Returning to Normalcy

Suddenly I realize my life has gone from “pre-weight loss –> post-weight loss” or “pre-Mom’s death –> post-Mom’s death –> post-grief” to now “pre-breast cancer” –> “post-breast cancer surgeries & everything is supposed to be OK”. In other words, my world has been focused on my boobs or lack thereof for the past 4+ months, and now it is time to get along with living. However, I have another 2 months until I can fully return to vigorous activity, which is driving me bonkers. Heck, I can’t even ride the recumbent bike for another week or so. (No noob/foob bouncing.) Also, the chance of needing additional surgery is pretty darn high over the next 3 years (up to 50% with my symmastia – uniboob – that was repaired), thus the need for extra caution. Can you tell I’m still in recovery mode mentally?

Like many women, at least those who post on the Breastcancer.org forums, I am experiencing the end of treatment let down. Nothing to look forward to, or rather dread. Just waiting to heal and back to the usual hum-drum of life – almost. Perhaps it is the “almost” that is bugging me. Exercise had become an outlet for anxiety or restlessness and was certainly adding to my sense of well-being. Walking or biking indoors took me away from worries and helped connect my body to my mind. I was beginning to see definition in my legs. Now I feel like a slug. Gaining 3 pounds has not helped this bit of angst, but hey it isn’t 30 pounds, and I don’t weigh 300 pounds again. Good grief this is rambling. I’ll just say that not being able to exercise or even do little bits of housework (!) is driving me nuts.

What does a daughter of my mother do when she feels out of sorts? Go shopping! As you undoubtedly remember, I started using “barefoot shoes” back in March. That pair of Vibram FiveFingers KSO is great for trails, but the black gets a bit hot in Southern Arizona and I was wearing a men’s size, so the toes are too long for my infantile 5th digits. I was lusting for a new pair with a different tread. Without further adieu, here is my little splurge that I cannot enjoy for another week or so: Vibram Komodosport LS

Aren’t they pretty? Well, at least the color is pretty spiffy. (Ignore the swollen ankles. I’m still retaining fluid like a sponge since surgery.)

Do you ever use “shopping therapy”? Ever felt guilty about it?

Vibram KomodoLS shoes

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Exercise Update

Status

Found an indoor walking track! It is in a rec center right next to the outdoor track that I enjoy so much and would be using except the temps are waaay to high and even the humidity is running above 10%! 😉 For $66 each quarter, I get access to everything except the pool, which I can’t use now. The track runs above a huge court area – the size of 3 full basketball courts – and around the exercise machine areas, so there is always something to watch. Even better are the marvelous views of the Catalina Mountains from windows everywhere. I rock out to dance music then cool down with sedate opera arias or the glorious harmonious of Stile Antico. Aerobic walking is so much more fun than grinding away on the recumbent bike at the house, although I still get some time on that also to exercise my legs in a different way. It’s amazing how much stamina that I have lost, but each day I notice my speed is quicker and that I smile more. Hopefully, I don’t sing out loud.

view from indoor walking track

View to the north from indoor track

view from indoor walking track showing pool

View to the east from indoor track

Insert Title Here (Cause I’m at a loss)

Perhaps the last 20 pounds are the hardest. No, the first 20 pounds were. Wait, maintenance is – experience tells me so. No matter, something has been going on in my body-brain connection that has me stalled. Suddenly cupcakes look tasty. Processed food no longer is a turn-off. The drive to eat healthy is not driving me. Even my thoughts about eating are disheveled, chaotic, fragmented, manifesting in dreams.

I could blame this on my breast cancer (99.99% chance of cure from surgery in May) and the discomfort – fuck it – agony of reconstruction. I could recall all of the literature on sleep disturbance and how that messes with one’s existence, not to mention weight loss. I could blame my coping skills, realizing that my teeny-weenie anxiety disorder is off the wall now as I await the next surgery in 1 month. Or, I could give myself a break, realize that the past 4 months have indeed been sucky on me and Sue (who is starting to crumble also), that it’s OK to be fragile even if your partner thinks you shouldn’t be, and that I do have adequate coping skills that do not include eating protein bars – 3 at a time…

Exercise has become a relief. The 30-minutes on the indoor bike are a time to experiment with the digital output, play with my heart rate, see what activities make me go faster (music) and with less boredom. I can walk in the heat but pay the price in, um, chestal swelling. Walking is much more relaxing, uses more muscles, and is still my exercise of choice – just not at 5 a.m. Writing helps. The kind of writing that simply is free form then putting it away. Tracking my eating had become sporadic – I’m back to putting everything into Livestrong. How easy it is to slip on such an important behavior!  I now am more avoidant of political issues, which was only fueling my anxiety and deflecting my true emotions. (I can’t do anything about which moron is chosen in the Republican primary anyway.) Sue and I have agreed ways we can help each other with my eating (rather, not eating protein bars), dealing with my increased anxiety, and her tolerance, or lack thereof, of anything Jan 😉 , and acceptable methods for her to be more verbal about her needs. I have a serious goal for a certain waist size and optimal health for surgery because it is going to be another long recovery process for my new foobs. I expect this one to be less painful and for both of us to cope better.

I’m OK, really. I’m not. But I’m working on it.

anxiety cartoon

Exercise & Surgery Plan Update

Status

The recumbent bike stayed in the Arizona room, which now has temporary pleated shades (the cats eat any shade with strings) covering the six windows and a darker film on the door. A 20″ floor fan keeps me cool, and I open the room to the rest of the house before starting my 30 minutes on the bike. After 5 minutes of grumbling about aching knees, I lose myself in whatever I’m reading or watching on the iPad or giggle (yes, I am capable of giggling) at the dogs as they run wild in what usually is restricted cat territory. The 30 minutes pass quickly, and I’m ready for the next day. Walking has not been as consistent, but I’m working on it. My chest swells in the heat – nothing but a thin layer of skin between my foobs and the rest of me so the saline inside feels as if it is boiling in the direct sun!

Speaking of foobs, I moved up the surgery date to September 28. That means we give up our trip to Hawaii – heavy sigh. It was Sue who suggested spending our vacation time for surgery. I probably wouldn’t be able to enjoy Hawaii very much with the tissue expanders causing so much discomfort, and I refuse to wear a swim suit with the extra skin that I can hide so easily under camisoles and shirts. (Hey, no bra needed with these rocks.) This next surgery is supposed to be a “breeze” compared to the mastectomy. How much of a breeze can a 2½ surgery be when the plastic surgeon has to replace the expanders with nice, soft silicone implants, remove excess skin, make needed repairs (incisions and secure the division between breasts)? The recovery should be much quicker although — you know I just don’t want to think about that aspect until it gets closer.

I have a goal to lose 10 pounds in the next 6½ weeks, so I’m off to bike, walk, and plan the rest of today’s food. Here’s to anticipating my new chest and getting rid of pain discomfort!

Foob Update

Status

Just saw the plastic surgeon and no saline fills. I am done with that part! Super big woot!!

Implant surgery scheduled for the week of October 31, which should give my incision time to heal. Also, I am cleared to exercise as my body tolerates! Suspecting it will take a while to build back up to even walking distances after 2 months of inactivity, but I am soooo ready! Still no hot tubs, swimming, or jacuzzi ’til the incision closes. No biggie. Putting on my KSO barefoot shoes when the temp lowers today.

My Stamina Sucks & And Other Technical Blatherings

I simply cannot be this unfit (not as in the she is “unfit to be a mother” category). My endurance compared to little, old (emphasis on both) women and men is shameful. 85 pounds lighter should have me breezing through my treadmill/bike routine. Nope. Instead of just breaking the mirrored walls around me, I decided to analyze why the heck I am performing at lower levels than my personal trainer thinks I should be, based on her fitness assessment. Finally, it hit – the damn beta blocker that I have been taking for about 7 years is the most likely culprit.

Back when I was probably weighing more than 300 pounds, I kept having “asthma” attacks, which my primary care doc thought was a strange resurrection of a childhood condition. After a particularly devastating event during a viral infection when my lips turned blue (even my anesthesiologist-sweetie was horrified) followed by a few episodes of chest pain, I referred myself to a cardiologist. I failed an exercise stress test – gasping for air (turns out I had gone in to pulmonary edema and had acute heart failure) my ECG looked as if I had coronary artery disease. Not asthma at all! Given my family history and weight, not a big surprise but scary. (Have I mentioned docs are weenies when it comes to their own health?)

Next up, a cardiac catheterization. I was relieved to find that my coronary arteries were “clean” but was diagnosed with a condition called “diastolic dysfunction” that could cause acute heart failure during heavy exertion or stress, such as with the the viral infection. This type of heart failure is often seen in women of a certain age (cough), and is associated with high blood pressure (not me), diabetes (nope), coronary artery disease (nuh-uh), and diseases of the heart muscle (no). Obesity can certainly be a contributing factor. My inquiring mind and the outstanding cardiologist reviewed all the available research on appropriate treatment. Given that this is primarily a condition of women, not surprisingly there were few quality studies to guide the choice of medications (do not get me started on the bias in medical research against women as participants in studies). We seriously discussed weight loss surgery, which I dismissed after meeting with the head of the WLS program. A beta-blocker was chosen, and my symptoms improved remarkably with about a 30-pound weight loss and the medication. Beta-blockers are also good for my migraines and an anxiety disorder (sigh, starting to reveal more than anticipated), so the drug has been a good one for me.

Fast forward to today. Not only can I not get my heart rate above 80 with vigorous exercise (read that as sweating profusely and a beet-red face), but I poop out waaay too early. The last time I saw a cardiologist was about 1 year ago. My diastolic dysfunction had completely resolved even with minimal weight loss, and she suggested that I could try to slowly wean off the medication, as one cannot stop beta-blockers abruptly. Given that I get other benefits from the drug, I was not keen on this. The obvious solution right now – march myself back to Dr. Bates (who is a fitness fiend), get kudos for my weight loss, and discuss the pros and cons of quitting and continuing my good ol’ beta-blocker. Gah, I hate going to docs, but she is too cool, her office is a fun place to visit, and it’s always fun having people react (positively) to my new body. Appointment made for 9/20. Guess I’ll just have to modify my exercise expectations until then.

cartoon - My doctor tolde me to avoid any unndecessary stress, so I didn't open his bill