Let’s Get Physical…
In spite of Olivia Newton-John’s overtly adult themes in her 80’s classic “Physical”, the image of her in leotards and leg warmers, doing aerobics, is what most people associate with the song and that is where I’m going with this post.
Before Cancer, I was probably 35-40 lbs overweight and I never really thought of myself as being overweight until one day Wii Fit told me so. Nobody really noticed other than myself and with the exception of Ruthmom hitting my belly (gut) one time and saying, “What’s this?”, I kept it hidden pretty well. I’ve been realizing lately that I’ve always been a “mind over matter” guy but probably to my own detriment as I was never really listening to my body. Cancer has certainly been the catalyst it should be for me in terms of getting healthy. As I’ve written in previous posts, the hardest thing for me is having the patience for the “process” of getting to that place of health that I desire to be. If you watch any classic movie, it takes awhile for the protagonist to get to a place of healthy and authentic change after the initial catalyst throws their life into a whirlwind. Luke Skywalker is no Jedi when he first meets Obi-Wan. Frodo is just an innocent Hobbit when Gandalf first gives him the ring. If either of them knew what it would take for them to become the men that they were destined to be, there’s no way that they would’ve accepted the journey they were about to embark on. Neither of them would’ve had the patience for the “process” that it required to become the heroes that they became.
What most health care and integrative care physicians have told me is that exercise is the closest thing to a “magic bullet” for Cancer prevention there is (obviously there is no magic bullet for Cancer or we all wouldn’t be worried about it). Fatigue has been the biggest obstacle for me thus far and has kept me pretty flat on my back for the most part (but let me say that I am very grateful for the fact that I am able to move around at all). I have made an effort since the first surgery to try to walk at least 30 minutes a day and have been pretty successful with that (I live in a cool neighborhood with lots to see so it makes it easy). In fact, I walked nearly 2 miles the day after I got home from the first surgery. What was funny about it though was that my brother Josh was with me and in solidarity wore a hoodie (because my scar was too fresh to wear a hat at the time so all I could wear to cover up were hoodies) and it was a sunny day so we were both wearing sunglasses. We weren’t thinking about how we looked when we walked into my bank and were quickly surrounded by most of the employees that worked there (everyone else had their hands underneath their desks, ready to push the silent alarm). We were able to quickly diffuse the situation when we realized how suspicious we probably looked to them. Walking has kept me from going insane but I really want to go further with my exercise and feel stronger and healthier.
One of the first things that my doctors said to me was that I can no longer be a “meathead” about working out, meaning that I shouldn’t aspire to be like “Hans and Franz” and “Ah-nold” because of the pressure that all the lifting (and that bodybuilder style of working out) would put on my head. I was actually very nervous about doing that, so back in November I started meeting with a physical therapist to help me develop a regimen that I could do. At my first session, I felt how my few months of being sedentary had affected everything from my strength and endurance to my flexibility. The most frustrating thing for me was that my physical therapist had me doing pretty “lame” (in my eyes at least) workouts. She had me do some balance exercises, leg lifts, and some slight stretches…I felt like I could do so much more, but I was nervous about overexerting too much because not only could it potentially cause a seizure, but it could also worsen my fatigue. I kept going every week and by the very last session before Christmas break, I actually broke a sweat (finally…progress).
Buuutttttttt…Then came New Years Eve. After a fun day at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle where I walked around for a good 4-5 hours, feeling great, I went to sit down and eat dinner with Amy, my brother and sister-in-law, and niece and nephew, and found myself having a full blown seizure. After that, my fatigue worsened significantly and was basically flat on my back for a good couple weeks. When I got home to LA , I fell into a pretty deep depression. One morning though, I said “screw this” and finally scheduled a physical therapy appointment . As I showed up for the appointment, I had finally come to grips with the fact that I wasn’t going to change overnight, but I also wasn’t going to let the “setback” of the seizure hold me back from getting better. At that session, I let myself just go with the flow (no matter how “lame” I thought my “workout” was). As I continued my sessions, my depression went away, and in the past few weeks I have been breaking a sweat at every session. Two Saturdays ago I had one of the best days yet (endurance wise), but I also pushed myself too hard and paid the price for it the next couple days after that (meaning I suffered some major fatigue). What I learned from that experience is that if I think of my energy as a glass of water that I’ve been slowly filling each day, then why would I drink all of it at once? (btw, you can just call me “Dojo A-Mo” because of the masterful “Eastern” advice I’m giving you here). I’ve found that when I choose to not drink the whole glass but instead drink enough to just “nourish” me for that day, my endurance goes up and my fatigue goes down. As I listen to my body instead of saying to myself “mind over matter, dude”, I feel stronnger and healthier. I’m proud to say that I’ve been following my own advice and yesterday I went running with Amy and felt amazing afterwards. I still pushed myself a little and schooled her the whole way (love you Amy) and because I wash’t carrying all the extra weight, it wasn’t as painful as running used to be for me (I actually enjoyed it, which I haven’t since college probably)…I wanted to share with you my gratitude for this very visible mark of “progress” for me, and for the cheerleaders that I seem to have everywhere.
Check out a video from one of my first physical therapy sessions. I was asked to stand on two different balance boards and move my head from side to side. I look pretty ridiculous. My, how far I’ve come.
UCLA is hosting a brain tumor conference this weekend and I’ve been asked to speak on two different panels. Link to Info on Conference: http://www.neurooncology.ucla.edu/BTC/Conference.aspx
– The first one is on “Integrating Psycho-Social Support into Your treatment plan” where I’ll be representing the “youth voice” of the importance of support groups.
– Amy will be joining me on the second panel “Understanding the Family Experience” where we’ll be offering the “young couple’s” perspective on Brain Cancer.
I feel both honored and humbled to speak at this conference. It is becoming my passion to be a resource and an encourager to people (and their families) that are newly diagnosed and I would love some intercessory prayer on Saturday from 10 – 11 am and 12:45 – 1:45 pm as I get an opportunity to do so.