Note: I’m writing a series on my bout with ovarian cancer and how my running was affected by it and helped me deal with it. You can read Part 1 for a little history on my running and cancer here and Part 2 for a look at how I planned my running while going through chemotherapy here and Part 3 for how I took things one day at a time here.
I changed the title of the series from Running With Cancer to Running From Cancer because I’m cancer free now! I found out for sure on April 7th that there was no more cancer in me. I’d beat it!
I was relieved and happy that I could go back to being normal. Woo!
It’s been more than 3 months since my last chemo treatment and I’m still waiting for that to happen. Sigh.
I never thought that 14+ weeks after I was done with chemo I would still be dealing with fatigue and an achy body or that my body would still have issues processing food…efficiently. I thought I would be in the midst of marathon training and on my way back to my former speedy self.
Instead I feel old, tired, fat, and slow. Especially when I’m running. Which totally sucks.
I had to take more time off of running to deal with some plantar fasciitis after my last chemo treatment plus some aching in my hips and legs and I feel like I lost whatever endurance I had started getting back during chemo. I am still dealing with all of that but I started again on May 11th because I missed it. I am so slow and so tired at the end of my runs! Argh! I thought for sure I would be over the tiredness by now. I thought I would be back to being peppy and speedy and running happily along. I just found out last Thursday that it’s not uncommon for fatigue to still be an issue by a tweet from Dr Robert S. Miller, MD (@rsm2800) “Fatigue often the chemo side effect slowest to resolve. Fatigue at 3m quite common”. Well, at least now I know it’s normal. Sigh.
If it was just fatigue and achiness, it wouldn’t be too bad but probably the most frustrating side effect that ovarian cancer had for me was the weight gain and my current inability to lose that weight. I was warned about possible weight gain during chemo school. They stress that you should not lose weight and that the steroids in the nausea meds might cause weight gain. The fact that I was also thrown into instant menopause because of the cancer didn’t help since it decreased my metabolism (not to mention hot flashes, mood swings, and trouble sleeping). Still, after having lost so much weight before, I SWORE I wouldn’t gain any. In fact, I secretly planned to keep trying to lose weight. But that didn’t happen and I was horrified to see my weight creep up. I would cringe whenever I went to see my doc because for sure she would yell at me for gaining weight, right? But no. Apparently she was fine with that. It was expected.
I thought once I was done with chemo that I would be able to lose weight but that hasn’t happened. I tried being casual about it but the scale wouldn’t move. I find myself obsessing now and keeping track of calories and adding more protein to my diet but it’s sticking to me like glue. It just won’t budge. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. I have lost 5 pounds in the past 2 months. Which is good but I need to lose about 50 more and I don’t want to wait 20 more months to get rid of the weight! It’s not helping with the slowness and the achiness and really, I just hate being like this again. Ugh.
The problem is that I don’t know what is still from the chemo and what is from menopause. I’ve looked at forums for answers to both and the things I’m experiencing other women are experiencing because of chemo OR menopause. So maybe I won’t ever be the same Lisa I was before cancer again. Maybe I need to figure out a new normal and how to make the best of it. I need more information! Why isn’t there more information out there? I know. Because everyone is different.
BUT…I am running again. And I am “racing” again. On May 17th, I ran a 3 mile trail run and on Saturday, I ran a 5K. It was my fastest mile and fastest 5K post chemo!
And while I’m happy that I’m moving in the right direction, the fact that it was 6+ minutes off my 5K PR of 24:59, that I needed 10.5 hours of sleep that night, and that I’ve been as sore as if I ran a marathon since are a little depressing. But I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep running (and riding – great cross training for me because there is not impact soreness after) and I know eventually I’ll get where I want to be. In the meantime, I think I need to stop signing up for races and just concentrate on getting healthy and finding the fun again. I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself to be super marathoner/ultra runner Lisa again and my body is obviously not ready for that yet.
I know I sound like I’m whining. I guess I am. Part of me is still so angry about the cancer and that it continues to affect my life. A friend made a comment to me when I said I was still fighting it along the lines of “wasn’t I happy to be alive”. Yes, I am happy to be alive. Yes, I know I’m lucky that I survived. But everything is not all rainbows and unicorns now that chemo is over. I thought that would be the case but it’s not. Everyone deals with things differently, especially cancer and chemo. I have seen stories of people who ran marathons and ultras while going through chemo and I put pressure on myself to be that strong. And when I wasn’t, I felt like a failure. Like a wimp. Like I wasn’t good enough. But I did the best I could. I’m still doing the best I can.
I just have to remind myself of that and the fact that I do love running and it IS fun and it IS good for me… as long as I listen to my body. So I keep running. Because I am NOT going to let cancer have the last laugh!
Check back soon for the next chapter in my running from cancer journey! And don’t forget, if you missed Part 1 or Part 2, you can read them here:
If you’ve been through cancer and chemotherapy and are a runner, I would love to hear how it went for you. Please let me know in the comments or email me at the link below.