I write this post with a sense of achievement, euphoria and rather sore thighs and glutes. Last week I was on a women’s cycle training camp in Lanzarote, and it was a fabulous experience.
Keeping fit and active through out treatment was important to me, and I’m sure has supported my recovery both psychologically and physiologically. However, I know I’ve lost fitness, strength and stamina and I want to return to my fitness levels pre cancer. Especially important as I’m cycling Ride 100 this summer. Early last year I found Liz O’Riordan’s blog, a breast surgeon with breast cancer. Her story chimed with my own experience, it’s a great blog. She wrote about Tanja Slater’s training camp, and I was intrigued. I bookmarked the link, but felt I’d lost too much fitness to go.
Then in the last few weeks, I’ve kicked myself up the proverbial, and got back on my bike. One week I cycled 80 miles. This amazing body could still do it. All those spin classes have paid off, and I felt I had (just) enough confidence to jet off to Lanzarote, with hope in my heart and my bicycle in the hold.
What an amazing week. The scenery is stunning, quite surreal in its volcanic splendour. The roads have no potholes and the drivers don’t seem to have a vendetta against cyclists. We were thirty female cyclists, mixed ability, being trained by five coaches, some of them ex-Olympians. Me, being coached by an Olympian?! The incredible places cancer has taken me. The coaches and other cyclists were hugely supportive. And sadly there were a few of us there who have had cancer. But, it proved once again, that getting cancer is not the end of your life.
I’m feeling rather chuffed at what I achieved last week:
- Cycled 6 days in a row (my bum is not impressed, especially after a bikini wax to get pool ready. Ouch!)
- My first ever time trial (I was one of the slowest, but a great benchmark to improve on)
- Cycled 230 miles
- New top speed on my bike – 42mph. The descent was exhilarating, and I thought “life is bloody wonderful” as tears of joy rolled down my cheeks.
- Took my bike, first time ever I’ve dismantled my bike and packed it. Thank goodness for YouTube videos as I’m pretty clueless.
- Learnt how to cycle in terrifying cross winds.
- Made some great new friends.
- Only ate chips once!
It’s caused me to reflect how amazing the human body can be, especially if we look after it (chips notwithstanding). What my treatment put my body through last year was, at times, brutal. A year ago, I was half way through chemotherapy and recovering from a bout of shingles. This year my body is rebuilding itself and taking me to places I hadn’t imagined. In this era of body shaming it’s easy to focus on the bits of our bodies we hate. I hate that my body got cancer, I don’t much like my thickening waist and potbelly (thanks Tamoxifen), and my hair is growing but not what it was. But, I love the life affirming places this amazing body can take me, and for that I’m hugely grateful.
Looking after mind and soul
Also helping me hugely is the counselling I am having at the Whittington (funded by Macmillan – where would we be without our amazing charities?) As time passes from diagnosis and treatment, it is easier to process what has happened, to see it more clearly and understand it. A process of acceptance and adaption.
I’ve been at work full time since January. It’s motivating to feel a sense of purpose and achievement again, but the fatigue sometimes comes crashing in and can really knock my confidence. But I’m learning how to rest, saying no and listening to what my body and mind need. Being kind to myself, and to others, is one of the greatest lessons that cancer has reinforced for me.