My cold still lingers on

My cold still lingers on, although in some ways I’m feeling better. I get tired really easily – and yet I try to get out for at least a short walk each day. The walk gets me away from my computer, and gives my body a chance to stretch out and enjoy the moments of sunshine between the clouds. The weather isn’t as warm as it has been, but still rather nice. If I were feeling better I would consider getting back in the swimming pool. That is something that will have to wait until after this cold goes away. The good news in that, is that my incisions shall be well healed by the time I jump in the pool.

Every day, either before or after my shower (or both), I look at myself in the mirror. I know many women who are not able to do that. I’m really happy with how my body looks. I see fat on my legs that I’m sure will become more trim when I can finally get back on the bike and ride – again, this cold is sidelining me. Aerobic activity is out of the question until the cough goes away. One day, I’ll find a way to share a photo on this blog. A photo of my scars but also of my new breasts – so that others can see what the type of reconstruction I had actually looks like.

I am finding that I am remarkably more mobile. I was almost able to do a sun salutation (yoga) last night. I got as far as the plank part, where my core said ‘no chance’. I cannot support my body with my stomach/core just yet. Again, once this cold goes away, I hope to get back to the Y and the Living Strong Living Well program. They have allowed me to enroll in a second session because I could not complete the first. I’m grateful for that opportunity, as I am finding the targeted strength training to be very helpful. I was seeing some great results before my last surgery.

As my cold lingers on, I am struggling with some emotional / intellectual demons. I find myself going down the path of think I’m never going to feel better, I’m never going to be strong again. The Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is helping me see that I’m telling myself these things. It is helping me figure out how to stop telling myself these things – to re-program how my thinking works when I’m not feeling 100%. I don’t have the answer just yet, but I’m working on it. I’m also giving myself permission to rest … but at some point, and the things on my to do list pile up even higher.

I’ve never been one to procrastinate in the past, but I’m struggling with it now. I need to start getting back to work, but I struggle with the motivation to get it done. I use the cold as an excuse to not try.  I use chemo brain as an excuse to not try. I tell myself, maybe tomorrow, or maybe next week. It will all be better sometime in the future – but the reality is that I need to stop procrastinating and start trying again. I won’t really know what I’m capable of – or what I’m not capable of – until I try it, but part of me is afraid that if I try I will discover that I cannot do what I used to be able to do. That I will have cognitive deficits. That’s what is really scaring me. And not trying, procrastinating, means I won’t have to find out that I cannot do what I used to be able to do.

Time is also needed to heal these wounds. I may be finished with treatment and surgery, but I have not healed from those assaults. The neuropathy in my feet is still a significant problem – but I’m feeling changes – I can feel blood flood to my feet (I can feel the swish of my heartbeats). This is a new sensation (very odd). I’ve told that we will not know the extent of my recovery (or damage) for at least another 6-months. Neuropathy can take 18-months post surgery to heal. The cognitive deficits associated with chemotherapy are even less well understood. I’ve learned from various social networks that people start to really get back to their ‘normal’ after about a year. So, right now, I can expect that I will struggle with some things – but that I can hope that as time goes by it will get better. I will regain most of what I had before treatment. It just takes time.

So, this afternoon, I will try to get some contract work done. I will try to do some of the more technical stuff I used to do with ease. I know that once I get started, I will enjoy doing it, but getting over the initial inertia is hard. I need a push (or maybe another cup of coffee!).

  • Becky


  • Hi Rebecca (not sure if it should be Rebecca or Becky – sorry!).

    I find your post so interesting and I don’t want that to sound as though I am underestimating your difficulties. I have never been in your position, so I know that I can’t fully relate, but I am, and always have been, interested in the relationship between mind and body.

    I have read your posts consistently since you first started this blog, mainly because I am ignorant about breast cancer and wanted to know more – and you have shared so much. I have often wondered when reading your posts about how much, when we have such an assault on the body as you have had, we should fight it and how much we should listen to our body saying ‘take it easy’.

    I wonder if you have any thoughts about this. How do you decide when to fight it and when to say, ‘OK I’ll take it easy for now’?

  • Jenny, you ask a good question. I think that is something that I’m going to have to relearn about my body. I used to know when tenacity was all that was needed to get me to keep pushing – like when I go on a long bike ride. Now, I find that my tenacity outstrips my physical ability – so if I keep pushing I make myself sick. I don’t recover the way I used to recover. Now, this might just be a temporary state of where my body is at right now. I might get that ability back when my body finishes healing (I’m hoping that is the case). It is really difficult to ‘take it easy’ when my body really wants to get out and go for a bike ride, but I know that if I try biking right now I’d end up coughing and wheezing, cause the cold is still in my lungs. So, I’m benched from cycling and swimming until the cold passes. I keep hoping that each day when I wake up it is gone … soon I hope!

  • Rebecca, seems to be cold season here too. Some people here blame it on “Spring Thaw” and others “Mud Season.” The Russian Orthodox ladies in their long skirts rimmed with mud for the first 2 or 3 inches are very displeased and sniffling too. For me it’s been 3 days since I thought about finding my rubber mud boots and in that time I’ve written tons of thoughtful (I think) of replies to blogs and on Face Book, but still haven’t started on the boots finding project. Maybe it doesn’t seem important enough.

    If pressed I’ll do things but anything requiring more that one obvious step gets forgotten or put off. It’s only been 3 weeks since chemo stopped so I suppose I shouldn’t get impatient in this recovery time, but I do.

    Jenny’s question is interesting and it feels like part of the shock of illness is absorbed by the body and mind separating a bit. As if neither is really listening to the other and I find it hard to will myself to start anything. Wanting to do something gets stuck and it feels like the messenger that transfers data between mind and body is missing. Not sure why I feel this way. Never was aware of this intermediary before, just felt like a direct connection.

    Be interesting to study the reactions common to “chemo-brain.” As I come out of the regular infusions I feel better but still am tired and have numb hands and feet. Most strange is a problem with my hands. I drop things that I’m holding without warning. It’s as if the part of my brain in charge of holding onto something gets distracted–though what it feels like is a micro loss of consciousness. This is the one that worries me as it means I can’t trust my attention on things. It isn’t intellectual as I don’t feel stupid but do feel slightly disconnected from my body.

    My sense Rebecca is this isn’t permanent. Experience with my heart, which is now a patchwork of muscle, mesh and implanted valves, is that my body isn’t as efficient but it isn’t “broken” either just slower. My brain works and my determination is operational and I’m learning to adjust to different body than I had ten years ago.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ve had a lot of trauma, disruption, loss of control, plus a move to California in not a very long period of time. That’s a lot to absorb. From my point of view you seem to be doing quite well:-)


  • Thanks Scott. The dropping things is definitely related to peripheral neuropathy. I have had that exact same experience. One minute the glass is in your hand, the next it is all over the floor. Fortunately, I didn’t have any serious spills and seemed to be able to hold onto the kitchen knives throughout the worst of it. I had a second bout of neuropathy pains in my hands about a month ago … now my hands seem to be much better, although I still have numbness on the tips of my finders. Each time my hands go into a healing phase, I start dropping things again …

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