I have been bad. And less than diligent in the exercise department. And now I am suffering. It will be sometime before I consider bending over backwards. Or forwards. Or any which way. Yesterday my bulging discs decided to bulge a little more and send my muscles in to spasm again. I am less than pleased with this development. Actually, I am extremely pissed off with it.
You see, I had plans. Yesterday evening was to be the first time I had made it to my book group since about June. I had woken with a migraine but with drugs and naps had managed to see that off. I did not feel brilliant but I was very determined. Then while bending to remove dinner from the grill, the now all too familiar pain exploded once more. I am so tired of having plans spoiled. Of having to rearrange my life. Of letting others down. Of being the flaky unreliable one. I just want to return to normal. Not a new normal. My old normal will do fine. I had felt like that was beginning to happen. I made my first batches of jam since March on Wednesday. I have been getting fitter and healthier and generally feeling more like my old self.
Instead of continuing this trajectory, the rug has been pulled well and truly from under me and I am back to doing hourly exercises. Pacing around because sitting is too painful. Lying on the floor when that becomes too much. And being far too tearful for the skin on my face to cope with. It all feels just a bit too much.
Remember this episode? Or the one where we bought and then the Captain made stilts for my invalid chair? Well today has an eery feeling of déjà vu about it. On the whole, I would say that I have been living on borrowed time. What with all the lounging around, lack of exercise and general poorliness. Tsk.
Having spent the morning in bed (bad), I got up, ran a bath, sorted out stuff to wear and then committed the most heinous of crimes. I removed my glasses and placed them on my bedside table. And that was it. Pain exploded. Breath forced from lungs. Muscle spasms slammed sideways. Oh goody. A kaleidoscope of memory synapses firing all over my brain as my experience of the 6th February came flooding back to me. The good news is that I appear to be able to learn from my previous experiences. My previous policy of ignoring it and hoping for the best proved to be a bad one. So this time, following the inevitable call to the chemo hotline, I dosed myself up on diazepam and diclofenac, put the vein heat pad to another use, dusted off the invalid chair, and dug out the exercise sheet. Physio Extraodinaire is also on the case and her advice, as ever, is invaluable. The Captain is in the shed constructing stilts for the new kitchen sofa. Whatever would I do without these people? Cry, even more, I think.
It is fair to say that I am more than a little pissed off by this latest twist in the tale. Is it not enough that I have chemo to contend with? Apparently not. Yesterday was a bad day for me. I was pretty miserable on the whole. Having cracked the halfway barrier and moved onto the two thirds club instead of feeling elated, I have felt overwhelmed by what is still left to tackle. Each cycle gets harder and the knowledge of what is coming drags me down. I have still be reading through Psalms. Lately I have found myself in a group of great praise Psalms which are, of course, well, great. But they have not been hitting the spot for me. Instead, I am finding much comfort in the unrelentingly miserable Psalm 88. Here’s a taste:
13 But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?
I love that this is included in the bible as it shows I am not alone. Because there are times when this is how I feel. It is a facedown flat on the floor moment before God. Even in the psalmist’s despair it is God to whom he speaks. I may not see God. I may not feel him. But I believe he is there. And therein lies my hope.
I have been taking my decision to doing more walking seriously. And much to the Captain’s dismay, no leads have been involved. It has helped that the weather has been so good. Last week we managed to visit not one but two National Trust properties and chalked up over 6000 steps at each. Given that seven days previously a mere 250 steps left me gasping for breath, I was pretty chuffed with this. True, I needed a rest day after these performances which feels a bit pathetic. But that is just how it is.
Today, we went blackberry picking. Being something of a forager, this is as close to my day job as I get. And it was wonderful. Blue skies, slight breeze and fat jewel-like berries glistening in the sunshine. We picked beside the canal so it really was a little piece of normality. The only downside was the need to pick carefully. Normally my hands look like they have been shredded. And I spend the evening picking out prickles that have embedded themselves in my skin. Today I was very cautious. The last thing I need is a blackberry acquired infection.
I am shocked by the fatigue that is continuing to creep up on me. It is not much fun having it poleaxe me on a regular basis. Particularly as it seems to disrupt my sleep too. Yeah, that makes no sense to me either. On the whole, I have felt well for more days this cycle than last I think. My first week was rough, but thereafter it has really just been exhaustion that has been the major issue. I do struggle with sore eyes, sweating/hot flushes, indigestion and sore veins but these too will pass.
Scene: Boat, late morning, still in bed.
Me: My legs are aching.
Cap’n: Oh? Poor you.
Me: I need to stretch them, you know, do more exercise.
Cap’n: Really? Sounds a bit drastic.
Me: I know. Needs must. Can you take me for a walk?
Cap’n: OK. Do I get to put you on a lead and shout ‘Walkies!’?
Me: Let’s just say you’d only try that once …
I have mentioned before that I have physio friends. They will be cross with me. Not because I have been skipping my exercises. Rather because I seem to have overdone them. From this you can tell that I am not exactly myself. Safe to say, I am not known for over exercising.
For the past couple of days, I have been aware of an increase in tightness at the base of where my latissimus dorsi muscle was before it was re-appropriated. It will pass, I thought. It is because I am doing so well, I thought. You are not bright, you will be thinking. Not having much experience with the whole fitness and muscle malarkey, it did not occur to me that the increase tightness might just be a prelude to soreness. Or pain. Well, not pain so much as ouchiness. And yes, that is a word. I deem it so. Following my second set of the I Must, I Must, I Must Improve My Bust exercises for today the tightness gave way a wincing ouchiness that is distinctly noticeable and a bit of a nuisance. I gave the third set a miss and will engage more gently for a few days.
I suspect I have been too enthusiastic in my Reach-for-the-sky stretches. It will be the keenness to get back into my disco routines that will have been my undoing:
I have hit that stage in my recovery when I am neither one thing nor the other. I am not ill enough to take to my bed, yet I do not have the concentration to focus on reading, let alone the stamina for much in the way of entertaining. I am not well enough for fun packed day trips, yet am yearning for a change from my four walls or the energy to manage an outing to the cinema for example. I am well enough to wake feeling I can take on the world and then half an hour into doing so, realise that I am actually still ill and cannot complete whatever portion of world taking on I have begun. I am not so ill I that I need waiting on hand and foot yet not well enough to manage to cook a meal. Yet.
I do have the occasional frisson of excitement/anxiety/chest-chrushing-breath-stealing-panic as I remember that I am still waiting for the yay or nay regarding chemo. That is not my idea of fun though. And it does not even help to pass the time. Instead, it leaves me high on adrenaline, dripping in sweat, while time has seemingly stood still. Nice.
I have managed to go out most days. But today, for example, I had 3 guests for about 30 minutes and then went with Mum to the supermarket for a few groceries. The shopping trip took no longer than an hour. That brief spell of entertaining and negotiating Morrison’s (*shudder*) has wiped me out. I am now fit only for resting. And it is dull. And I am bored with it.
Everything is healing as it should. My scars are looking more scar-like and less gaping wound-like. My shoubsicle has de-swelled almost completely and the bruising is now just a faint blush. The Captain is delighted with the scar arrangement on it as it looks like an anchor, he says. He has a warped imagination, I say. But I am pleased he approves. I am still tender in all manner of places but the stretching is helping with that. I have added to the I Must, I Must, I Must Improve My Bust Exercises and am now doing the full range of movements. I can nearly hold my arms vertical above my head. Certainly enough to surrender should the need arise.
But be all that as it may, it is still dull. And I am still bored. And I dislike that very much.
Today I was back at the hospital. It was my routine appointment. My swelling was checked out and deemed unconcerning. Although Surgical Spice conceded that it was indeed impressive. And she was positively excited by my peau d’orange skin. Needles were thrust into unmentionable places but only 20mls of fluid was withdrawn which has not had a great deal of impact on my balloon like bosom.
While there I was asked about physiotherapy:
How are you getting on with your exercises?
I’m doing the ones I was told to. When do I move on to the next set?
Oh. You should’ve started them last week. It says quite clearly on the sheet to do so.
Which sheet would that be?
You weren’t given a sheet?
That would be no.
So, the I Must, I Must, I Must Improve My Bust exercises have not been going as well as I had thought. Fortunately, I have been diligent in doing the scaled down version. You do not get to maintain friendships with physiotherapists for thirty years without realising that ignoring recommended exercises is simply Not An Option. Physio Extraordinaire lives just around the corner from me and her regime of back exercises has kept my lumbar back in tip top condition so far. Which is a huge relief given where I was starting from. And if I dared to even consider skipping the I Must I Must I Must Improve My Bust exercises, my bezzie mate from hundreds of years ago would shout so loudly at me that no telephonic devices would be required to cover the great many miles between us for the monstrous telling off I would be subjected to. Basically then, the ease with which I slipped into and found the next stage of exercises, is down to fear of my physio mates. Hurrah, they are probably cheering.
I now have a week to progress to the final stage. Ever competitive, I think this will be fine. My phone has alarms set for three times a day. I have memorised my sheet of instructions. I am good to go.