My first post cancer half-marathon is less than a week away. Instead of finishing up the family taxes (guess I will file for an extension again), I spent a lot of time thinking about the past year. How bad things have been: physically, emotionally and financially, and the steps I have taken to find my "new normal."
Physical restoration has been the easiest. I completed chemotherapy on May 13, 2016. I completed my 1st 5K (walking) over Memorial Day Weekend that year. I had my chemotherapy ports removed on June 14, 2015. I had several weeks of physical therapy with an oncology physical therapist. I started with a Heart Rate training plan to begin my path back to running. I have always been the type of runner that won't run regularly if there isn't a race on my calendar, so when I received an email for a discounted entry to the Naperville Women's Half Marathon, I decided to take the plunge and sign up. It won't be my first half marathon, I completed two before I was diagnosed in 2015, but this was a huge step for me. Since I had so much encouragement and success with the first Heart Rate plan, I decided to sign up for the half marathon plan from the same coach. In addition to a very structured training plan, I have had the support of a wonderful group of women and two awesome coaches. Even though I don't see them IRL (In Real Life), they are available by phone and through messaging.
Last year I volunteered at the Chicago Marathon, hoping that being around the race would help me get my racing mojo back. I was just a couple of weeks away from registering for the Fox Valley Marathon when I was diagnosed, so completing a marathon was definitely on my plan. Several of my colleagues at school were in training for last year's marathon and I was a bit "jealous" when I heard of their training. When the lottery opened for this year's Chicago Marathon, a few of my colleagues encouraged me to enter it, because after all, it was a lottery and "Not everyone gets an entry." Guess I'm not everyone, because I received the email with confirmation that I am confirmed. Yikes!
I was about 40 pounds from my goal weight when I was diagnosed. I gained more than 20 pounds while I was in treatment. So in addition to following my half marathon training plan, I have been back at Weight Watchers since July. I had been "messing around" with following the program for a few months, but somewhere in the month of March I decided I was done paying my monthly fee to Weight Watchers and not following the program. I missed my weekly meeting this week because they were closed (it was Easter), so I went and weighed in Friday morning. I am down 14.6 pounds from when I started back in July. I have about 55 pounds to reach my goal. I know it's difficult to lose weight while training for a long distance race, but I have managed to lose each week since the middle of March (even if it's a little bit, it counts!).
I still struggle emotionally. As a matter of fact, I have begun taking a small dose of Xanax each night before I go to sleep because night time is the worst. I have been participating in 3 different support groups and made several "cancer" friends. Unfortunately, some of them have passed on and some have had "bad news." Each time, it re-surfaces the fear of recurrence and survivor's guilt. My counselor suggested that I participate less in of the support groups and that I re-engage with some of the activities I did "before." I have made an effort to reconnect with my "Board of Directors," the people in my life who were so instrumental in getting me through treatment. I applied to be a volunteer on a committee with the local high school board (and was accepted). I participated in an Improv class (yes, it was through Gilda's Club, but it was a blast).
Financially, I would like to think we are on our way back. I am working to pay off the co-pays and deductibles from my treatment last year, most of which were for out of network visits with my counselor. I have been seeing a counselor from Wellness House, but am hunting for one that is in network that I connect with. I got a "promotion" at my part-time job, which meant a pay raise, but also a commitment to increased hours. Tough to do right now, but will be easier over the summer. I have also picked up some outside consulting work, which has helped to easy the burden both financially and emotionally.
My next appointment with the oncologist is May 11th. I am trying not to focus too much on it, but it hasn't been easy. It's tough living life 3 months at a time!