It felt so good to go back to the gym last Thursday after sitting it out for the past five weeks as I recover from my first reconstructive surgery for breast cancer. I felt alive. I had missed that feeling of knowing that I was making my body stronger physically. While I am waiting another week to resume strength training to ensure that by body is ready for it, I can walk on an inclined treadmill to begin to build leg strength and to ease into cardio. It has been since last August that I ran, and that was only a half-walk, half-jog for about a mile. And, it was hard to do after having been in the first phase of my active treatment for cancer.
In fact, this past year or so has been a repeated process of doing things that weaken my body, then building it back up. I see it as a challenge to rebuild my body -- an exciting one that shows that I have overcome active treatments and the first part of breast reconstruction. Those things that have weakened my body were, of course, chemo, a mastectomy and radiation; after that, I began physical therapy to regain the range of motion in my left arm, which is the side where I had my surgery.
Scar tissue and the process of a major surgery left me with the inability to raise my left arm straight above my head. My physical therapists did a great job helping me regain range of motion, and they were invaluable in showing me exercises to rebuilt upper body strength after months of inactivity while I fought cancer. I knew that the stronger I became between the time I ended active treatment and I had my first reconstructive surgery, the better I would bounce back from it.
And, my physical therapist pushed me to condition my body. It made me feel stronger and like I was getting back to my pre-chemo self. I felt so much better about myself, because for me, being physically fit is tied to a higher self-esteem.
Then, I had my next surgery -- the first part of my reconstruction. And, my physical therapist was right. I believe conditioning my muscles prior to the surgery has helped me to bounce back from it. I feel much stronger after this surgery than I did following the last one
-- perhaps that is a given, though, because I had gone through chemo before my first surgery. At any rate, the fatigue of this one has dissipated quicker than it did last time, and this one just felt easier to handle than the last one did, even though it was quite intense.
The challenge of rebuilding my body once again makes me want to be stronger than I have ever been before, to show cancer that it can't -- and hasn't -- won. It is a challenge that I am ready for, although it won't be easy, especially as I regain my cardio capacity. Yet, I know I can do it and I gladly accept the challenge.