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Monday, June 18, 2012

Research 2

Nine months since diagnosis and exactly two months since I finished radiation and I wake to another perfect, chilly morning, the sky an ache of crisp, cloudless blue.

On days like this, it's great to be alive and, make no mistake, I take every opportunity I can these days to Praise the Lord that I am here.

I am slow to rise after a vile night of snorting and sniffling as I battle the final vestiges of the cold I've had for more than four weeks. At least I can breathe now even though I still have the odd allergy attacks that, oddly enough, strike me around the same time each night: around 2.35 am.

I put this down to the fact that my nose hairs are still to regrow although I can report that on my head, the hair is doing well. I rue the fact, however, that it's looking pretty curly and the style is a little too 'toilet brush' for my liking.

With my body still not fully well, over the past two weeks I've tried really hard to rest. I didn't return to any exercise until Saturday, two days ago, when I put in a couple of hours of, I have to admit, some fairly lacklustre refereeing.

Yesterday morning, Louisa and I went for a 10 Km walk but it was a slow one - so I couldn't see the harm.

But today is the first day I begin the exercise and nutrition education program that is a part of my participation in the Wesley Research Institute's study.

Leading up to today, I had a blood test to look at the fatty acids in my bloodstream and, for the past 12 days or so I've been taking 5 capsules of what could or could not be Omega 3 Fish Oils. (Because this is what's known as a 'double blind' study - basically, the Rolls Royce of studies - neither I nor the researcher, the hunky Dr Cam, know what these contain.)

So today, after two Weetbix with milk and sliced banana, I jump in the car and head off to my first session.

As I walk into the hospital, I pass the ambulance bay where a very frail old man is being transferred onto a bed. I think about George.

On Floor 8 of the hospital where all these research sessions are conducted, I meet four other women all at different stages, post breast cancer treatment.

We can identify each other immediately by our short cropped hair and the fact we are all wearing exercise gear.

After some introductions, Cam gives us each a workbook and begins the session which is recorded so that we can refer to it anytime in case chemo-brain sets in and we completely forget we were ever here.

He tells us that, over the nine weeks of this program, we will gain incrementally more sophisticated knowledge about exercise and nutrition.

The purpose of this program is not weight loss, but muscle gain.

I won't bore you with all the details of absolutely everything we are told but here are some pieces of information I absorb and that I didn't know before:

1. Regular exercise decreases the chance of breast cancer recurrence by 50%.(Hooray!)

2. Alcohol consumption increases the chance of breast cancer recurrence so substantially that it considerably outweighs any heart health benefits that may be associated with a daily glass of wine. (Yikes!)

3. Women who have been through breast cancer will age the equivalent of 10 years within the first 12 months of treatment - if they do not undertake regular exercise (and pay attention to nutrition). That basically explains why my muscles have all but disappeared. (Booooo!)

4. Consuming legumes daily assists in the trimming of the oestrogen (the culprit behind breast cancer).

5. Dr Cam's hobby is swing dancing: apparently it's great for the mind and the body.

After the information session, we are shown some fairly basic exercises but what I notice is the way we all groan in unison almost, as we lower our carcasses to the floor for the push up and ab exercises.

One lady, Robyn, has to use a chair. She is so weak she can't even do a push up and has to do them against a wall. Two ladies opt for the easier chair exercise, and I and the girl called Amy (who looks much younger than me) do them normally.

When Cam jumps on the table to demonstrate a correctly executed push-up I ask him if he could do them in the nude for my general amusement.

When he raises an eyebrow, I explain that in the ancient Olympics, all sports were performed in the nude... with olive oil rubbed on the bodies to make them look more appealing.

"Virgin Olive Oil," Cam comments.

The lady called Jane comments on the hideous sight that must pose - especially in the case of pole vaulting.

This little gum nut about the Olympics is something I picked up just yesterday, in fact.

I participated as guest speaker at a cancer fundraiser held at our local golf club.

With some 130 people in attendance, including quite a few of my friends and general associates around the 'hood, I was unusually anxious about this speaking engagement in the week leading up to the event.

I angsted over my speech and put in several hours steering it in the right direction, including several wrong turns and cul de sacs.

Right up to yesterday morning I was tweaking it - and secretly fretting that I'd make a total dick of myself in front of people who I see regularly.

Thankfully that was not the case.

I received a standing ovation and was presented with a huge basket of roses that I especially appreciated because they are locally grown and they were arranged by an elderly man who lives in this neck of the woods.

A few old dears came up to me afterwards to tell me how inspiring they found my speech.

These compliments are appreciated, but I hoped they realised I am not talking about my cancer experience to elevate myself. It is very difficult in fact and I find I struggle to contain my emotions when discussing the subject in any kind of oration.

After the girls in my class disperse, I drive to the cafe strip at nearby Milton where I stop for a coffee at the Dolce Vita.

I read my book and enjoy the feel of the warm winter sun on my back. A radio is playing some obscure Italian song, and when the waiter addresses me as 'seƱora', I imagine myself transported to the Piazza in Rome.

On my way back to Redland Bay, I divert via Victoria Point to buy a present for my pal and chemo angel, Tracey who has a birthday today.

When I get home, I drive into Cleveland to drop Harry at the station as he has a big Maths test this evening, and post Tracey's present on the return trip.

On the way back I stop at the gym and do an hour of weights including 20 minutes on the bike. I must say I find it a chore.

Tomorrow Ben celebrates his 15th birthday.

Will I still be here in 10 years time when it's his 25th?

Even if it means must limit the alcohol (boo hoo!) today I realised that I will intend to do whatever it takes to make absolutely sure I am.

It's certainly going to be a new experience for me to watch what I eat over the next few weeks.

Now (sad face) I suppose it's time for a glass of water.

2 comments:

  1. Well Bron... Even though I shouldn't as well - I'll have vino for you. xoxox

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