Breast cancer lesson number 92: Embrace the change of pace

Yesterday, I was defeated by the vacuum cleaner. Strange as it may sound, a piece of plastic (albeit a well-crafted one) with multiple arm extensions brought a dust cloud to my otherwise bright and sunny day.

It could have waited a little while longer (even though the moths are getting a little friendly). I really didn’t need to clean the whole house. But, never one to leave a job unfinished, I dug out the vacuum after a lovely day with friends and had a good go at the carpet. And, you know what? I really wish I hadn’t.

Now before you think I’ve lost the plot, this is not a blog post about vacuuming (fun as I know that would be). This is the post about just how hard it is to go from the active, always-on-the-go Jackie with her ultimate to-do list to the chemo Jackie who often needs a bit of a sit down. Satisfaction comes from a to-do list that goes down not up. And, currently it feels like the list is getting longer by the day.

The trouble is, I wasn’t exactly overdoing it. A drive to see good friends, a short walk and a few household chores does not a packed day make. Admittedly, I probably should have saved the hob cleaning for another day, and didn’t need to do that second load of laundry. But, when chemo gifts you a window of energy, it’s really hard not to grab it.

Chemo fatigue is something about which I haven’t written so far. That’s not because I didn’t know about it or hadn’t experienced it. It’s because I thought that by not mentioning it, it might just go away. No one wants to feel like they’ve run the marathon when they’ve only just climbed the stairs – especially not at the age of 32. I spent my 20s watching friends have fun on the dance floor while I battled hip pain. I thought I’d be the one to set the pace in my 30s. Maybe next year…

The truth is, I have no choice but to slow it down. And, if I’m honest, that’s probably no bad thing. Nobody needs to watch TV while simultaneously tidying the coffee table, sorting papers and writing a shopping list. The dust can wait for another day (along with the wonky doorstop and the half-painted wall). Fighting cancer drugs is enough for most agendas and, for now, it has to be enough for me too.

Of course, the physios and occupational therapists do have a few tricks up their sleeves to help us make the most of every day. The secret? Pacing! The aim is to avoid getting into an overactivity-rest cycle. That means doing little and often every day to build up strength rather than trying to cram in a whole week’s worth of activity into one day just because you feel well (and then needing a few days to recover). That does mean planning in tasks (and sticking to the plan), but the plan has to be realistic! The motto is ‘do what you planned – not what you feel like’. It sounds simple. But, when running before you can walk is your default position, it takes a bit of getting used to.

So, for now, I shall try my best to sit back and enjoy this change of pace. And, if you are currently in the middle of a chemo cycle (or about to start), I hope you can too.

Just don’t expect a fluff-free floor on your next visit!

3 comments

  1. The change of pace is so hard to get used to! My husband told me last night, you need to slow down. I’ve never really been one to “just relax”. I’m trying!

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