I have never considered myself a vain person. I work in a factory, so for most of my life I have never had to get dressed up for work. Jeans and a t-shirt has always been my go to for every occasion. My wife occasionally will see me in a suit and say,”Wow! You look nice.” My hair has been thinning for about 20 years, and, unfortunately I have inherited my father’s nose. But I will say, over the years, I have taken some pride in keeping my body in pretty good shape.
I have always considered myself to be an athlete. Not the type of athlete that dunks a basketball or hits homeruns in beer league softball, but one that could run a race or go for a long bike ride. Marathons, River Bank Runs, 10ks, 5ks, I did them all and was usually somewhere in the middle of the pack. I once did a 10k in a tiny Northern Michigan town that was pretty much a pig roast and family reunion with a 10k thrown in. I came in 3rd. Out of 6. Still solidly mid pack. I took a special kind of pride for being a mid pack guy.
I’ve also done some long bike tours. I’ve done of couple of Ragbrai’s, the ride across the state of Iowa. I’ve also done a DALMAC, a 350 mile ride from Lansing to Mackinaw City, Michigan. I’m particularly proud of that because I completed that ride after my cancer diagnosis, and I did the entire ride on a mountain bike. I’ve always loved riding.
But, after my PSA started heading up in 2014, I started hormone therapy. As I wrote in my blog, The Death of Passion, I just don’t have the will to work that hard anymore. I walk my dog, and my job is pretty physical, but I don’t do the hard workouts anymore.
But even when I was running and biking a lot before hormone therapy, my weight would fluctuate. In between races, my weight would sometimes go up 20 pounds. I would get a gut, maybe little love handles, but I always knew that if I got serious about training I would lose the extra weight. But even when I put on some extra weight, I could always count on my legs. My legs have always been muscular, carrying me through everything. Once I got my legs moving, the lungs would come around, and next thing I knew I was back in shape.
The one thing hormone therapy does to your body is it takes your ability to make muscle. And the muscles you do have start to atrophy. Shortly after I started hormone therapy I gained a quick 20 pounds. I know as time has gone by I have gained way more than that. I don’t get on a scale.
I also try not to look in the mirror. I look occasionally when I go out to make sure my hair is ok, but most of the time I avoid it. When I get out of the shower, I REALLY avoid it. Yikes.
Today, I went to a sporting goods store to buy a knee sleeve. My knee has been bothering me for a couple of months now, probably brought on by my deteriorating muscles and the added weight. I find one my size, and then head off to a changing room to try it on.(It’s impossible to try on a knee sleeve without taking your pants off. I figured the rest of the store did not want to see that.) You know what’s in a changing room? A big ol’ mirror. I’ve been concerned about my upper body and stomach, how flabby and fat I’ve gotten. But I never thought about my legs. Today, I looked at my legs for the first time in a long time.
I was shocked. I didn’t recognize them. The muscle tone? Gone. Any kind of tone? Gone. From my inner thighs down to my knees there were these little pockets of cellulite. If someone took a picture of my legs and I had to pick them out of a lineup, I couldn’t do it. Ruined the rest of my day.
These are the kind of things that sock you in the gut as a cancer patient. Dealing with different treatments, the doctors appointments, the money spent, feeling apprehensive about the future for both you and your family, not to mention the fatigue and feeling sick, it all kind of sucks. But sometimes, it is just a little thing like a changing room mirror that can take away any optimism you had for that day. And the thing is, you know it’s stupid, that you are fighting a disease that can kill you, you shouldn’t worry about the man in the mirror. But, you do.
I look in the mirror and I think, that’s not me. That’s not who I am. Damn it cancer, you took my legs. I want my legs back. I want my body back. I want my life back.
I am trying to stay positive through this whole ordeal, but I have to admit, some days are really hard. And sometimes all it takes to have a bad day, is the man in the mirror.
Thanks for reading.