Hi…Happy Birthday to me!

pink ink..

Hi Chicklets! Today I am writing a 2-part post. So be patient, I promise it won’t be too long.

PART 1:
So I hit a milestone! I have started going back to the gym! “Why?” you ask!? Two reasons actually. I am getting closer and closer to radiation. As I result, I have started to learn more about the side effects of getting radiation every day, for six weeks. Yes, every day, for six weeks. The most common are armpit discomfort, skin tenderness, skin burn, chest pain, limited arm movement, swelling of the arm and massive fatigue. Just what I need…more fatigue! Really!!?? (They didn’t mention boredom, but 6 weeks of the same cycle has got to bore one to tears!) But article after article said that the best way to combat this fatigue was to walk at least 4 hours a week. Doesn’t sound bad huh? Well I haven’t been in a gym in 3 months. I get tired walking up the 10 stairs to my front door. Plus, let me remind you that I am still going through chemo! The thought of going back to the gym regularly completely stressed me out. In fact, it made me…tired!

Then last week, I was on one of my marathon phone convos with Red Ink Michele. She informed me that she and her eldest son were starting to train for a mini triathlon! Now, Michele is a former dancer, and is always fit. But, like me, she goes to the gym because it’s the right thing to do, not because she loves it! So to hear that she was committed to training for a triathlon, I suddenly became…a little motivated to put my toe back into the gym water. (Side note, how cool is it that she and her 15 year old are doing that together! I can only hope Lil B will want to do something like that with me in 6 years!) Anyway, the side effects of radiation and Michele’s new challenge got me out and to the gym.
Two things you should know.

1.I was scared to death. Will I be able to walk for 45 minutes? After all, I have limited strength/endurance now! I’m in chemo! Will people stare at the bald lady? What if my boobs start to hurt from the movement? What if I pass out? These questions swirled in my head as I stretched and got my music together!

2.I am now firmly on an emotional roller coaster! I fought back tears for the 1st ten minutes of my workout! “Why?” you ask…again. It was a lot to take in. It was a combination of being happy to be back in the gym, happy to be using my body in a positive way for the 1st time in months, and great frustration at not being able to get on my favorite machines. I am an “upper body” workout chick. I like weights (if I must work out) and the rowing machine in particular. But no way I can go anywhere near them for at least another 4-6 months. I wore my Race for a Cure shirt proudly…or perhaps as an explanation, but felt self-conscious. Not a feeling I was used to. Again, fighting tears. How did I get here? Folks cry over getting cancer. I didn’t! Why am I crying about going to the gym!?

So by now, you have probably gotten a million different versions of “Sh*@ people say…” in your email. Watch the one for breast cancer below! Hilarious. I experienced my own versions while I was at the gym.
“Oh, cancer huh?”

“Your head looks great!”

“I like your shirt.” (Really? It’s a Race shirt…)

“Are you ok, walking?”

“You look like Halle.” (Ok, no one BUT Halle looks like Halle!!! Come on people!)

“Don’t worry. You can do it”

These are just some of the things people felt motivated to say to me as I was passing them on the track…or in the bathroom. Folks I did not know! Other people just looked at me with pity or the “sad eyes”. But instead of upsetting me, this made me laugh inside, and just focus on my task of walking. Yes, I made it, 2 miles! I felt good. Each day, I am determined to get control of my body back.

As I was leaving the gym, I ran into my old Pilates trainer. She didn’t know, so I filled her in. She burst into tears, grabbed me, and said she didn’t know what to say. I understand that. It is hard to find the right words if you know the person. I understand that. My suggestion is to not focus on the words. Most times, I don’t remember all the versions of “I am praying for you, God will get you through, You are strong, Don’t worry you won’t die”. My advice is to just “be present”.

If you are at the grocery store, gym, or at your kid’s school and see someone like me, my advice is to just smile, give the “head nod”…and say “HI”.

PART 2;
Happy Birthday to me!! Yes, as my sis said, I had a birthday this weekend! Thanks to EVERYONE who sent cards, called, texted, sent gifts etc! I felt the love! What did I do for my birthday?

I WENT TO VEGAS BABY!

Yes, you read correctly. I flew. To Vegas. Land of the many germs! Big B had to go on business, and I decided to tag along. I don’t gamble. The fun for me was to have nothing to do. I just wanted to relax, and take in all the nuts in Vegas.

Medical Minute Detour: Big B and I flew to Vegas. When you have lymph nodes removed during a mastectomy, flying becomes a mild problem. One has to wear a compression sleeve…for the rest of her life…when she flies. Then she has to keep it on for 24 hours after the flight. It looks like a nude stocking. When I picked up my sleeve last week, I didn’t know about lymphedema. So I am sharing! If I don’t wear the sleeve while flying, my arm will blow up to the size of a football, and possibly not go back to its regular size! It’s called lymphedema, and very uncomfortable and annoying. I knew immediately, I didn’t want that to happen. Plus I’m too vain! Who wants a fat arm and a skinny arm? Not me, so I wore the sleeve! And yes, I was completely paranoid for 24 hours that my arm was going to explode…along with my new “girls”!

Vegas was a great trip. The weather was nice, and the food great. Not to mention all my birthday wishes from afar! I bought my 1st post surgery bra! But the best part of my birthday weekend (other than being with Big B) was courtesy of the Armstrong/Talbot crew.(LUV you guys!) They sent me to the Bellagio spa for the day, to get reinvigorated. Reinvigorate, I did! If you ever have cause to give something to a person who is going through a medical challenge, a spa day is a great gift. It was the 1st time in months that I had “treatments” done to my body that weren’t “killing something” in my body! These treatments made me feel good about my body. They made me feel pretty. For example, my masseuse was experienced in working with mastectomy patients. She helped me lay on my stomach for the 1st time in 7 weeks! Again, I…say it with me…CRIED.

Truth moment…the 1st ten minutes of my massage, I had the irrational thought of wondering if the massage would stir up any lingering cancer cells in my body! But my masseuse worked that stress out.

More Sh*@ folks say…Yes, my pedicurist said to me on 3 occasions “Don’t worry, you will live”. Seriously? Do you not see the champagne in my hand! I am good! Not thinking about dying today!

Birthdays are not promised. I know that more than ever. Last week, I was reminded that had I not found my tumor, I would probably be dying now. It was that aggressive (GOT to love the honesty of medical professionals). So on my birthday, I “let go”. I did have serenity and peace of mind. My life is firmly in the Cancer Lane, and that’s my journey. On my birthday, I acknowledged the wisdom that allowed me to be aware of my body and its changes. I thanked God for giving me another birthday.

Then I had another glass of champagne!

Happy Birthday to me!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. JC Ellis
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 19:20:00

    Girl, I didn’t know you were doing Vegas for your birthday!! I was too busy trying to pull your mind out of the cancer lane for 10 minutes and into the sleazy gossip lane w/me…:>) I am a Vegas virgin. It’s on my to do list, maybe I’ll get there w/husband number 2! ha ha! Glad you had lots of champagne!! I can’t believe the nail tech’s comment x 3…sigh…Thanks for sharing the best tip for acknowledging someone in the cancer lane…I will insert the smile & knowing nod into my toolkit!

    Reply

  2. Andrea Smith
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 21:32:47

    You’ve done it again, Queen B. I am so glad you had a great birthday, got back to the gym and told me what to say for those in cancer lane. Thanks for sharing and giving us this unbelievable insight. Also, you confirm that I have no excuse for not exercising!!! Your gym t-shirt should say “FEARLESS” because that is what you are! We all get scared sometimes, but the “FEARLESS” keep going!!

    Reply

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