Challenging Your Own Self-Care

When I walked into my office this afternoon and noticed the pair of hand weights collecting dust next to my desk, something clicked. I have been dropping the ball on my own self-care. There is no excuse for the layer of dust on those weights -- after all, they are not very heavy, and I need to be more actively working on putting muscle mass back on my frame. It is time for me to be more conscientious about my physical fitness, regardless of the other challenges that have erupted this past month.

Pausing my self-care for treatment

Over on my personal blog, I have been running "self-care challenges" for the past few months. These are as much for myself as they are for my readers, designed to keep me focused on one aspect of my health or fitness that I need to be working on. I had been making good progress on them, too. That is, until I began my latest course of treatment.

Participating in a clinical trial means that I am in a bit of uncharted territory when it comes to side-effects. My oncologist and I have been working together to come up with the best solutions to deal with, as he put it, my unnecessary suffering. That is not to suggest that I am unhappy about my treatment -- in fact, I am delighted by the success it showed in just the first four weeks, which is why we decided it was better to figure out ways to cope with the issues it causes rather than reduce the dose or shift course. Besides, the majority of my new "suffering" is more annoyance than deal-breaker. Still, it diverted me from the self-care course I was traveling before getting on these meds.

My self-care challenges

Breaking down my first four challenges, which I really needed to focus on, I was making progress on some basic nutrition and fitness routines. First, I challenged myself to get enough sleep. That began well enough. Sleep has been a major problem for me over the past few years, and recently I had begun trying everything from meditation to medical cannabis. After my clinical trial began, the resulting full-body rash was so itchy at night that sleep became almost impossible. All my work seemed for naught -- no drug could keep me down, no matter how exhausted. My oncologist has since put me on a new dose of antihistamines that finally seem to be doing double duty of (slightly) reducing the itch and knocking me out for a good sleep, but I am looking forward to getting drug-free sleep again soon. Without a decent amount of sleep, it is very hard for the body to heal and be healthy. To me, this is the first priority of self-care.

My second and third challenges were rooted in eating more protein and healthy calories. These did not suffer too much under the new regimen, but the purpose behind them was to help me build more muscle mass, something the fourth challenge was focused on. For me, the fourth challenge was almost as important as the first: get more exercise. Before starting this clinical trial, I had lost most of my muscle mass and virtually all my body fat, and I was struggling to regain some of it. Building muscle is especially important to me, so while my exercise challenge was largely focused on doing simple things like taking the stairs and parking at the far end of parking lots, I also included regular use of my hand weights to try and get that mass bulked up (even a little). The itching, uncomfortable nature of my skin, however, made every movement irritating if not downright painful.

In this together

Now that I am finally getting many of my side-effects under control (or at least getting used to them), I am starting to get back to focusing on the other aspects of my body and health needs. By revisiting these challenges to myself, I hope to get back on track. The challenges themselves are a great guide, but one of the things I appreciate about doing them on my blog is the community aspect. After all, taking care of ourselves is important, but sometimes it is easier (or even more fun) to do it together. Group support is a wonderful thing, even if it is just gentle encouragement or an acknowledgment of the effort.

I recommend that we all consider setting our own self-care challenges. You can join me on mine, or establish your own. Not just as cancer patients, but simply as people, self-care is incredibly important and too easy to forsake with the hullaballoo of daily life. The little bit of effort to keep ourselves on track is extremely important, and something that we really cannot afford to neglect.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 21, 2018, Jeffrey Poehlmann passed away. Jeffrey’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. He will be deeply missed.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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