Saturday, August 13, 2011

Growing Old Isn't For Sissies

It's Saturday morning and as usual, I struggled to get out of bed because my legs and feet are stiff, achey and swollen. They've been this way for three years now. I was told it is a side effect from chemotherapy. I remember Dr. Fischbach, rattling off a laundry list of possible side effects as I was about to commence chemotherapy. When he said possible numbness of the extremities such as feet and hands, I thought he meant the numbness would be temporary while I was undergoing treatment. I had no idea it would be a chronic condition.

But it is. Now every morning as I wobble out of my bedroom, I am reminded that my body just ain't what it used to be--thanks to my battle with cancer. This slight neuropathy has also insidiously impacted my ability to exercise more, which in turn has hurt my physical fitness, and my weight and my overall health. Now I have to go to the doctor every three months in order for my blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure to be closely monitored.

The days of getting an annual check-up and clean bill of health ended for me more than six years ago. Now it's always something. I feel the effects of aging every time I huff and puff up a hill, struggle to bend over and buckle a shoe strap or sleep too much. Growing old sucks--for all of us. At each major birthday--65, 70, 75, my mother would borrow a famous quote from Betty Davis, which she swears Betty Davis stole from her mother: "Growing old isn't for sissies" She is so right. Each year brings on more aches and mounting blonde moments (which others call senior moments). But at least I'm not alone.

I watch helplessly as my younger brother battles with a deteriorating leg that was massively radiated on 30 years ago in order to save it from a cancerous tumor. He was an enthusiastic athlete all his life and it breaks my heart to see how a bum leg has taken away so many activities he loved. There are days his leg pain is so great that he downs multiple pain medication only to vomit later from nausea. We are prisoners to our bodies' limitations. Yet somehow, some way, we've got to hurdle through the pain and try to maintain our health.

By passively making excuses and not at least trying to take care of our bodies, it gets harder to make a comeback with our strength, our energy, our vitality. So on that note, its time for me to creakily bend over and lace up my tennis shoes so I can embark on a brisk, 40 minute walk. Now that I am in the HOPE exercise study, I must do at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week. So far I've only clocked in 80 minutes for the week. I've got some catching up to do. But I've been doing the 150 minutes of walking for three straight weeks religiously. After all, I'm no sissie.


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