Yoga, Physical Therapy, and Waxing the Legs

This has been a week of “firsts,” a week of doing things only for me, and a week of pain (some good and one not so good).  Read on…

A good friend of mine and I were catching up over breakfast the other day and she invited me to one of her yoga classes that she attends.  I am always skeptical of yoga classes because I’m as flexible as a two-by-four and  I was standing in the wrong line when God handed out coordination.  In addition, I have literally been pushed farther than I can go in a previous class that I attended years ago and I have been leery ever since.  She assured me this was a gentle class and it would be good for me.  I agreed to go and I have to say, it was a wonderful experience.  I don’t know a lot of the moves but I tried to do my best. At one point, I was so proud of myself when we had to stand on one leg like a flamingo and twist our arms around each other because I did not fall.  My supporting leg shook like crazy but I stayed upright.  For me, this was empowering because my balance has been thrown for a loop after chemo and neuropathy.  I woke up with sore muscles the next day but it was a ‘good’ pain.  I had done something beneficial to both my physical and mental health and I plan on going again next week.

I also started physical therapy today to hopefully deal with the balance issues that neuropathy has exacerbated.  Now keep in mind that I am not a coordinated person and I can trip over a piece of lint on a good day.  Throw in the neuropathy and the whole process involved in recovering from surgeries and chemo and I am a sight to see when I’m on the move.  I was ‘evaluated’ today and  I now have finger exercises, stability ball exercises, and balance exercises to work on.  I need to strengthen my abs (by-product of surgery and plain old fatigue from chemo) and my ankles.   Apparently my ankles have been overcompensating due to the weak core muscles and the neuropathy in the toes.  I have to retrain them to do what they are supposed to do.   This is what my physical therapist told me today.  “Seriously?” I asked.  She said, “seriously.”  “OK, so show me what to do.”  She did the exercises and then she had me do them.  Although these seem relatively easy when reading about them or watching someone else do them, some are quite challenging to me which is a bitter pill to swallow. Because my ankles have supported me through five marathons,  in my mind I felt that I shouldn’t have to start with the ‘baby’ stuff but goodness gracious, the ‘baby’ stuff can be difficult. And painful.   Again, this is a ‘good’ pain.  I plan on seeing progress each week and feeling more confident in my balance.

Lastly, my hair has really started to grow back.  I never lost all of the hair on my head but I lost a good chunk of it.  It has since started to fill in so now I don’t look like a person with really bad hair plugs anymore (the ‘do does look like something out of Star Trek but I’m ok with that).  Along with the growth on my head, my leg hair has also grown back (I never lost the arm hair so there’s no rhyme or reason to this hair loss thing).  Both the hair on the head and the leg hair are very soft.  Last night, I decided to try waxing the legs rather than shaving.  Having never done this before, I dutifully read the directions, warmed the wax, rolled the wax on, pressed the paper down, and let ‘er rip.  Um, no thank you.  What a miserable experience THAT was.  I shall hang onto my razor and contribute the blades to my local landfill as needed.

Musings on a Sunday in a post-cancer world

I am entering my 2nd month of being in remission and it feels wonderful.  However, cancer and chemo have lasting effects.  They don’t necessarily have to be permanent but they indeed make their presence known even after treatment is over.  For instance, I made it through 6 cycles/18 straight weeks of chemotherapy without any neuropathy.  Four days after my last treatment, the neuropathy hit my fingers and toes.  I am fortunate to have access to the wonderful resources in my oncologist’s office.  She has a nurse practitioner who is well-versed in complementary medicine and she advised that some particular vitamins may help increase the circulation for me.  My fingers have gotten better and I’m still hoping the toes improve. In the meantime, I try and stay active and do foot exercises to keep the blood moving.

I mentioned that the neuropathy is still an issue to my oncologist earlier this week when I saw her (I see her every three weeks due to clinical trial protocol).  I also mentioned that ever since chemo, my balance has been a bit “off” and I feel a bit unsteady at times.  Between that and the neuropathy, sometimes I look a bit lopsided when I’m walking.  I asked if physical therapy might be helpful and she was completely honest with me.  She said, “I think oftentimes that physical therapy is overlooked and not asked for when it can be helpful.  I have no problem recommending this for you because it could be very beneficial.”   I felt relieved and I was very glad that I’d spoken up.  I’ve mentioned this before but it is so important to speak up, ask questions, and ask for help if it’s needed.  There is no reason to feel embarrassed in speaking up.

I also had another lesson in humility today. (Now, don’t get the idea that I’m a mower and trimmer and gardener because I’m not – I’ve gladly let the menfolk in my life take care of most of that.  They were around today, too, but we were all going off in different directions taking care of stuff.)  I was outside working in the yard and some neighbors pulled up with equipment and smiles.  The lady jumped out of the vehicle and said, “Many hands make light work!” and with that, her family unloaded the trailer of lawn equipment and got to work.  In less than an hour, my yard was mowed and trimmed.  When they showed up, I was brought to tears due to their generosity.  When they left, I again got teary-eyed.  I am so blessed to have such generous people in my life.  I am also humbled by the fact that my strength and endurance are still coming back and I still cannot do as much work as I did before cancer hit me.  I have to take more breaks to rest and catch my breath.

Lastly, the kiddo is going to prom next week.  THIS has made me feel old.  We went shopping today for “prom attire” and although in the end it was a successful venture, it indeed wore me out both physically and mentally even though we were only in one store.  In an effort to find slacks, a blazer, and dress shoes, the teenage attitude came out and it was exhausting to me.  An hour and a half later – still in the same store – we left with our purchases.

As I reflect on the day, I am so glad to be in remission to be able to accept neighborly help and to tolerate the teenage attitude when it rears its ugly head.  Since being diagnosed with cancer, I have never had a bad day.  I have good days and I have great days.  Today will fall under one of those great days.

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