A few days ago, I dropped something on the floor. I squatted down, picked up the item, and straightened back up. I almost dropped it again when what I realized what I had just done.
I BENT DOWN.
Prior to having cancer, I took a lot for granted with my health and fitness. Walking around the house without getting winded. Doing simple tasks without my chest getting tight. And, yes, bending down. You don’t have to be an athlete to live your life with ease.
But all of that goes out the window during cancer treatment. I spent the vast majority of my five months of chemo in bed. You might be surprised at how quickly you suffer muscle atrophy and loss of flexibility. (According to Livestrong, recreational athletes suffer atrophy after twelve weeks of inactivity. I’m sure this is without being bedridden). That would be on top of the effects of the chemo drugs on your body, particularly your heart and lungs. I am in awe of anyone who is able to work and exercise during this period. I did well to walk from the bed to the kitchen for a glass of water. And the most frustrating thing to me was not being able to bend over.
I remember dropping my pen under my desk right after going back to work. I got on the floor to pick it up — and couldn’t get back up. My brain was sending a message to my muscles to engage… and my brain was flipping the bird right back. I finally struggled back into my chair, but I am grateful no one was around to witness my lack of grace.
Which is why I am so thrilled to acknowledge how my flexibility has improved in the last few months. I can stretch, scrunch up into a ball, and almost make myself into a pretzel. I can easily paint my toenails. I’m nowhere near my pre-cancer, yoga self. But I can touch the floor without toppling over. I can’t do this for long periods yet. There is still too much chemo damage, and the tight chest and shortness of breath remind me of my journey. But the improvement over the twenty months since finishing chemo is enough for now.
I can bend and snap with the best of them.
And I will never take this for granted again.
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