own mortality it adds another element in terms of trying to cope and come to terms with the loss. It also is the anniversary of my diagnosis, bang smack in the middle of the festive period. A period that currently feels tainted and ruined. I couldn’t cope with family dynamics and being pushed in multitude of directions, and even being around anyone apart from my other half and son over this time. Call it self preservation. So I booked for us to go away to a lovely family spa hotel. We did some swimming, and went on a family bike ride, which started off so well but they turned to disaster when the bumpy terrain meant the little man did not appreciate his trailer ride!!
I also had a daily life milestone, when I used the stairs at the local shopping centre for the first time without giving consideration to using the lift. This may not sound much, but for me this was a big deal. Still not getting the consistency with the steps, but there were a couple of wins to celebrate this month, and I feel that I need to regroup for next month and give myself a fresh start to the fitness and physical recovery.
So I feel like this is a cliché, but I don’t do resolutions, but after the crash of last couple months I feel like I need to regroup and restart. Being a mum I need to find a way to bring exercise into my home environment and make it manageable. Its really difficult to get the consistency. Also I have been reading how important accountability is and trying to find someone to be accountable with me (stop me slacking off when having a low day) so I have roped in my other half to join in when he is around.
This month we launched our home garden workout!! It involves lots of running up the garden steps with leg and arm exercises. I’m feeling positive about it. Also have managed a better month on the overall step front this month compared to the last couple but still a way of my best month as yet at just short of 140,000.
I’ve re-entered the world of adults. Well in some ways. I’ve started a temporary job. Essentially some vocational rehabilitation. I am working predominantly from home, but the use of the cognitive system is tiring in a different way. It has however, had an impact on my consistency and ability to do my activity. It is reworking my brain, and testing my anxiety as I try to ease myself back into a work place, combined with commuting . But also impacted on my consistency. The step count has dropped again this month by 13% which is quite significant. This is part of the journey though, trying to learn how to balance recovery, working and family life. I definitely have not nailed it yet!
Consistency has gone back up this month managing to hit my 5000 step target 50% of the days this month. I haven’t done any additional fitness sessions this month, trying to combat the cognitive fatigue from working.
Not much progress in terms of step count this month. Feel I need to establish a change in tact, as I am not moving forward as quickly as I was hoping and expecting too. It feels like take steps forward and then crash and take almost the same number back again. It is definitely challenging trying to find the balance between working and recovery. The positives is that the cognitive fatigue is improving, and I have observed that I have been able to do more in the evenings in recent weeks as oppose to going straight to bed once little man is down for the night. This is definitely a sign of the former me coming back to life, and combined with using my cognitive processes, I feel a sense of normality but still like I am being held back by something.
This month I have decided it is time to push myself a bit harder. I have been motivated by some amazing people I know running the London marathon and in awe of what they have achieved. I am not saying a marathon is on the cards for me but I feel I need to get back onto my fitness journey and set myself a challenge that should be obtainable. Some of my mum friends have started running too, so that gives me an added element of local support. So I am starting running. I’ve got my plan; when, where and how going to fit it in.
Also not long after finishing treatment I booked for me, my other half and couple of friends to run a 5k which has snuck up on me and is next month. It be great to be able to run some of it and not languish behind everyone else. So I downloaded couch to 5k app, to help me with the training.
I successfully managed to complete the first week, and then got hit by the FLU!! Full blown, can barely lift your head out of the bed flu and it has knocked me for 6. Haven’t ben able to get back to the running this month and my general activity levels has taken a massive hit.
This has been a difficult month but with a positive and uplifting ending. So the flu last month hit me hard!! I haven’t been able to resume running in the early part of the month and have only managed taking some long walks with my little man. However, the color rush obstacle 5k was this month. It was very much touch and go whether I would attend for many reasons. Sadly all of my support team, those that were planning to run alongside me were unable to attend for a multitude of reasons, and I was unable to rope in others to come with me. Big blow. Psychologically, doing this on my own just felt like such a massive thing and beyond my abilities. However, my counsellor (started seeing due to health anxiety) had planted a seed in my brain about the need to challenge myself to do things on my own, to have the confidence in myself and self-belief that I can do things. The 5k was a big deal for me, it was something that I had planned to do from the end of my treatment, and meant a lot to me to do it, but doing it on my own was not something I relished. I worried that seeing groups of people being supported and in it together would be emotionally too much for me. But at the final hour (literally the night before), I got a sideline support team in shape of my parents and my little boy and I walk/ran my way around the course, jumping over obstacles, bouncing along and getting covered head to toe in coloured powder!! AND I LOVED EVERY MOMENT OF IT. And the highlight; when I came back to my little man, with my medal and he told me “mummy you won, your the winner”. Yes baby, today your mummy one on so many levels that are difficult to articulate on paper.
It has also driven me forward to succeed, so I am back running and restarted my couch to 5k, so that the next time I run a 5k I can run the whole thing!!
The anniversary is here, the month when those three peaks should be climbed. However, it is not meant to be. I have partially accepted that this target was not a realistic one for me coming out of being so poorly before treatment, and then having the effects of treatment too. In a further hit to my recovery, the extreme heat this month significantly exacerbated the neuropathy in my hands and feet and has made even walking a challenge.
But the desire to climb the three peaks was not just a physical one. It was a psychological desire to sit at the top of a mountain, on top of my world essentially, and look down, look back and reflect, contemplate where I was and where I have got to. That desire has not left just because I physically not able to climb the mountain. So I did get to the top of the mountain on the anniversary of finishing chemo. SNOWDON. I may have caught the train and only walked the final steps to the summit but it was something I needed to do by any means necessary. It was emotional to say the least.
I also been motivated by some amazing people, who continue to achieve some astonishing physical challenges while undergoing treatment for cancer. I know that everyone is different, but I feel if they can push their bodies whilst having treatment, I can push mine harder a year after treatment. So I have signed up to a tri summer challenge in bid to run, swim and cycle the equivalent of a tri sprint in the next 6 months. I will be really chuffed if manage to achieve it.
One Year after Treatment
It has now been a year since finishing treatment. A long hard year, that has not been a smooth ride by any means. The physical recovery has been compounded by the psychological and emotional one that goes alongside it. I started the year only able to average just over 2000 steps a day, approximately 1.7km in total a day. And ended the year by managing day to day life and walk/running and jumping my way around a 5k obstacle course. Its something to be proud of, but it is a long way from where I wanted to be. Despite all that I have achieved, I am tired!!
Not physically, least not anywhere like I was, but I am tired of CANCER.
Tired of it dominating my life.
Tired of it dominating my sub-conscious.
Tired of it dominating my belief in my self.
Tired of it stopping me from achieving what I want to achieve.
So this is my new mantra for my second year of cancer recovery……
“I AM NOT CANCER, I AM KELLY.
I WILL NOT BE DEFINED BY ANYTHING BUT ME”
I very much still intend to achieve this challenge, but will give myself some more time. Maybe for the second anniversary. I will definitely be climbing Snowdon, as soon as my support buddy is in the country and the weather is fitting for the journey.
I will keep updating as the journey has been a difficult and often lonely one, and I hope by sharing it will give support to others with lymphoma who are finding recovery after treatment difficult to realise they are not alone.