Tuesday, May 09, 2006

May 8, 2006 - Baby Steps

Today I have physical therapy: the first appointment I’ve had (or at least the first one I’ve completed) since my last chemo treatment. Lori, my therapist, invites me back into the exercise room, and sets me to work.

I soon discover there’s a disjunction between my mind and my body with respect to these exercises. One of them, for example, has me standing between a set of parallel bars and stepping up onto a four- or five-inch-high plastic step and back down again (repeat ten times).

Easy, right? Not so. I look at that little step and feel sure this can’t be the right exercise for me – maybe for someone recovering from an orthopedic procedure like a hip replacement, but not for me. But then I start doing it, and it surprises me how soon I’m panting for breath. Ten steps up and down on the right leg, followed by ten on the left, and I’m ready to sit down and take a breather.

What’s happened to me? Where has my physical stamina gone?

Chemotherapy is what’s happened to me. It’s amazing how quickly fatigue exerts its toll, after those powerful drugs have been racing through the body for a few months on their search-and-destroy mission.

It leaves me feeling vaguely guilty. It would be one thing if I’d just had a knee operation and had to spend a few weeks doing step-up exercises like this, to regain a little flexibility. But they’ve got me doing this because I’m out of breath. Forty-nine-year-old guys aren’t supposed to get winded from climbing the equivalent of a short flight of stairs. The old, judgmental tapes start playing in my head: See – that’s what you get for playing hooky from the fitness center for so long! You’ve really let yourself go, haven’t you?

The physical-therapy exercises look like they ought to be child’s play – and, for a normal, healthy person they would be – but for me they’re not. I need to keep reminding myself that I’m not a healthy person right now. The fatigue I’m feeling is a real medical condition. It’s a side-effect of the medicine, perhaps even of the cancer itself.

This is a time for baby steps. Just put one foot in front of the other. Take it slow. You’ll get there...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely! One step at a time. And, if it's a particularly difficult day, I know Lori will cut back - you have to listen to your body, as well as challenge it.

You're in such good hands there! These folk are my heroes! And they are not only skilled but exceptionally caring - and sometimes seem to have ESP. Tell Lori "hi" and that I actually walked the track at Antrim! (2 laps - not too bad!)

When you graduate, you WILL look back on these as baby steps. But they're necessary in order to get to the giant steps. ("Mother, may I?")