Last time I may have said that the first life after cancer lesson is about letting go – yet when I was getting my musings out into the world I didn’t quite expect that I would immediately be forced to actually get through a crash course in putting a rather specific ‘let go plan’ in practice.
My broken foot saga was meant to end happily with a gentle ‘back to running’ routine that would have morphed into proper, longer and faster runs any time now. The world of pain caused by a jogging attempt was totally unexpected and one MRI and few consults later I was told that the Trick or Treat Halloween 10k would be a big stretch for my fractured metatarsals that have not yet healed fully.
Damn you silly bones! So here comes the Letting Go 101 as I’ve been living it so far:
First and Foremost:
Override all that ‘lala’ land of mind over matter mantras that would get me running the whole 10k, no sweat! Oh, I had few of those:
GUILT TRIP YOUR PHYSIO INTO LETTING YOU RUN SOONER – it’s such a simple and potentially effective idea! The approaching anniversary of the final cancer treatment helps a lot – not that I recommend getting cancer just for the sheer bully effect on the medical staff later in life, even if it really works the treat 😀 I gave it a solid try but luckily my physio turned out to have a heart of stone!
JUST GET ON WITH IT AND RUN THROUGH THE PAIN – 10k is not that far after all, and no pain no gain or so the saying goes. Very tempting, but then what if all these stories of running yourself back into stress fractures and being stuck in a ‘space boot’ for months are actually true? They are, by the way, and luckily your anxiously rational brain can make you see that sooner rather than later!
TRYING TO LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH OTHER PEOPLE’S RUNNING – not too bad an idea and can help to re-frame the unfortunate few more weeks of rest as an acceptable way forward. Check out the Gobi desert ultra story, phew, if only the foot had healed already my camelback and I would have been there LMAO Just reading about it makes you feel you’ve earned to take things easy every now and then.
Having done all that
– it’s just a matter of adjusting the very personal reality to what’s actually in front of you! And as always it turns out that it’s nowhere near as bad as feared or so far away from the originally intended end game:
ACTUALLY LISTENING TO YOUR PHYSIO – they do know what they are talking about and if it’s settling for more walking rather than running this time around, so be it. You get the medal and crossing the finishing line rush of endorphin all the same.
CROSS TRAINING – cardio comes in a few more shapes than running. Sweating buckets at the spin class may not be as good as pounding the pavements to get that PB smashed but it lets you stuff your face with pizza just as efficiently as running.
PLANK CHALLENGE – the running bug plank challenge pops on all Facebook feeds regularly so why not give it a go. I’m permanently stuck at the week two of the planking plan so if anybody made it to the end … I applaud your abs and I also think you have way too much time on your hands if you can spend 10 minutes a day planking 😀
DISTRACTIONS – oh the good old one step back to charge forward stuff! I have finally read The Girl on the Train (yup, I can see what this fuss is all about now), and The Stress Test by Ian Robertson – a study of how to improve the odds of the Nietzsche’s ‘what does not kill us makes stronger’ concept becoming the reality. Although I think I have already nailed that one on the cancer front all on my own 😀 I have also caught up on The Fall just in time for the start of a brand new season – Gillian Anderson and Jamie Dornan duo rocks. Planned some impromptu travels, drank a bit too much, danced just enough to exercise the poor broken foot, and painted my nails a lot. Call that endless possibilities haha
SIGN UP FOR AN EVEN BIGGER CHALLENGE – yes, the 2017 Brighton Half is happening, there is no getting away from that one hence more pressure to get the foot fully healed and not pushing it stupidly now.
WINE – not running in the mornings means more wine-time in the evenings, just saying.
All in all, it is never about totally abandoning your goals and desires, if letting go was about that it would be a really hard graft! It feels much better when it’s actually about picking up some more options along the way, just so that the initially intended result is expanded rather than abandoned – yup, LET IT GO to get more rather than less, how about that!
Peripheral Neuropathy is a common side effect of the taxane based chemo regimes – numbness and tingling of fingers and toes that usually extends further with each cycle, but in most cases the issue remains mild and transient. In my case it was mainly toes that got affected, it started from the baby toes and luckily didn’t go much further past the middle section, four courses of paclitaxel went and the symptoms started to improve. Numb fingers meant that my handwriting got worse but it had been bad enough already – the scribbles just got a bit more artistic, let’s say, and just a bit less legible but hey, that silly quill to paper business is so over now with the keyboards and touchscreens. Typing might have been a bit of an issue too I think but autocorrect saved the day on few occasions 😀
Perpheral Neuropathy Realities
It’s funny how realisations get delayed in the surreal world of chemo. I did not quite realise that my feet were affected until I went to a yoga class, all defiant with my picc line covered by a cut off sock, and nearly wobbled face to floor attempting a warrior pose, warrior two I think but it could have been anything else that needed some basic balance, like a … low lunge. Same with the handwriting, I just got used to guessing what I had written here and there, when suddenly last week I realised that my control over pen somehow got back to normal. 10 month after the last paclitaxel there is a chance that people will now be able to read their birthday cards. Shame about my post it notes that would now lose their awesome Picasso style appeal.
It’s totally different with the foot treated to the full on black cab weight. The realisation of not being able to use the foot, transformed into a foreign looking and feeling appendage in seconds, is so instant and the numbness so pronounced that it all puts the mild chemo peripheral neuropathy in a totally new perspective. The coincidence of my hands getting totally back to normal just as my foot went the other way is just following the basic karma rules I guess.
Crutches suck big time but it turns out that they happen to have few more uses than the good old getting you from one place to another following an injury – be it a beer holder or a chew toy for your foster rabbit. When you can stand, even if wobbling heavily, on your own two feet again you could even try to pretend it’s a lightsaber or a guitar. Or be the responsible one albeit slightly boring and give them to someone who could use them for, you know, just walking.
Of course the crutches could also be used exactly as prescribed which should at least get you better guns once the lower appendage problem is over. I gave up on using both crutches as soon as I got home, with the whole weekend on my own ahead of me I just had to carry stuff every now and then 😉 My foot wasn’t exactly liking it but hey two weeks on and it actually looks like a foot, the ankle is back and it feels like some running can be done following the recommended 6 weeks of recovery. How very reasonable of me! I had to spend some time with my foot iced and elevated and as any reasonable and only moderately anxious person would, I used this time to extensively google compartment syndrome and nonunion – yikes, seems that a week or two extra of wearing the super ugly rubber boot or non-running may be worth it in the long term.
These two photos are linked in a very ironic if not plain surreal way actually. I ran 10k on Sunday the 10th July and the following Thursday went for a lunchtime jog and got hit by a London black cab in the middle of the square mile – I love you London.
As far as silver linings go, this time last year I was in the middle of chemo which felt like a never ending drag so the setback of four weeks on crutches seems doable now, I guess. Do some work from home, ice the foot, drink wine and binge on The Good Wife. Enjoy my whole two 10k medals so far…
And I should make sure I stick to my oncologist’s advice – cancer survivor testing her luck by running into traffic? Great way to get over the post cancer marasm? – Maybe. Altogether not too smart and possibly going against this whole running from cancer idea that I had concocted for my life ahead 😀