This past weekend I went for a run for the first time since my mastectomy two years ago.
Before breast cancer, I was running 2-3 times per week. It was a great way to stay in shape and relieve stress. But after breast cancer, I was really scared to go running.
The nurse in my plastic surgeon’s office kept reassuring me that it would probably be easier to run now with implants, rather than real breasts. Less moving around, if you know what I mean.
It makes sense, but I was still worried. Implants are just balls of gel glued to my chest. I’m no Flo-Jo, so setting a world record for speed wasn’t and will never be in the cards for me. But couldn’t my implants fall off from running? OK, that’s probably not gonna happen. But my mind wanders to strange places these days.
So after two years of trepidation, I decided it was time to try it. Recently there have been some articles about how running beats walking for breast cancer survival, so that added to my motivation.
As I got dressed, I put on my compression sleeve, as my physical therapist insisted to prevent lymphedema. I think this is one of the reasons why I had been hesitant to start running. I hate wearing that compression sleeve. It doesn’t hurt, its just bothersome – physically and mentally. Its tight, as its supposed to be to work, but feels constricting.
And I know I shouldn’t care what people think when they look at me, but the compression sleeve is a reminder that I’m not like everyone else running. What I have to wear when I run is now different than what everyone else wears. I know I’m doing the right thing by wearing it, but I sure wish I didn’t have to. It’s just another reminder that you’re never done with cancer, even when you’re done with cancer treatment.
So I laced up my shoes, put my ipod on and headed out the door. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was finally shining and it was warm enough to be outside without a jacket. A perfect day for a first run.
I started out slowly. I walked a couple blocks while I gave myself a little pep talk. I can always stop running and start walking if my implants hurt. Or if I got scared. Getting out the door is usually the hardest part.
Once I started running, I actually felt great. I couldn’t believe it. The nurse was right – my implants didn’t move at all. It was easier to run with implants than real breasts. Imagine that!
I only ran for a couple miles, but for me at this point, it was like running a marathon. I deserved a metal, or at least a ribbon for participation.
At the end of my run I walked for a few blocks before going inside. As I walked, I started to cry. I was so happy to be doing something that I loved pre-cancer and was finally able to do post-cancer.
Being a breast cancer survivor is really hard – some ups and lots of downs. But running made me feel like not everything was taken away from me with a cancer diagnosis. It was the first time in two years that a part of me really believed there could be life after cancer.