“Happy bone marrow birthday to you! Don’t let them forget your cake.”
– my nurse, this morning
I’ve just been through something called “high-dose chemo”. Today I’ll receive the stem cells I donated to myself last month, which will rescue my bone marrow from what otherwise would be terminal damage. While this sounds dire, it’s a common procedure for lymphomas and leukemia. Unless Godzilla decided to invade Salt Lake City tomorrow and takes out my Red Cross truck, I like my chances. 100 days from now I have a physical assessment. Told “almost everybody” loses fitness during this time, I have a goal; to improve it.
The title of this post looks cliched but actually literal. Your lungs more or less completely remake themselves in 100 days, which is probably why they test at this time. Here’s another article on regeneration of cell tissue, which is pretty interesting stuff. We’re constantly rebuilding our bodies. We can change them, for better and for worse. With my young stem cells churning away (the old ones make new ones), I should have a lot of influence in this development. The flip side is that before that happens everything crashes from the effects of the chemo and the cells trying to take hold. Apparently, you don’t feel too spry while this is happening, making it, according to staff around here, “very hard to get people out of bed at all.”
I’ve got a lot of motivation to change this template. First of all it’s my health, which you’d think would be enough for anyone (makes me think it’s actually hard as opposed to public perception of hard). Finding training solutions to all predicaments is my life’s MO, as well as my main resolution for the year. But mainly, my lung function fell to 57% after the first four rounds of chemo, even though I was very active. That woke me up to get more specific in how I approach this process. I also want to use this re-birth, if you will, to build my body back exactly how I want it for performance. This is something I’ve always thought about but it’s hard to make such a rash decision (to atrophy purposefully, which I have done a couple of times to a lesser degree) without a real cause to do it. The goal at the end is to be better than I was. I’d also like to find a recovery template that’s useful for others as there’s a lot of improvement was can make in this field.
The metrics – a different kind of before and after
I took a fit test at one of the lower points in my fitness. I’ll use those numbers at the end. I’ve been training better since, and already increased fitness somewhat, but this is supposed to get knocked down significantly in the next few weeks.
I’ve been logging everything I’ve eaten and my training since admitted a week ago. I will continue throughout. Not much is known about the best way to attack this. The main challenge–aside from getting out of bed, apparently–is the balance between the maximum you can to improve but not doing too much to impede recovery. While that’s the challenge of every training program, I have no data to work off of here except my own, though the hospital staff will provide any information they can. Anyway, I’ll be the lab rat (what’s new?). Then we’ll taylor my findings to what we think will work for different demographics.
Of course, no small matter, this will only be effective if my plan works on me first!
Everything I’m doing is subject to change, of course, but so far I’ve been focused on four things:
Breath work, including breath holding. Since starting these exercises I’ve increased my lung function over 20%. Tonight, after a round of intense chemo, I held my breath for 2 minutes with a hematocrit of 24, about half normal. Breathing is an active thing. Training it makes you stronger.
Knee rehab. Duh. 11 days out of surgery and I managed 1.5 hour hike with hills with no knee pain. ROM isn’t full yet but increasing daily. I do think this was perfect timing for a knee surgery, as I’ll be far more likely to do everything I’m supposed to and not overdo it. Also worth noting, since the knee works in harmony with balanced movement patterns, knee rehab will include working many muscles of the kinetic chain that affect its movement. Lots of stability and core training are a part of this.
Forearm training. Since I spent my first 25 years of life playing big muscle power sports, I’ve never had particularly strong fingers and forearms for climbing. This is my chance for a little re-programming of priorities. Fingers to elbows is your primary climbing arsenal. I’m putting these muscles first on my list.
Total body training. Another duh, since this is how you create hormonal cascades to most effective change your body composition quickly. It’s also the biggest crap shoot, since creating hormonal triggers can cause your body to prioritize the wrong healing processes. Nail this and we’ll have a template we can use for others. F-it up and I’ll prolong my recovery.
Other assorted minutia – above is my mouth care arsenal, just one of the little nitpicks you get more aware of during this process. Mouth sores are super common with hardcore chemo. I’ve often had them in long endurance events, especially multi-day, where your diet is sugary, you’re undernourished, and your ability to clean is compromised. They frigging suck, often worse than any other pain you’re dishing on yourself. Suffice to say I’ve been extremely diligent throughout treatment and, knock on wood, so far so good. There are a lot of little things like this to deal with. Most of them basically good practices for life anyway. I’ll try and post on them later.
So that’s my 100 day challenge. What are you doing to make 2015 great?
Here’s yesterday’s food and exercise log. It was a crazy good day for some odd reason.
Day 7 (“rest” day – aminoglobulan infusion)
Each day about 1-gallon of water
Rehab – easy foot/leg manipulations
Breathing 100 X Breath of Fire
8am – Hemp/maca/coconut oil shake
Aerobic 5m easy walking & 5 minutes spinning
8:30 – Tea (black) – egg/green chili/ Evol burrito
10:30 – Tea (black)
Breathing 5200 inhale test (best of 10), 100 X Breath of Fire, 4 X exhale/hold, 1:45 max hold (hematocrit at 24)
11: 00 – Shakeology (with infusion start)
Knee Rehab, part 1
1-leg raises straight 25,25
1- leg raise in 25,25
1-leg raise out 25,25
1 – leg raises prone 25, 25
1 – heel slide 25, 25
1pm – Vegan cheesesteak from Buds. Huge and good.
2pm – black tea
Aerobic – 1.5 hour hike w/hills. Felt pretty awesome. Weird.
6pm – small apple sauce
Upper Body – 15 X 2 of (back flys, curls, in&out flys, tri ext)
Knee Rehab/Core, part 2
Slow squat(2-L) 16, 16
Calf raise bent 16,16, 16,16
Toe Drag 10,10,10,10
Calf raise straight 16,16,16,16,
Bench hams (1-L) 10, 10, 10, 10 alt with 3X30 core reps
Mobility – NIS series & knee manipulations
8:30pm – 1 – Tofu Brats w/raw cheese curds, mayo, mustard, bun; Evol chicken/green chili burrito; cottage cheese w/lemon-pepper
Breathing 5300 inhale test (best of 10), 100 X Breath of Fire, 4 X exhale/hold, 2:00 max hold (hematocrit at 24)
9:30 – Vegan cookie
10:30 – Bedtime tea
Comments – Probably the best day I’ve had in the hospital. Weird, since I’m technically hammered. Exercise cranked. Did a 2:00 breath hold with a hct at 24 (half of normal). Work was super productive and, in fact, had to shut it down tonight earlier than was ready because I have a big day coming up and it starts early. Worried my adrenal system was working overtime and could create too much overload but I slept very well, so probably not. Must say, pretty psyched to finally get here. Let’s get those stem cells working and get back in the game. The only question remains, do I change my birthday?
Note – for those of you who know me, a couple of things require explaining. Mainly, why tea instead of coffee? I have some good insight on this but it will have to wait for another day. Forearm work is every other day, currently, and want it to match with my “birthday”. Just know that nothing here is done without consideration of stacking the odds in my favor.
pics: knee rehab in my home away from home gym and my last outside hurrah for a while. In a couple of days I won’t be able to leave my floor until my immune system recovers.