On Tuesday, I decided to take back my strength. I don’t know why I continue to use this phrase, or turn of words – but it makes me feel good saying it. For the past few weeks, since adjusting my Tacrolimus dose, I’ve been slowly feeling better and better – less fatigue, more like my pre-transplant self (within reason, of course. I’m still tired and I think it will be a while until I’m hiking 20+ miles or doing benchmark workouts). I’ve been adding miles to my hikes, have been more active with daily routines around the house (nothing wild and crazy and good lord, that fifth trip up the stairs in 30 minutes will still leave me breathless) – but I’ve craved more. I’ve wanted more for myself and for my recovery. Perhaps I’m just at that point in this transplant process, who knows?
But if I’m feeling better, and that itch to go to the gym is there, I believe it says something about how my body & mind are recovering after my transplant. It speaks to where I’m at in this process. Two months ago, going to the gym wasn’t even a thing – so I didn’t force it. Tuesday was different: it was time, and I was ready.
During my hematology appointment, I brought this up with Dr. W. He wanted me to be cautious, to possibly wait another 2 weeks until I’m off immunosuppressives, but he also admitted that I needed a balance in my life. I didn’t get a green light, but I also didn’t get a red one either. I spoke twice with Andy – the first while waiting for Dr. W. Andy asked a few questions and listened; later, while I was receiving IV fluids, I called him back.
“I think you need to do it,” were the first words out of his mouth. Under my face masks, I grinned.
Then it was a matter of timing – finishing off my IV bag, driving home and changing into gym attire, and making the noon class. Thankfully it all worked out, and nearly 6-months to the day of my last workout at Hard Exercise Works (HEW), I ran through the front door just as the 7 other participants were starting their warm-up. I wanted to hug Coach Joe & Coach Drew – I was so happy. But I didn’t (transplant, COVID, you understand). Instead, I tossed on my shoes and did the workout.
It was hard, required overhead squats and balance and lifting and running and burpees (I hate burpees), and I was by far the slowest one there, and lifted the lightest weights. But I LOVED every minute. Loved. Every. Minute. I was happy, I was there, I was doing it! I was reclaiming my strength.
In the end, all was well. My heart rate spiked upwards of 181 and breath was not always easy under my mask. But looking around HEW, everyone was breathing hard under their masks. It’s just a thing. Afterwards, my multi-talented friend Cynthia – musician and HEW coach – invited me for an easy post-workout 1-mile run. So we ran. I’ll admit – it wasn’t easy and Cynthia was kind in slowing the pace and holding most of the conversation (though I would occasionally blurt out a few words, most of which were hopefully intelligible).
As a side note, I just have to link to one of Cynthia’s performances…this version of Gin & Juice, originally performed by Snoop Dogg circa 1994, is awesome! Enjoy! Cynthia also performs every week at the Battery Park Book Exchange/Champagne Bar and multiple other venues.
Post workout, I stretched, drank a ton of water, ate food and went for a walk…just as a way of keeping my legs moving. It’s been so long since I’ve done anything like this (lift weights, workout with intensity) – I honestly didn’t want my legs to freeze up on me. So I did a hike to Ledford Gap in Bent Creek, just to stay moving and try to flush out any lactic acid that had undoubtedly accumulated after my workout.
Later, I had a session with my therapist – one of the best investments I can make in myself – and then picked up 2 zucchini, a pound of green beans, goat cheese and beets from Whole Foods. The thing about Whole Foods? I love it, I really do, but it’s a dangerous store. I swear, I walk in and there’s just something – like beets, for example – something that I didn’t know existed five minutes before, but suddenly I must have and can’t live without.
Yes, today it was beets.
So I paid $5- for beets. Better than the $8 artichoke hearts. Oh well. It was only a single item “list violation” and dinner (sans beets) was delicious.
Later, Andy played his pool match (billiards not swimming) at Fat Cats and did his Team Captain thing. I showed up towards the end of the evening as requested and had a blast playing another skill level 2. For the first time in over a year, I actually won a match – but I had some lucky rolls and some good looks at balls near pockets, or whatever the pool language jargon is. I think what made it so fun, was that my opponent is a very kind person who doesn’t take the game super seriously (like me, mostly), and that both teams cheered for each other. We had fun chatting afterwards.
And that was it!
Physically – sore! Tired! Jumpy legs from the overhead squats and running and burpees, all of which are acceptable. My face skin remains sensitive, still and I’m looking forward to my dermatology appointment next week for their input (it’ll be the first time I see my Asheville-based dermatologist). My skin is still dry, but I continue with my prescribed topical lotions (metronidazole, hydrocortisone, nystatin, petroleum jelly), and wash with Z soap and use my CeraVe face moisturizer. For my eyes, I continue to use Restasis, a prescription eye drop, both mornings and evenings. Because I’ve been studiously wearing compression socks, my lymphedema remains mostly in check. And now, I really can’t think of much more.
Emotionally, I’m good. Happy. Feeling as though I’ve been given a gift. I feel empowered that I’ve taken this step and returned to a gym where mask policy is practiced/enforced, cleaning is a priority and where I feel safe, accepted and welcomed. I’ve missed the HEW community and always feel better after a session. It doesn’t matter that I’m slow, won’t be lifting heavy weights for a while and DFL (Dead Fucking Last) a workout – I’m doing it! And I’m also listening to my body, not pushing too much, getting re-adjusted to the movements and practicing compassion. Sprinkle in a bit of self-deprivation, and there you go. It takes time to build strength, speed, proficiency – I’ve recovered and come back from so many illnesses, starting at the bottom and working my way back up…..I’ve done hard things before, and I can do this, too. One day at a time, one session at a time – I’m reclaiming my strength and doing something positive for my body. That makes me feel happy, makes me feel good.
Enough of that SoapBox for now. Have a happy afternoon/evening/morning wherever you are!