Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Biggest Health Challenge

My biggest health challenge right now is losing the extra pounds I gained during and in the months following my radiation treatments. As I have written here, I have never weighed as much as I do now; besides the aesthetic and wardrobe limitation issues this brings with it, I need to lose weight for my continued health. I was always a tiny little person; now, I'm still tiny vertically... To minimize the risk of my cancer returning, and to prevent heart disease and diabetes, I have to lose weight.

I literally wanted to sleep all of the time during radiation; I even started drinking coffee at work (something I had never done before) just to stay awake. For someone who was always described as "perky" and "bubbly", I barely managed to drag myself through the day, by sheer force of will. The fatigue that I experienced was profound, and it made the slightest effort seem truly overwhelming. Exercising was impossible; everything seemed like exercise!

Sometimes, I would find myself eating just to keep awake, and I could no longer eat the same foods that I formerly enjoyed. At the end of the day, there was no "second wind" to draw upon for my usual working out with weights, or walking on the treadmill. Napping became a major activity; when I finally managed to go out on the weekends for a 4-mile walk, I would have to take a 2-hour nap afterwards just to be able to stay up until my usual bedtime.

Now, I find that I'm running around at work or at home, and I consciously realize that I'm getting my energy back. Last weekend, I walked 4 miles both days, and I'd like to keep it that way! I'm working out with weights regularly, although at times I feel like the photo above; I'm walking on the nature trail near my home, and on the treadmill. It's much easier walking outside than on the treadmill, though, because I feel like I'm enjoying nature, and not "exercising".

My eating habits are better now: whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lots of water, small meals. I try to maintain some of my "old" rules, such as not eating anything after a certain time of day (usually 8PM or so). I don't believe that some foods should be "forbidden"; you will just crave them even more. That's why snack-size candy bars and ice cream cones were invented! My daily medications present challenges to some patients in their efforts to lose weight; I managed not to gain any weight when I fractured my ankle and couldn't even walk for 2 weeks. That, to me, was an achievement! Right now, I'm losing 1 pound a week, and I'm happy with that.

I saw my oncologist Thursday, and said that by the next time I see her, I hope that there's less of me to see. That would be another "milestone" to reach on my way back from July 2007. Wish me luck!

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