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Boston Sunset

I have been on a bit of a writing hiatus. Honestly I was not ready to talk about my current phase in my journey and my other topics were not really flowing from the fingers to the screen so I took a break. In late August I started chemotherapy and 2 targeted treatments to make sure all the rogue cells remaining in my body post-surgery are eradicated. I have treatment every 3 weeks. I am two thirds of the way through; it has been quite a journey. I will be writing more about that portion of my experience in a few weeks when I am closer to putting it in my rear view.

My mom is actually the inspiration for today’s post. She and my dad were out to breakfast last Sunday and they met a couple whose daughter in-law was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in April. I have no idea how the exchange took place, but they shared with my parents their daughter in-law’s journey so far chemo, surgery, radiation and most likely more chemo. They also shared her feelings that she does not want anyone to know what she is going through because she fears people’s judgement, which is understandable especially when we are often our own most critical judge. Today I am talking about judgement and how we are affected by it every day.

The origin of the word judge comes from the Old English deman, current translation doom. Yet how many times a day do we make a judgement, about a situation to which we may not have all the facts; about another person based on how they look, Julia Roberts shopping in Pretty Woman comes to mind; or the worst judgement of them all, about ourselves for any reason at all. One hundred years before we had the word judgement we had the word should meaning obligation.

These two words often go hand in hand. We think we should be doing something and then we judge ourselves harshly because we are not doing that thing. I hear this so frequently when it comes to working out and I have experienced it even more so as I traverse this cancer treatment journey. The interesting twist here is I too judge myself when it comes to working out, how many runs I got in, how far I went, what my times looked like, the list could go on. I judge myself and I am actually out doing the work. This is just part of our nature. So I judge myself and then I catch myself in that judgement and remind myself that miles under the feet are always good miles the journey is evolving and not every time out is a race. That mile I walked with my dogs last week at the end of week one of my treatment cycle was a serious victory. I did it.

That said, not once since my diagnosis in May have I judged myself for having cancer. NOT ONCE. Nor have my doctors, possibly the judgiest of professions, judged me or placed blame or reason to my diagnosis. The reality is that we do not know the specifics of why this disease strikes. Or as my breast surgeon says what flips the switch to turn the disease on. The reality is it is happening. No amount of shoulda, coulda, woulda is going to change the facts as they are and honestly I do not really believe there was a substantive past action that brought me to this place. It just is what it is and we push on. People on the street however are a different story.

When given a chance everyone will second guess you. I am sure I do it myself, sorry about that. We all come to situations with our own point of reference and in turn exert our judgement from that perspective. These opinions are not right or wrong they just are. Early after my diagnosis, once my surgical choices were finalized, I found a large number of people questioning my choice to have a bilateral mastectomy. When I step back from the reaction and the questions it is easy to see that the questioning is less about my choices and more about the questioner’s perspective. My choice was quite easy for me. I have worked with survivors for nearly 10 years. Because of this work I had researched the surgical procedures, and I had drawn my own conclusions about how I would proceed long before I was faced with a choice. For those reasons, I was quite grounded in my decision and more prepared to face the scared questioning of others, potentially facing their own fears of “what if it were me”.

I have been asked about undergoing chemo, what about healing with food? Great question. I am celiac with a side of dairy protein allergy. I was already on a Gluten Free, Dairy Free diet for over 4 years at the time of my diagnosis, pretty sure it was not my food choices that brought me to this place. That does not mean food is not important. We eat grass fed and organic whenever possible. I have a fairly “clean diet”; though I have worked on converting my favorite treats to gluten, dairy, and white sugar free. Everyone should be able to enjoy ice cream or a cookie once in a while, moderation is still a good thing. If food was the healing solution, I would not be undergoing chemo right now, because I would not be having this challenge at all. However, we come back to the fact; we do not know what flips this switch.

I think my favorite judgement to date is the assumption that I am not working. Soooo many people ask how much time I am taking off. I shouldn’t be working right. I should be sitting on my duff convalescing. There is that should again. In my family I am often referred to as the energizer bunny. I was back to seeing clients 11 days after surgery. I will admit my batteries are running a little low during the weeks immediately following my chemo treatment. I require more rest more often than normal. However, doing nothing would drive me mad. I do listen to my body and I rest when I need to rest, which is sometimes hard for a doer. It is what my body needs to recover, endure, and heal. My mind and my spirit need to work and continue to live in the world. So I go to networking meetings as scheduled, I sit when I need to when training clients during the first week post treatment, get stronger during the second week, and only schedule massage appointments during the third week when I am feeling at full strength.

Staying positive and grounded when people are questioning your path is difficult. At the end of my first chemo treatment one of the nurses, sadly told me I would no longer be able to work. Excuse me? I said I have to work and by the way my doc told me given my physical state I would handle treatment well for at least the first 9 to 12 weeks. He gave me no reason to believe I would not be strong enough to work. I left that treatment with the thought in the back of mind that I might get very ill. I did have an unexpected side effect, in subsequent treatments it has been managed and I have done ok. I remember walking out of that 6.5 hour infusion treatment thinking what is it about me that made her think I cannot handle this? She does not know anything about me as a person. Yet she is on my healthcare team, a team that should be supporting me and answering questions and acting in the spirit of my oncologist, who is constantly on the watch for ways to manage potential side effects and keep me moving forward in the best ways possible.

At first the judgement of others was difficult. People not knowing what you are experiencing, placing limitations and expectations on you. It is difficult to disconnect our emotional response to their concern, fear and quite honestly the potentially misguided thoughts about how people with cancer look, feel and survive. As humans being we need to do just that in all scenarios. When we judge ourselves we need to ask, “is that real? Is that really what I believe about myself in this moment?” And when faced with the judgement of others we need to ask “is this even about me?” The reality is it probably isn’t. How we judge ourselves is often much harsher than the reality of the situation and the judgements seemingly imposed upon us often have nothing to do with us. So when having a difficult day or being faced with the opinions of others take a breath and ask what is real for you. It is actually the only thing that matters.

I would love to hear from you on this. Is there an area you are judging yourself too harshly? Is it appropriate to take action in that area or can you let yourself off the hook in that area? Drop me an email with your experience.

Thanks for all the love and support that has been coming my way during this challenging time. I will be back next week with some tips to keep moving as we roll the clocks back and head into the food seasons of Thanksgiving and the December holidays! Also stay on the lookout for some cool news around December 1st! Please share with anyone you think might benefit from my journey!

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Why I do what I do.

Habits are invisible. Movement just happens. You don't actively think about how to stand up and walk across a room. Right?? Unless a foot or knee or hip are not working as they should then it can be tough or downright painful.

The human body is an amazing instrument and everyone’s is different. Some people have long limbs and short torsos, some have long torsos and short limbs, some are lean and naturally muscular, others work hard to build strength and even harder to gain and maintain flexibility, while more still have such flexibility in their elbows, knees, shoulders and hips that the muscles need to work overtime to protect them from injury. Or more commonly learn how to recover.

Pilates and Yoga Therapy are tools I have used to rehab injuries for myself and post-rehab with my clients. I know what it is like to work through an injury. It is extremely rewarding to guide my clients on their path to strengthen, re-balance, and improve their overall functional fitness.

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