Why do we do this to ourselves?

I can’t deny that today was a tough run. In fact, it was more like a long walk with some running in between.

Once again, I found myself spending most of my time reflecting on how well I use to run, and beating myself up for not being able to run in the same way after so much time out of the running world. 

I don’t know why I do it to myself really. Each and every time I start from the beginning, I tell myself that I won’t compare my new accomplishments to what once was, yet after a few days of running, my mind always wanders back to those memories. In fact, it usually occurs when the going gets tough, like today, go figure. 

The same thing happened to me when I started working on my yoga teacher training certification just a few months back. All I could do was focus on the many things I thought I couldn’t do, and never once did I imagine I could accomplish all the things I have so far. 

Why do we do this to ourselves?

More importantly, “why do I do this to myself?” I can always manage to find the silver lining for others, but what about remembering to be kinder towards myself? About being genuinely happy with going out and being active, even if that means walking some of the way. This has always been a challenge for me, even through my journey with breast cancer.

 Nevertheless, what started today as a run ultimately ended up being a reminder. My goal for 2016 is not about “running 1000 miles”. It’s about getting out there and just doing what I can, even if that means walking the distance.

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth 🙂 ❤

Past vs Present…

It’s been a little over a week since I started my new job, and although it’s made me happy to be working again, it has truly been something difficult to adjust to. I wasn’t prepared to physically feel the way I do and needless to say it has affected me emotionally as well.

I spend every day reminding myself of all the challenges I’ve overcome since being diagnosed with breast cancer, but once again have found myself saddened by my levels of exhaustion, resulting from my medications. I keep getting flashbacks of the girl that used to go on long training runs after a hectic day at work, and how refreshed I felt after running an easy 5-6 miles. It’s hard to believe that was ever me when the thought alone feels so foreign.

I have blogged about my experience in hopes of helping someone else cope with there own journey, but I would really love to hear from anyone willing to share their story, and what has helped them get through their challenges as well.

The truth is, there are many emotional ups and downs that come with a cancer diagnose, and I have personally realized that it never really ends. The damage is done, and you just have to learn to work around it and make yourself a stronger person in the process, in order to really move on. You just can’t reflect so much on what was. Instead, I continue to try and find peace in thinking about what will become of the new me…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

The Half Marathon…

Race day had finally arrived. I had mixed emotions about it since I’d been feeling so tired and sore from the radiation but, my partner reassured me we’d finish it together, even if that meant walking to the finish line. It was just the support I needed before heading to the event that morning.

We arrived and I remember being amazed at how many people had registered for the race. This was by far the largest half marathon I had ever participated in. The music was insane and you could feel the energy and excitement as you walked through the crowds. The count down finally began and the race was off to a great start. I was back and loving every moment of it! It was breezy and still dark out, so the running conditions were perfect. It wasn’t till around mile 7 or 8 that my body felt like it was giving up on me. By then, the sun had come up and the heat was really getting to me. I was tired and had become frustrated with how long it was taking me to get to each mile marker.

Slowly, I began to lose site of why I was running. My goal was to finish the race and to have fun, but instead, I was focusing on my speed and setting unrealistic goals. I hadn’t trained enough nor was I in the physical condition to be pushing myself as hard as I once did. My peers and doctors thought I was a bit nuts for attempting to run the distance but I wanted to at least try. I suppose it was my own way of telling myself I could still do it if I really wanted to. However, it stopped being fun and that’s the opposite of what I wanted to accomplish.

That’s when the universe through me a curve ball. Left and right I was running passed participants with physical disabilities far greater than mine. They were happy and so full of life, living their moment the way I should have been living mine. This wasn’t suppose to be about speed or breaking my own record, it was suppose to be about having fun and finishing what I started. I was inspired once more and for the remainder of the race I made it a point to soak in my surroundings and appreciate the fact that I was able to be a part of something so amazing.

The crowds cheered us all on as we crossed the finish line. It was a beautiful race and I was happy to say that regardless of the pain I was in or how tired I was, my treatments didn’t stop me from doing what I enjoyed most. In that moment, I couldn’t have been happier. It was as though I had gotten a little piece of my life back…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

 

** Note to reader **

Be sure to check out my photos to see my medal for the half marathon. 🙂

 

http://www.facebook.com/giftwithapinkribbon

A few weeks into radiation…

I was starting to wrap things up at work when I looked at my watch and realized I needed head over for my daily radiation treatment. I had grown more and more excited about going with each day that passed. Not only was I one day closer to finishing, I was also meeting some really nice people along the way. To my relief, I hadn’t been experiencing any pains or serious burns either. I had started mountain biking again and was even feeling confident about running the half marathon with my partner. It was only a week or so away and I couldn’t have been happier about it. I really couldn’t understand why I had read stories of so many people having such a terrible time.

To my surprise however, shortly after those couple of weeks, my energy level did start to decline and my left breast had become inflamed and extremely painful. It began to interfere with my work, sports, sleep, and was wearing me out emotionally. I had tried several over the counter creams to help alleviate the burning and itching but nothing worked. I eventually mentioned it to the radiation oncologist during my weekly check up. She suspected the possibility of my having mastitis of the left breast and prescribed me an antibiotic along with  a cream to help with the itching and burning of the skin. Within a couple of days I was starting to feel a difference in the amount of pain and swelling I felt but, I was still tired and worn out emotionally.

Psychologically, I had reached my max. I know it sounds crazy, but I would compare the way I felt to the feeling you get after eating a meal to fast. Think about it, you eat really quickly, ignoring your stomach’s chemical signal telling you to stop. You than realize you ate way more than you could handle and now you’ve given yourself a stomachache. That’s how I felt. I had filled my emotional storage space to its max without even picking up on its distress signals and was officially on overload.

During my previous episodes of emotional ups and downs, my radiation oncologist had suggested the use of an antidepressant. I refused it, feeling that it would be a symbol of my weakness and inability to balance my emotions on my own. I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need medication to do that. I had already been down that route years ago and had found a better way to cope with my stress through running and staying active. I remember asking myself, ” If there were other people out there that got through this without medication, why should I be any different?” I now realize that, not only was I comparing myself to other people , adding unnecessary pressure, I also wasn’t considering everything else going on in my life that made me feel so off balance. I was leaving my job after more than 11 years. I was moving away to another city leaving my family and friends behind. These were major life changes I was going through, all while juggling everything that came with having had cancer.

I continued on this slippery slope, hoping I could wake up one day feeling different but I never did. The closer I got to finishing my treatments and moving away from everything I knew, the more anxious and depressed I became. Going to my treatments was like a safe haven for me. I felt like cancer couldn’t come back while I was being treated and I feared what would happen when it was all over. I could no longer focus on work, family or my relationship with these thoughts clouding my brain. I wasn’t even enjoying my running and biking anymore. It was then I realized I was in over my head and agreed to take an antidepressant which turned out to be the best decision I could have ever made…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

 

 

Finally, I’m running again…

It had been a few months since my last run and I was ready to hear the sound of my Newton’s hitting the pavement. As I was getting dressed, I kept picturing myself running and feeling absolute freedom as each step brought me closer to my goal of running the half marathon I had agreed to run with my partner in January. The thought made me a bit nervous because I knew here soon I’d be starting my treatments but, I didn’t want to go into it already thinking about all the obstacles I might face along the way and keep myself from doing what I loved. I promised myself I would keep going until my body told me I needed a break and, I intended to keep that promise.

We drove over to one of our favorite running spots and parked the car. I got out, did a light stretch while waiting for my Garmin to find my location and remembered taking in a big breath and exhaling as if I was telling myself, “this is it, you’re finally running again”. It was a bit warm out that day but the humidity was low so it made for great running conditions. We started our run and I remember the fireworks going off in my head. It was as if I were secretly celebrating my running again. I felt amazing and unstoppable! At least this was true till about a mile into my attempt at running a short 3 miles.

My chest started pounding and I felt so out of breath. My form was a complete mess and, as I continued, I began to feel a numbing yet tingling sensation in my left arm. I wasn’t ready to admit I needed to stop so I simply slowed down a bit hoping my partner wouldn’t notice. I managed to keep running but not long before my plan proved to be a complete fail and I was busted. I had to stop. This was an instant reality check. I may have been running but, I wasn’t able to run nearly as fast or as efficiently as I had before. How on earth did I get to this place?

My arm had begun to swell a little and I was exhausted. I had barely run 2 miles yet I felt as though I had been running for hours. In that moment, it became very clear to me that agreeing to run a half marathon may not have been the smartest thing for me to have done. How was I going to get myself back into tip top shape within a month. “Hello, earth to Elizabeth!!!!” After a short break, we started to jog, slowly making our way back to the car.

I wanted to crawl up in a ball and just cry. Of all my sports, running was my strength and what I loved most. I wasn’t ready to just throw it all away. I needed to get a grip on my emotions and find some kind of balance. I couldn’t just stop running as it was the one thing that provided me with any kind of sanity so, I did the only smart thing I could do. I modified my goals and started from the beginning, just like I did when I was working with my range of motion.

I couldn’t force myself to run at my previous speeds and distances. It wasn’t fair to put that kind of pressure on myself. I needed to gradually make my way back and remind myself once again that in time, I would regain all I had lost. This wasn’t the end of the world, instead, it was a small reminder that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that regardless of how it all turned out, I could only grow from this experience…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

My athletic desires…

I wasn’t ready to jump on the bike or go for a run but, I was determined to start setting goals and accomplishing them during my two weeks of recovery. I didn’t want to just lay in bed doing absolutely nothing. I was an athlete. Prior to my journey with breast cancer I had a very active lifestyle. I had run several 5k’s, a 10k, 2 half marathons, completed a metric century, started mountain biking, and in September had just done my first triathlon. My next goal was to run a marathon.

It wasn’t about exercising to be skinny, it was a lifestyle. I was addicted to the adrenaline I felt after each race and training session but, most of all I enjoyed the amazing people that I met along the way. I had developed an extended family and I missed them. I also missed the outdoors and how healthy and energized my body felt. What I had been feeling in that moment was so foreign and uncomfortable. I needed to find that place again so, I did what every athlete does, started setting goals.

It wasn’t anything drastic but it was a start. My main goal was to regain the range of motion I had lost in my left arm. I could barely lift it to wash my own hair so after about three days of recovery that’s what I tackled first. I found the shower to be the perfect place to start my therapies because the warm water would loosen my muscles enough for me to start stretching. My first goal was to get my arm up high enough to wash my hair comfortably. It had been days since I had been able to do this on my own.

I started by placing my hand on the shower wall and using my finger tips to slowly climb up while bringing my body closer to the wall. Most people refer to this technique as the “wall climb”.  It allows the muscles located in the area of the armpit to stretch out. It was very difficult and I admit painful at first but I progressed quickly and before I knew it only days had passed and I was finally able to wash my own hair. “Yes, I did it!” Seems like a silly thing to feel so excited about but, you’d be surprised with the things we take for granted when they come so easily.

The next goal I tackled was brushing my hair. I’m not a lefty but I wasn’t able to lift much weight at the time and I thought using my left hand to brush my unruly curly hair would be a good way to use a bit of force without injuring myself. This too helped with my range of motion. I started doing the wall climbs outside of the shower to allow my muscles to stretch without the assistance of heat and began working on reaching up over my head and bringing my hand as far down my back as I could. I was shocked to see how little I could do when I had always been more flexible on that side.

I used the assistance of a small towel to help me get to my desired goal of reaching my hand right into the space between my shoulder blades. In order to do this I would grab the towel with my left hand, raise it above my head and bend my elbow enough to allow the towel to hang on my backside. I would then place my right hand on my lower back, grab the towel and slowly pull it down bringing my left hand closer to my goal.

It was tough and in all honesty there were moments I wanted to give up because it just seemed so easy yet I was struggling so much. I felt like I was starting from the very beginning after having come so far. Everyone around me was progressing at incredible speeds in their prospective sport and here I was taking baby steps to perform the simplest tasks. I had to constantly remind myself how far I had already come within a week and that it wasn’t going to be like this forever.

I was reaching my goals, big or small, and I needed to stop being so hard on myself. I was able to brush and wash my own hair, I was reaching for things in the pantry and making myself food. That’s something I couldn’t do before. I was accomplishing what I set out to do and soon enough I would be the athlete I once was.

While achieving my physical goals however, I was also facing another struggle. One I chose to ignore from the start of my journey. It was during those two weeks of my recovery that the emotions I had hidden for so long exposed themselves and I was forced to meet face to face with a side of myself I never wanted to encounter…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂