Since I finished treatment, I’ve been a half-marathonin’ fool.
I ran the NYC in March with a childhood friend.
I ran the Nashville in April.
This is one of those race photos they try to sell you. Hehe.
I took May off, but was back at it again in June, this time in Seattle.
Me and my Seattle running buddies. They stuck by me the whole way.
Interesting Fact: We have 10 kids between us.
How do I explain this marathoning madness? Simple. I know myself.
When I asked my oncologist what I could do to minimize my odds of recurrence, she said, “You will hear a lot of things. But there are only two things we know for sure. Exercise regularly and keep yourself to your lowest healthy weight.”
I am a compliant patient, but I knew I would be even more compliant with these goals on the horizon.
So that’s that. I don’t want the cancer to come back. Plus there are added bonuses.
When I run regularly, I feel better. I’m more confident in my body. It’s the only time I actually enjoy my booblessness.
Vigorous exercise marks a clear before/after for my treatment. I couldn’t run during treatment because of my extreme nausea and pain. Now I can.
Running helps me combat post-treatment fatigue. I sleep more deeply and have more energy when I’m running.
Running is an individual sport but runners compete against themselves. “To PB” is a verb — it means to get your personal best time.
So I thought that by running three races in four months, I would PB by the end.
I was wrong. I PW’d.
That’s right. I got my Personal Worst.
I’m not one for excuses but I do like a good story, so here goes. Pull up a chair and stay awhile.
Devoted readers of my blog may recall that I started an experimental use of an old medication, Metformin, in early May to prevent the cancer from recurring. My oncologist reassured me that any side-effects would be short lived. She obviously forgot she was talking to the side-effect queen.
I was so nauseous, I ended up back in bed most evenings. My doctor told me to take Zofran, the big guns anti-nausea drug. It only kind of helped and heaped on new side effects like dizziness and constipation. It was one thing to endure those when I could lie in bed all day during chemo. But I’m trying to hold down a full time job and raise a young family here.
I tried cutting my dose in half, reasoning that taking some of the drug was better than none of it. They had to back off on my chemo dose because of my bad reactions, so why wouldn’t I do the same thing with the Metformin? When the nausea persisted, diabetic friends offered suggestions. Cut down on your carbs. Take it with meals.
I tried all of the above, to no avail.
Worse yet, the nausea and related fatigue started to cut into my running. Exerting one’s self while dizzy and pukey is highly unappealing. As I pulled back on training, I started losing some of the ground I had gained in my wellness. I went from feeling better to pretty bad again.
The morning of the Seattle race, I took my medicine before the run.
I spent the first 8 miles feeling nauseous.
“Slow down a little, I’m sorry,” I kept telling my friends.
They obliged, insisting that it was all about running together.
And we did. We ran the whole way, except for the water stations. And my insistence on high-fiving the kids who came out to cheer for the runners. And to thank the people carrying flags to remember fallen soldiers.
Oh, and the potty stop.
But we ran and we ended with the uniquely exhilarating feeling of delicious endorphins coursing through our veins.
Even a PW wasn’t terrible.
But that was the beginning of the end of my affair with Metformin.
When I got back home, I had an evening where I became arrested by nausea. That was the final straw.
Why, I reasoned, am I trading in something I know will help me (exercise) for something that might help me (Metformin)?
So I stopped taking the pills.
Today I met with the nurse in the Survivorship Clinic. She’s a runner so she appreciated my PW tale. She has seen a lot of people on Metformin and her opinion was this:
The running is more important. The drug is a hypothetical. Metformin is hard for some people, and it sounds like you are one of those people. Quality of life matters and you need to keep exercising.
Cancer and survivorship often involve selecting between two crappy options. It feels unsettling not to do something medically to keep the cancer from recurring. But it felt even worse when I tried to.
My PW clarified the best of the crappy options. Stop the drugs and keep running.
And keep finding ways to hang out with good friends. They’ll make it fun, even when it is your worst time ever.
Tags: attitude, body issues, changes, coping, courage, essay, exercise, fatigue, healthy people, identity loss, nausea, running, side-effects, survivorship
Posted in Survivorship, Wellness | 29 Comments »