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Walking into Mordor

So I know: Let’s write a story where the “hero” — an unlikely sort of fellow, fond of his creature comforts — must travel through a dangerous land of gloom, dust, and des[...] read more

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Not quite a walk in the park

When I first learned that I had cancer (while attending Campers’ Week at Pinewoods), a good friend urged me to spend as much time as possible outside, walking in the sunshine.

And when my father-in-law heard last September that I had cancer, he wrote a very supportive note with many kind thoughts. This is the most relevant today:

“There's also great expansion in studies of post-cancer rehabilitation. Getting the right kind of exercise is, none too surprisingly, hugely beneficial. I was in an experiment in which some patients received exercise and diet treatments and some not (I was in the first group). Only a year later, the benefits of exercise were so obvious they were redoing the experiment: both groups were doing the exercises, only one the diet analysis.”

And when I first met my surgeon, he told me that I should “Walk! Walk every day! Walk for at least a half hour!”

Since I wanted everything to go as well as possible, I followed their advice. In early September, when I was starting on chemo- and radiation-therapy and was weak from weight-loss, it was a bit of a challenge. But the warm September sun (literally every day in that freakishly clement September) and fresh air soon began doing their work: I looked forward to each day’s venture, walking farther and faster each day.

As the days cooled and the rains (and wind) returned in October, many of the walks were less pleasant, but it wasn’t cold — and I could tell how much good the exercise was doing me — so I persisted.

On the 27th of November, they surgified me for almost eight hours. Early the next morning, during rounds, my surgeon again told me that I should “Walk! Walk every day! Walk for at least a half hour! Start today!” Sigh. This was the last thing I felt like doing, of course, but with the help of Karen and the LNA I was able to stand up and get all (six? eight?) of the tubes and cables untangled — and headed off with Karen to do a couple of laps around the ward.

And it progressed slowly from there. By the last evening at the hospital, Karen and I walked a huge distance down the long multilevel arcade, whence passages branched making for many different departments and even entire other buildings. It felt great!

But the next day, when I came home from the hospital, things were different. There was ice! There was snow! And the wind was bitter cold! And I found that after spending two weeks at exactly 72ºF, and having re-lost all the weight that I’d gained back in the autumn, I just couldn’t stay warm enough outside no matter how quickly I walked. So after a couple of walks that first week back (at 15ºF with a nice brisk wind), I gave up. No more walks!

Fast-forward three weeks: it’s just as cold outside; there’s even more snow and ice; and I’m lethargic and achy. In my follow-up visit to the surgeon, I was told that I had to get out there and “Walk! Walk every day! Walk for at least a half hour! Drive down to The Home Depot and walk there if it’s too cold!”

The Home Depot didn’t sound very appealing — and the closest one is 90 minutes away! — but it got me thinking a little bit. I made a list of gyms to look at down in Barre, Montpelier, and Berlin (all 35 minutes away in the same vector). I wasn’t very excited about this idea. I’ve always felt that gyms were a waste of time and money — that people in need of exercise should just do more work with their bodies: climb stairs instead of taking the elevator; park further away from the store and walk; don’t drive at all if possible — walk or bicycle.... And so I don’t believe that I’ve ever been in a gym since high school (other than our local school’s gym when it’s been coöpted for the Apple Pie Festival, Town Meeting, and that kind of thing, of course).

So I had no idea where to start, other than working through the possible gyms in a logistically efficient manner. I started at the south end with a Jazzercise: it was gloomy, smelly, and unbearably loud. Ugh. The next one on my list was closed: they were only open in the early morning and from mid-afternoon into the evening. Checking them out was taking less time than I’d imagined, but I was beginning to think I might not come up with an establishment that would fit the bill.

My idea was that I’d find somewhere where they’d understand the kind of rehabilitation I wanted for my body, and give me a set of low-impact exercises designed to slowly increase my muscle mass and strengthen my trunk and just set me on a path towards again having a relatively fit middle-aged body again — and make sure that all my hopefully-coming weight gain wouldn’t end up in a big ring around my midsection!

As I drove out of the parking lot for the closed gym, I spotted a sign: “RehabGYM: Entrance at rear.” Huh. That one had not been on my list. Well, I was right here, looking for a gym. Why not take a look?

Remember the paragraph (only two up) that began “My idea was”? Well, my idea was already actualized as the RehabGYM. I’ve now been four times, and fully plan to consistently attend two or three days each week for at least the next month or two. The first month’s membership (no additional commitment) included four free hours with a personal trainer — who immediately “got” where I was coming from and why I was there. He gave me exercises which are definitely stretching things out, getting my heart rate a bit elevated, and deepening my breathing. Most of these exercises I can do (or do variants of) at home, too. But the most important thing is that the lethargy is gone. And the aches feel more healthy. And I know I’m doing the right thing. 👍🏼

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