Today, I feel great. I swam Masters at 6:30, ran on the trail at 10, lifted a few weights at 11, and took a yoga class at noon. Tomorrow, I’ll still tell you I feel great, if you ask, but the Tuesday definition of “great” won’t be as hearty as the Monday definition is. That’s because between the pool and Willow Creek, I zipped up to Huntsman and got zapped with my Daily Dose of Radiation. After tomorrow’s chemo and radiation, Wednesday will bring a lower level of “great,” and so on for the rest of the week until Saturday.
I’m learning the rhythm of radiation, and though I don’t like it, I am figuring out how to work with it. The lesson hit me like a battering ram on Saturday, which I now know will be my worst day of the week, physically. Being me, I planned a long bike ride with friends after a medium run through the neighborhood. It’s a regular weekend routine… or at least it has been. The first clue that I wasn’t up to par was when I had to walk up one of my regular hills on my dopy 3-mile loop. I couldn’t believe it. My lungs and legs refused to propel me forward, despite my best Jens Voigt imploring (“Shut up, legs!!!). I started waffling on going on the ride, but again, being me, I set out with everyone. Headwind, crosswind, crosswind, headwind. Lots of external wind around, but none coming from me. I had no wind. Actually, I was winded. I lasted 6 measly miles before I admitted to myself that not only would I make myself miserable, I’d ruin at least one other person’s last long outside ride for the season. I turned around.
Stunned. The predicted/expected/dreaded side effects actually are happening TO ME. I am offended/affronted/pissed. I don’t expect to build fitness during this cancer treatment (but won’t be disappointed if that happens…). I do expect to at least maintain the faux fitness that I have. I told all this to Coach Dan, who asked if I was planning to skip my scheduled swim on Sunday morning… which of course, I wasn’t. There was no telling how that was going to turn out. I mean, at least on the bike, I can pedal home. Peeling me off the bottom of the pool would be a different story.
Things turned around on Sunday, beautiful, recharged Sunday. Masters swim was great. Then I went out for a run up my favorite trail (Armstrong) in the snow and wind and 24 degrees. I didn’t just run, I did 3-minute uphill run intervals. And it felt amazing. I felt amazing. I feel even better today, Monday.
So, what’s happening here? I have figured it out. My treatment days are Monday-Friday. Every time I get radiation, it chips away at my energy level and builds up that hairball that feels like it’s growing in my throat (figurative only). Eating and exercising start sounding less and less appealing. More hours of sleep sound like Nirvana (literal, not the band). I’m pretty beaten up by radiation and chemo by the end of the week, leading to Sucky Saturday. BUT, my body starts to heal itself Friday evening and that continues til I go back for radiation Monday. By Sunday/Monday, I feel as close to normal as I’m going to feel. Not Ironman training normal, but a recognizable version of winter out-of-race-season base-building training normal.
This all circles around again to my crazy Monday training regime. I have to admit, by the fourth or fifth chaturanga today, I was starting to feel kind of dizzy. I’ll dial next Monday’s schedule back because of that and because next Monday’s “great” won’t be as great as today’s “great.” Does that make sense? There’s a cumulative effect of the chemo and radiation. Highs aren’t as high week to week. Lows, of course, don’t seem to have a bottoming out point. In the big picture, it’s all just a thing, and I’m thankful that I have the ability to manage what are just side effects and that I have the expectation I’m going to get better.
In that vein (figurative, not literal), I leave you with two photos. The first is from Halloween at Huntsman, when I went for my radiation and CAT SCAN (get it?). My costume didn’t even raise an eyebrow. Probably because one of my radiation techs was full-on Elvis, with the pompadour hair and gold lame. Loved it.
The second is a tile that is hanging on the wall in Livestrong Headquarters in Austin. One of the walls there is filled with tiles that have lovely, hopeful, heartfelt messages on them. I had been planning to design a tile for the wall there for months, but couldn’t for the life of me think of something appropriate and inspiring and really cool to put on it. Then, I was diagnosed with cancer again. Inspiration can be sooooo random. See what you think. Live fearlessly, my friends.