Every doctor will tell you this: exercise is important. Exercise is even more important when you're waging a war against cancer. Luckily, nobody relishes working out more than yours truly.
When I was in the hospital post-op, and found out the fairly long road ahead of me which included months of chemo and another, much more physically exacting surgery, I envisioned only one person, idea, vision:
Rocky Balboa. Come on, you can hear that theme music, right?
Yes -- I, too, would train for my nemesis by following a fierce workout regime and would emerge victorious. Maybe I wouldn't hit sides of raw beef like Rocky did in the first movie, but, you know what? Maybe I would. I couldn't wait to get off those clear liquids to some serious protein and start pumping iron like only a champion can.
Only...I had to wait. To put it bluntly, my gut had just been cut open and my bowels had some serious retooling done to them, so I had to take it easy. A phrase (and concept) that Rocky and I have trouble stomaching: take it easy. Obviously, Dr. Ramos and the others were right -- I needed to rest and let my body heal, and not do anything that would put that healing process in jeopardy. This included lifting heavy weights which would necessarily engage my gut muscles. Those muscles were to be on vacation for a looong time. Conventional wisdom says that by six weeks post-op, the belly area is 85% healed. I figured that meant about a month for me, but I didn't challenge anybody and tried to sustain myself with one of the least exciting forms of exercise (at least, in my opinion): walking.
So I walked short distances. Then pushed it to longer distances. Soon, I started power walking. And when Will and my dad weren't watching, I threw a quick skip or jog into the mix. (Seriously, I need to give a lot of credit to my mom, who has fully believed in my ability to push my body within its limits and has rarely bothered me with an "Ohhhh, be careful!" or a "Hey, watch yourself!" Evidently, those phrases are saved for my male nurses.)
I started to realize during the last couple of days that not only was my brain ready for the gym, my body was, too.
By "the gym," I'm referring to Educogym, the incredible place that taught me how 20 minutes of pumping iron could transform my chub into some serious steel. During the first five months of this year, I was a devout member of the Educogym plan, which combined those 20 minutes of training with a stringent diet. In the process, I lost 30 pounds and became the muscular beast I am today...or, at least, the muscular beast I was when I checked in at Good Samaritan.
I've noticed that over the last month or so (it's hard to believe, but it's been 5 weeks since my surgery), I've lost some of the muscle I painstakingly worked hard to gain earlier this year. I am determined -- chemo or not, cancer or not -- to get that back and then some. I want to go through this entire process not only mentally and spiritually tough, but physically tough, too. I know that my physical strength helped me tremendously after my first surgery, and I plan to be even stronger for my next one. You know, like Rocky preparing to fight The Russian in Rocky IV strong.
Tonight, I paid a visit to my wonderful Irish trainers at Educogym, and could be away from those weights no longer. I did three leg extensions and felt invigorated; I did a couple of bicep curls and my heart soared; I did a few tricep presses and had made my decision. Forget November 5th, I decided -- I am going back to the gym TOMORROW. After sending some very carefully worded emails (ok, I begged) to Dr. Lenz and Dr. Ramos, I was cleared by both of them to go do my thing. I need to use excellent judgment on the heaviness of my weights and am absolutely prohibited from overdoing it, but that's just fine with me. A champ has to start somewhere.