When I was going through the process of being diagnosed, the one thing that my dad kept saying to EVERY doctor we saw was: “Besides her leg hurting, she is as healthy as a horse!” It was a little annoying to hear him say repeatedly because clearly, something was wrong with my leg. But, looking back at it now, I don’t blame him because he was right. Because, back before cancer entered my life and tore apart my body, I was pretty dang fit. I was almost 16 years old, I was an active soccer player and marching in the high school band every weekend. I ate relatively well, I could run a fast mile, I was at a decent weight, and I rarely got sick. I was pretty dang health, you know, besides the fact that I had a 6-inch tumor growing in my leg.
Of course, after a year of chemotherapy and three reconstructive leg surgeries, the last word anyone would use to describe me these days would be “healthy.” Yes, I’m almost 11 years cancer free and I haven’t had any major issues health-wise recently, but I’m still far from being healthy. The truth is, I haven’t tried to take care of my body or my physical health in 11 years, minus that one month that I went soda free. I would talk about it once in a while, try to cut out some sugar, but inevitably would give up and fall back into my habits.
At first, I didn’t take care of myself because I physically couldn’t. With a new leg pieced together by donner bone, metal rods, screws, and titanium plates, it’s hard to even get up out of bed in the morning. But as my leg healed, I started using my leg as an excuse to not take care of myself. I was mad at my body for betraying me, I was frustrated that I was stuck in a body that didn’t feel like mine, and I didn’t want to put effort into taking care of it.
It’s like driving a comfortable Ford Edge Limited for your whole life, (you know, one with heated leather seats and Bluetooth,) and waking up one morning to find that you have to commute in a 1993 rusted Oldsmobile with transmission problems. Not only do you mourn the loss of your comfortable and familiar car, but you now have to try to take care of a car that doesn’t want to run. After trying a couple times, it’s easy to say “whatever, I’ll just run it into the ground because it’s never going to drive like my Edge did.” That’s where I was at for the last eleven years – running my Oldsmobile into the ground because it wasn’t the Edge I grew up with.
I was also terrified. Half of my leg has been reconstructed with donor bone (so it’s dead) and if I get a stress fracture or break it, I risk losing my leg altogether. Dead bones don’t heal. This is a fear I already deal with every day because one bad fall could do the same thing, but the idea of going to the gym made it seem even riskier.
So, I took my excuses and my fear and my hate and I hunkered down and neglected my body and my health for years.
But I’m going to change that.
If you’ve been around HTC for a while, you’ll know that the last thing I planned on writing about was beauty and fashion, nevermind actually posting photos of myself. Little did I know that blogging would teach me to love myself again. Even though my style and beauty posts may seem vain or materialistic, they have helped me find confidence in a body that I was once embarrassed and ashamed of. And now, I’m ready to take the next step in finding peace with my body by becoming healthier because of the following reasons:
I need to prolong the life of my knee replacement.
My choice to be healthier isn’t just about losing weight, but weight does factor into it more than I wish it did. But, here’s the truth: I have a total left knee replacement and beyond that, one that has only been performed on a handful of people in the world. Knee replacements don’t last forever and the more weight it has to carry, the faster it will wear out. And right now, I’m about 10 pounds over the max of where I should be. And let’s be real here: I don’t want to go through another knee replacement anytime soon. I’d love to keep the one I’ve got for as long as possible because recovery is hard as heck and there is always a risk of losing my leg every time I go back under.
My cancer might come back.
I know that sounds really negative and awful, but that’s just the fact. The chances of me relapsing go down every day but I still at a much higher risk for relapse than someone who hasn’t had cancer (or chemo that can cause other kinds of cancer.) I’ve been learning to cope with this fact a lot better and don’t completely shut down and have an anxiety attack when I think about my cancer coming back. I’m getting pretty good at not letting that shadow hang over me every day, but still look over my shoulder once in a while for it. I’ve come to accept that my life will always be like that, but I’m learning that it doesn’t have to take away my ability to live vibrantly.
Anyway, if my cancer does come back some day, I think I have a better chance of beating it the second time around if I’m a little healthier and stronger. I know how bad chemo can wipe you out, so having some strength saved up can only help me. While I don’t plan on my cancer coming back, I’m going to give my body the shot it deserves in case it does – because it was strong enough to survive the first time and I want it to be strong enough again should it need to be.
We want to start our family soon.
I mean, not SOON soon, but we’re definitely getting closer to wanting to grow our family. I’ve already been told that it could be hard for us to have kids because of what chemo did to my body, so I figure if I should do everything else in my power to make sure that I physically can handle a pregnancy. I’ll probably be put on bedrest because of my knee replacement and I want to make sure that I’ve built up enough muscle to help my back and hips carry the additional weight as long as possible.
Finding the Balance:
So here I am, at the start of committing to a lifestyle change and to getting my Oldsmobile running as smoothly as possible. I’m learning that there is a balance to it all. As much as I’d love to run a few miles a day on the treadmill, that physically isn’t possible for me and the leg I’m on. I also can’t do free weights above a certain amount because I need to limit the amount of strain I put on my left leg. So, I not only do I need to find the courage to get myself to the gym (in clothes that show off my scars and knee) but I need to figure out what the best plan of attack is for someone with a knee replacement.
There’s also figuring out how to deal with the complex emotions that come with going to the gym. I have a hard time staying positive when I see other people running and exercising in ways I know I’ll never be able to do because of my leg. I can throw myself a pretty epic pity party and fall into a deep hole of negativity if I’m not careful. I’m working on celebrating my own successes and not comparing them to other people, but it’s definitely easier said than done.
This is a journey to becoming healthier and stronger – about finally deciding that my body and my life is worth putting the effort into. It’s about accepting my limitations without letting them actually limit me. It’s about finding the courage to go to the gym with my left leg and knee and scars bare for everyone else to see. This is about making the choice to put better things into a body that deserves to be loved and cared for. This is just the beginning, but I know it’s a crucial step in finding peace and healing for what happened to me.
I’m nervous but excited. I know that the stronger and healthier I get, the more opportunities I’ll have to pursue a vibrant life. I know I deserve one. I’m going to chase after it.
With all this being said, would you be interested in hearing more about this part of my life? I can write about meal plans/workouts/athletic wear/etc if anyone wants to hear about it! Let me know in the comments below!