Prior to Rectosigmoid Cancer Surgery, I was extremely fit. Not Olympic level extremely fit, or run a 50 miler fit, but extremely fit for a 54 soon to be 55 year old woman. Actually, fitter than most 20 somethings and 30 somethings. I can say that with conviction because every time I would pass a younger person on one of my runs, I would put another notch on my lipstick case AND smirk. The latter I might forget, given my advanced age, but the former? Tangible proof of my childish victories! Yes, yes, yes. I’m immature, superficial and neurotically competitive. Good qualities, non?
Now, according to my long suffering surgeon, I am STILL in great shape. Just over four weeks out from surgery he says I am doing much better than the vast majority of his patients. This appeals to my competitive nature and makes me happy, even if he won’t give me their names and telephone numbers so I can verify his statements. Stupid privacy laws! However, his definition of great shape and mine diverge GREATLY when I actually attempt to do even a small portion of what would be a normal workout for me. Let me remind you at this point in my post, that I have been instructed that the only thing I can do right now is to walk and run. NO weight lifting, NO bike riding, NO skiing, NO hiking that involves serious elevation, NO Pilates, and NO sex……OOOOOOOoooooo, did I make you uncomfortable with that last activity? Well, I promised myself I’d be real with this blog, so there it is………REALITY! Don’t worry, I’m not talking about that though. I do still have my dignity…….somewhere. I’m sure it is crumpled up underneath my pile of theatrically exaggerated and overemotional behavior.
To be completely accurate, my doctor did not say to avoid sex, he said to wait until I was ready, which he said would probably be about ten weeks. If how I feel right now is anything to go by, however, it will be in the year 2021. As God is my witness, if my husband came anywhere near me for that right now, I’d have to go all ISIS on him and cut off a body part.
Anyway, back to the actual topic of this post which is trying to run after surgery……….just getting ready to do this is an activity all in itself. I have five surgical wounds on my lower torso. I only write wounds because it is the term my surgeon keeps using PLUS it sounds like I have suffered! Four of them don’t really bother me. The fifth one? I loathe it. It is the only one that no one will ever see except for my husband (in 2021) and gyneocologist, UNLESS I make a sudden and rather unlikely (at my age) career change. I don’t dislike it because of how it looks, but rather the fact that it bloody hurts! I’ve been told exactly why it hurts and I understand it, but it does not help the situation. It is like having constant period pain but no amount of pain reliever helps.
This may not help the understanding of any male reading this blog, so just imagine someone stepping on one of your testicles and then deciding that this was the exact spot they wanted to hang out for the next million years!
Despite this pain, I still have a desire to run so there is a procedure that I must follow before lacing up. It involves binding. I have to ensure that the lower pelvic area is completely immobilized YET I can’t have too much pressure on it. It’s a fine line, like enjoying dark chocolate and then having that one bite too much that keeps you awake all night. I have bought some underwear that goes right up to just underneath my chest. Some might call this granny underwear. They’d be right. It is specialized granny underwear though!! It has a light to moderate tightening to it that secures my lower pelvis quite nicely. Quite a feat, as my bloat down there is epically jiggly at the moment. Once that is on, it is a relatively easy task to put on a pair of running pants that also has a high waist. I cannot have anything that digs into that one
scar wound. Can I push myself to do the last kilometer of a 20k run with searing pain in my calf? Yep. Run outside when it is subzero, snowing and I can’t feel my face? Yep. Have any part of my clothing dig into a wound? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am a delightful contradiction in pain tolerance.
So, when I am properly prepared, I can lace up and get on with it! Except getting on with it has proved so tough! I no longer start out by running. That was a hilarious notion that I had, that hastily got thrown out of my mental playbook, along with SO many other carefully thought out and meticulously planned running workouts. At first glance it seeeeemmmmed so reasonable. I decided that I would only do 5k workouts for at least the first two weeks and I broke those runs down into five splits. Again, reasonable…or so I thought. I’ve gone from, “well, I’ll run at a 6:30 pace for the first kilometer, then increase to a 6:15 pace for the next kilometer, then I will walk at a 9:00 pace for half a kilometer, then walk at a 8:00 pace for half a kilometer, then a 6:00 pace for the next kilometer and then finally back to a 6:30 pace for the last kilometer” to basically getting out the door, genuflecting, asking God for his protection and guidance, and then I just start walking. When I feel up to it I add short bursts of running. I run until I feel like I am going to vomit up my toenails (which right now is about eight minutes). I then walk. I repeat this process on an out and back route. Sometimes it is a 5k route, sometimes shorter. I no longer care. You know what I DO care about now? Just being positive and doing some kind of physical activity. That is way more important than setting an impossible goal because I think I’m Wonderwoman and that the natural laws of healing do not apply to me. Believe me, my positive mantras to myself now rival Stuart Smalley’s.
Yes, I’m learning to listen to my body. Perhaps that is a little inaccurate. I’ve always listened to my body, but I’ve sometimes ignored it and pushed a little or a lot harder. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, more people should push themselves a lot harder. However, there is a time and place for everything, and now, for me, it is NOT the time to push. If I’m being honest, I am a bit disappointed about where I am at this moment in time as far as my energy levels. That’s OK, though. I’m not going to be able to stop that disappointment, but I can accept it and realize that this is only the beginning of my comeback. Everyone starts somewhere. This is something I have always preached to my class participants and clients. It’s time for me to start really understanding that. My mental block was: BUT YOU’RE NOT JUST STARTING!!! I had to tell myself: “Oh yes. Yes, you ARE just starting, and that is perfectly fine”.
There is a certain conceit that I had about my fitness level. It is not a horrible conceit, but it has turned out to be troublesome for me on physical, emotional and mental planes because it did not allow for setbacks. Everyone has setbacks in life, even very fit people. There have been times in the last five years that I had to take a few weeks off due to minor foot issues, but after my hiatus, I had NO problem at all in tackling long distances immediately. In fact, I’m sure I bragged about it on Facebook. I took for granted that I would always be able to do what I have always done. It’s a pretty narrow viewpoint and one that I am officially casting off.
At this point in time, I may NOT be that person out there running that is able to keep up with other people,
but I’m no longer going to beat myself up when that twenty something passes me (or the sixty something for that matter). Maybe I’ll just toss that lipstick case with all its notches in the trash and decide that just a friendly wave and a smile to everyone will suffice. Ah, personal growth, it’s not that bad after all.
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