Saturday, July 5, 2014

Trying to regain fitness with post chemo fatigue

Last year at this time, I was coming off of a string of weeks where I had run 80-100 miles per week in preparation for the Vermont 100. I was doing back to back long runs every week, spending hours and hours running hilly single track trails. I felt like Cheyenne Canon was my second home. I was tired from the training, but feeling fit, strong and happy knowing I had done basically all I could to prepare myself to run 100 miles.  

This coming Monday will mark three weeks since my final chemotherapy treatment. I am still exhausted. These days I am struggling to run up anything that resembles a hill. People keep asking me if I am feeling better yet, and I am. I am no longer nauseous and my muscles and joints are no longer hurting. My friends and husband say that my mind seems sharper ("seems" being the key word). My husband has noted that he no longer finds clumps of my hair everywhere. 

I just cannot seem to shake this overwhelming feeling of being tired in every fiber of my being. The fatigue brought on by chemotherapy does not seem to be relieved by getting more sleep. Furthermore, I have dealt with insomnia since I began treatment, so I haven't felt rested in months. When I finished treatment, I was not sure how long it would take for that feeling to go away. I really thought I would bounce back quickly. What I have found is that I still have to really pace myself and be selective about what I take on. I know my energy will gradually return, but for now I need to limit how much I try to pack into each day.

Over the last nine months, I pared my life down to the essential elements. Taking care of my family was my top priority. Next came basic household chores. A lot of tasks that were not imperative did not get accomplished. I started tackling some of the neglected projects this week. I had to pause over two items. One is the binder of medically related paperwork I have accumulated since January.

This is a giant three ringed binder that I have filled with insurance paperwork, bills, etc. I had no idea the amount of paperwork I would accumulate over a few months period. For many months, it seemed like I got something every single day in the mail, either from a doctor's office or from the insurance company. I started developing a conditioned fear of checking the mail. The amount of paperwork is truly overwhelming and it feels like it will never stop coming. 

On the other hand, I found a folder where I had been collecting these.

These are the cards, notes and letters I have received since I had my surgery. I took some time to read through a few of the cards today. The words remind me of how blessed I have been by love and kindness from people both near and far. I plan to reread each one and keep them always as a reminder of light in a time of darkness. 

I continue on in my so-called running comeback. Last week I overdid things a bit. This week I pulled the reins back in to try to recover. I met Vanessa for an easy run on Monday. I am cheating and using an older picture of us, but this picture just makes me happy. Vanessa is such a fun, interesting, and entertaining lady. I have really enjoyed getting to know her over the last couple of months.

Monday afternoon, I took Peyton to the pool for the first time this summer. I am much more sensitive to heat and sun than I used to be, but it was a beautiful day and I wanted to get out and enjoy it with my little buddy. 

Tuesday morning, I did a short run around my neighborhood by myself. My husband, Peyton and I had planned to meet at Jack Quinn's Tuesday night for the club run. Peyton and I were both feeling exceptionally tired so we walked most of the route, but had fun anyway. Riley is in Texas so we took a selfie to send to her.

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of running with two other really special ladies, Jenny and Tracey. I would love to describe what we talked about, but it was all completely inappropriate and not fit for polite company. But this is exactly why I love them. I would not bust my butt struggling to keep up with people if they were not fun and great company.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, my husband and I ran together. We did 9 miles on Thursday morning. We ran 8 on Friday, which was the fourth of July. We had considered running one of two races that were within driving distance that morning, but ultimately decided to pass. We just did a quick run together so we could spend the rest of the day with Peyton at the zoo. As much as I enjoy racing, I need to conserve energy for things that are really important in the grand scheme of things, like taking my daughter to the zoo. It is not that racing is unimportant to me. I plan to toe the line again in the future, but first I need to regain some strength. 

Ssaturday morning, Steve and I ran 12 miles together. On Sunday, I ran ten solo.

So no speed workout this week, and no run longer than 12 miles.  I did put in over 60 miles this week, however. I have been working on improving my hill running. During chemotherapy, the slightest incline made me feel like I was going to have a heart attack. I often ended up walking up most hills. Now I am trying to get my hill running ability back by running small hills. If I have to walk a bit after I reach the top of a hill to catch my breath, that's ok. As the saying goes, you won't get better at running hills by walking them. I will continue to plug away and hopefully soon I will not need any recovery from smaller hills. I do know the proportion of time I have spent running versus walking has been increasing over the last couple of weeks. Despite my fatigue, I am starting to see glimmers of hope and I am beginning to feel more like a runner again. 


  1. Ha, funny thing - I have one of those binders, too! :-) My conditioned "fear" is when I get messages from my doc or hospital on my online health portal - I make Steve open and read them first! LOL. You are doing so well. I know it's frustrating and your body doesn't come close to resembling where you want to be fitness-wise in terms of speed, strength, and endurance but WOW, you did 60 miles this past week! Woo hoo! You are on the cusp of seeing the reflection of the athlete you desire to be. Your body is weary from the fight it has been through and just needs some time to heal, repair, and recharge. You are on your way! It is so hard to be patient, though, isn't it??? We expect and demand a lot from ourselves. Keep on pushing but be gracious with yourself as you rebuild. Keep savoring life, with all its rocks and roots, ups and downs, and most importantly, the spectacular beauty that is your life - dear family and friends and all the good things!

  2. Saw the link to your blog on this post and hopped on over. When you mentioned Breckenridge, I figured you must live in Colorado. Then when I saw some folders in your binder that said "Rocky Mountain Cancer Center." It made me wonder if you are in Colorado Springs, like me? I'm also a Cancer Survivor. I was diagnosed with Brain Cancer 1.5 years ago. I finished treatment at the end of April and had a huge party to celebrate. My husband and I are talking about a getaway soon, just the two of us, probably a road trip to somewhere in the State. Maybe I'll suggest Breckenridge.

  3. Hi Sharon, yes, I am in Colorado Springs! Congratulations on surviving brain cancer. I had wanted to have a party, but my treatment ended in the middle of summer and it is hard to plan in the summer because of vacations. Maybe we will have a delayed party this fall! Breckenridge was so wonderful. It is close, too, which is nice. A friend of mine was recently in crested butte and that looked just beautiful right now. I really recommend a getaway.