Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is anyone getting stronger quickly?

Yesterday at Vanderbilt, I read about a lady who had breast cancer. They had a picture of her, so I'm guessing she is about 50. Of course, the picture was of her competing in a bodybuilding competition, after chemo and in remission.

Inspired by her, I came down this morning to the kitchen and realized that I really didn't have enough energy to make coffee. In fact, I couldn't really think straight enough to decide on what to have for breakfast.

"My wife will do all that for me," I thought.

I laid on the couch. I took a few deep breaths, and they made me cough. "Rough morning," I thought.

As I lay there, my son, who is visiting from college for the weekend, runs up the stairs shouting to his sister, "I have so much energy this morning. I just went and did a bunch of pushups just because I have so much energy."


Then he went out to the car with a friend to get a screen protector for his phone. I thought, "I should do something." I forced myself off the couch for a new workout I read about. It's a 3-minute workout. In this case, I chose deep knee bends. I do as many as fast as I can, then pause for 10 seconds, do it again, and try to keep that up for 3 minutes. I've never made it past two.

In this case, it totally energized me. My youngest son saw me gasping for breath, and he asked if I was okay, but all the deep breathing cleared up my lungs.

Usually, when I try exercise to kick the doldrums out, it fails miserably. I just end up in bed, unable to do anything. This morning, though, I'm up and typing this blog now, feeling pretty good.

Of course, my wife has made me coffee by now, along with a bagel with egg and cheese.


So, my question is, if you've survived cancer, how are you doing at recovering energy, and what are you doing for exercise? How is the exercise working for you?

Exercise Story

I was feeling like my stamina was improving. I was walking on the treadmill at the gym and monitoring my heart rate. Over a couple of weeks, I had to go up in speed a little to keep my heart rate above 120. That was exciting.

Inspired, I walked several days in a row, and my body crashed. I slept all day one Friday, and then had little energy all day Saturday. I was on my feet most of that day, so I know it wasn't the result of being lazy and laying around.

So I have now limited myself to 3-4 days per week of walking 2 miles, keeping my heart rate above 120.

So here's the story. Last week, I decided to time myself walking around the block (big block). I started up the street, and I was quickly gasping for breath. By the time I rounded the corner and started down Strawberry Rd, I was wondering if I'd relapsed.

Really. I made myself come to grips with the possibility of relapse and be ready to give thanks to God in all circumstances.

Then I turned onto Dartford, which was downhill, and I realized just how uphill the start of walk must have been. My breath quickly came back, me feet felt lighter than they've ever felt, my heart stopped pounding.

The second lap, I took the uphill much slower. I felt MUCH better.

Earlier this week, walking laps at work, in the rain, I ran a little (very little) just because I felt like it.

Progress is SLOOOOW. But it's progress.

Again, I'd love to hear your plan, your success and lack thereof, and whether you're headed for a bodybuilding contest post-chemo or just struggling along like me.


  1. Ironic you posted this. I have AML finished my 2nd round of chemo so I am still in the hospital waiting for my next bone marrow biopsy. It honestly entered my head today, when I finally get out of the hospital (which will be months from now), how long will it take me to regain enough strength and evergy to get back to where I was. I would love to hear other people's experiences.

  2. Mandy, may God grant your great resilience.

    Do you have to have a marrow transplant? That may make a lot of difference. After my second chemo, I got out on the road and ran and walked 5 miles in just over an hour. If they would have stopped there, I think I could have been running five miles in a couple months. Then, after finding blasts in my spinal fluid, I had to get a new induction round, and the marrow transplant was always scheduled. It was the transplant that really got me. Of course, they warned me that is how it would be.

    Better than relapsing, though! That really curtails stamina!

  3. Before cancer I was nutritionally minded and ran half marathons; I never thought I'd get cancer. After 7 1/2 months of treatment, including an auto stem cell transplant, I went through a real rough time psychologically. In that "phase", I was angry that my body betrayed me and did not find any discipline to exercise. At our local gym, they offered a program called Journey to Wellness and this program was specifically for people recovering from severe or chronic illness. I decided I needed the structure and accountability and joined up. That is exactly what I needed to get back to my exercise. It was hard, it took discipline and it took forgiveness of my body. Someone pointed out rather than feel betrayed my health is probably what kept me strong through all my treatment. A question, could you be in a depression?

  4. I just wanted to say that while I read your stuff on fb often, I hadn't really looked at your face since, well, in the midst of your battle with the evil C, when you were hairless and looked really ill. I'm hoping that the picture here is current?! It's good to see a smile on your face and hair on your head. :) Blessings, and thanks.

  5. I'm afraid not, if you're referring to the photo of my daughter in the tall hat. That was pre-leukemia. My beard has grown back, and the *black* hair on my head has grown back. The white hair on my scalp has not grow back. That may seem good, but it leaves me with very thin hair since I was salt and pepper before my chemo adventure.

    I'll try to get a more recent photo. I don't look sick anymore. I don't shave bald, I just keep that thin hair about a 1/4 inch long, and it feigns being a full head of hair for a balding middle-age guy.

  6. Hi Paul, It might be the meds you are on that are keeping you week, if you are still on maintenance treatment. I was diagnosed with ALL with philadelphia chromesone and am 13 months into my 2 years of maintenance treatments and untill a few days ago I felt pretty weak and was not getting my strength back. The change occured when the pharmacy was not able to refill the spycel I've been taking to treat the philadelphia chromesone issue. In the 3 days I've been off the drug I have regained a noticable amount of strength and can taste fod again. my "bronchitus" I've been fighting for 3 months is also clearing up... apprantly the cough was also a side affect. Now I have to decide if I want to start taking the drug, which my oncologist wants me to take for the rest of my life, or do I say no more and take my chances. I was told that but for the sprycel I would be back to normal strength 6 months after i finished my last round of in patient treatment. Hope this helps.

    1. Thanks, John. I attended a conference, and the doctors there said that the steroids that we post-transplant folks have to take, often for years, actually weaken the muscles, so I'm sure that has something to do with it. I'm not facing what you're facing, though. For me, we lower the dose of steroids whenever I'm stable, and I can see myself whether I need the dose I have because I either have massive digestive issues or a growing rash if my body's not ready to reduce the dose. We're at 15 mg now, which is about twice the amount that the body naturally makes, so it's not a big dose.

      I don't know what I would do in your shoes. I can pray for you, but I hate to even comment on what I would do. That's a lot of side effect, especially the bronchitis.