This week I wanted to talk about getting my health back after completing chemotherapy for breast Cancer. I feel obligated to say that I am no athlete and have never run any spectacular distances, nor broken any records, or won any big games. You could say I was a runner, but only of short distances. I ran between 1-4 miles multiple times a week. My main fitness goal (however inappropriate) to ‘Look Good Naked’, my health and fitness was only measured by what I saw in the mirror and fortunately that changed after my experience with cancer. I feel this experience has helped broaden and mature my understanding of health, to include more than my size and body image. After treatment my motivation to get healthy was stronger than it had ever been. Feeling ill for a prolonged period of time helped me gain perspective on what it means to be healthy. My whole life I took good health for granted, never having any prior surgeries or medical emergencies, I lacked the understanding that health was measured by more than pounds.

When chemo was over I wanted was to feel and look like myself again. Through treatment I gained 20 unwanted pounds. I was white as a ghost; and I was, of course, bald. But somehow those things just made me work harder. My reasons started shallow, but I returned to my workout group the Stroller Strong Moms. In my adult life all I did for keeping fit was work on a horse farm, but trust me that is more a workout than most could know. Afterword’s I took up running with small circuits I remembered from high school to combat weight gain. The whole idea of a ‘workout group’ was new to me and I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out having ‘a group’ can be immensely helpful.

Let me be completely honest, when I was pregnant (prior to being diagnosed) I had completely given up on working out. I figured I’d worry about working out after the baby. Basically it had been over a year since I had a regular workout schedule. Returning was hard; physically I had no stamina, I was weak, and even the warmups made me tired. There were days where I had to throw-up after class, and days where I gave all my energy to the workout.  But the encouragement and motivation from my fellow mamas kept me going, even when it was hard and I wanted to quit.  I have never had this support working out before, and I loved it. I could tell they cared about me, and I them.  Somehow my workout has become one of the best parts of my day.

Slowly my energy came back and I was feeling better. I became so much more capable through my workout and my day but I still wasn’t looking like myself again, which forced me to look at my diet. Which was hard, but I had to get real. My diet had steadily gotten worse during and after chemo because the only thing that tasted good and didn’t make me feel sick was fat and sugar. I wasn’t sure where to begin, but with the help of my healthy new workout group and my super healthy husband I have been able to make better informed meal decisions. I’m pretty sure this will be a life-long battle, and some days it’s a win not to be eating fast food. Trying new dishes and NOT eating out has actually really helped me to eat a better balanced meal. The healthier I ate, the better my workouts were becoming.

And the biggest benefit was what all this did on my brain. I felt foggy after my experience with chemo and my brain felt asleep, but as my body had begun to rebuild so did my mind. First came some clarity, than self-assurance, and lastly my confidence. It happened slowly over this past year, but now I feel whole and healthy again. My foggy experience became just a bad memory and no more my reality. Sometimes I even run in the morning before we do our workouts, when just a short year ago I dreaded even going because I was to week to lift my stroller out of my car.

If health was just a number I would still be failing, the weight is still there, my hair is still much shorter than I like and after cancer I can’t tan the way I want. The difference is I’m ok if I don’t lose the weight because I feel good. My hair will grow, and I feel more physically capable than I have for the past few years.