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  • Lori Micheli

How Exercise Played a Big Role in my Recovery

Updated: May 28, 2019

Before I was diagnosed with cancer one thing that I did for myself was exercise. No matter how busy my life got I made room for exercise. It felt good to move my body. My two favorites were yoga and running, oh, how I miss a good run. I did not realize how good of shape I was in, I'm not talking Keto Green shape I'm talking Lori shape, until it was taken away from me. The doctors said I had a couple of things going for me which was my age :) and that I exercised. The doctors encouraged me to keep up the walking in the hospital because after all the chemo and radiation I was going get weak. So, that's what I did. I built a exercise routine. Every night around 6:00 p.m. when it was quite, I would put on my pink sneakers, make sure all my tubes to my medicine pole were untangled and began my walk around floor 12. Like clockwork, A girl named Chantelle who delivered my meals knew of my routine. Right before I took off, Chantelle would come in and remind me to order dinner before it was too late. I loved her. I hope one day I will be able to tell Chantelle that I will never forget how loved she made me feel. My friend Jenny set me up on her Spotify account and created a play list called Fight Songs that helped her get through a difficult time in her life. Every night I walked around the floor for an hour like a rat in a cage. Me and my pole and my fight songs. After my hour walk, I went into a room and did the stationary bike for 30 minutes. I knew I had to physically stay strong and that was the one thing I could control in my life. It kept me sane. I would come back to my room at 7:30 and my dinner was waiting for me. I don't think Chantelle had to come back and clear my tray but she always did. Jesus sent me Chantelle.

After my bone marrow transplant and my little stay in ICU, I went from working out for ninety minutes a night to needing help using the commode next to my bed. I was a new born. The physical therapist would help me with ankle circles. I was in bad shape. Not only was my body weak from being in ICU for three days but my lungs were not in the best shape either. I didn't think it could get worse, I needed to move. I started from the beginning. Like I said, ankle stretches to start. lifting myself up onto a commode. Walking five steps to the bathroom. I then tired to walk the floor. That was a big goal. I made it about 10 steps but I did it. Everyday I did something. I knew my body would remember but it was at a snails pace. It was eventually time for me to go home. Can you hear the choir singing? I could not believe it. It was mandatory that I had a caregiver for the first 100 days. Liz from Marin Home Care picked me up from the hospital and brought me home. I live in a typical San Francisco home that has lots of stairs. I walked up the first flight and barely made it. I had to sit down and catch my breath. My caregivers, just like my nurses, were my angels...holy people. They fed me, bathed me, encouraged me, they loved me back to health. Thank you Liz, Irma and Kattia. These beautiful ladies gently helped me make shifts to recover. They had goals for me. My nurse practitioner, Stephanie, who I had to see two times a week told me that I need to move more. She said, Lori, I don't care if you walk to the front of your house but you need to move. My caregivers listened and so did I. We walked to the front door and then we then to the corner, made it two blocks until one day we finally made it to the bridge which is about 4 miles round trip. You get the picture. It was hard, we stopped a lot but we were making progress. I decided to attend a yoga class. I told the instructor that I might be in child's pose the whole time because I was recovering from cancer. The woman next to me jumped up and said, I overheard you say that you had cancer? I said yes. She told me she was just diagnosed three days ago with breast cancer and was freaking out. I told her she could fight! and could call me anytime. I saw the relief on her face. I hope I was her angel in that moment. I am still in the process of getting stronger and my goal one day is to run again. I started with a trainer because I have lost a lot of my muscle mass. Shomar, my trainer, says you can run again. I said, I can? I will keep you posted.

One side affect from chemo and radiation is getting neuropathy. After a long walk my feet are in pain. I have tried gabapentin, acupuncture, vitamins, eliminating dairy, massage and can't find anything that helps. I love shoes and it's really hard to find stylish shoes that didn't kill me feet. I was tired of living in my tennis shoes. My friend Mary Sue created a shoe called Bendy. I read about them and they were cute and looked really comfortable so I thought I would give them a try. You know I love to support my friends so I bought a pair. I am completely obsessed. I love them they and go perfectly with my size six, sometimes eight, skinny jeans. That's not all! The Bendy is a eco-friendly leather shoe with a low carbon footprint made here in California. They might not cure my neuropathy but my feet feel better when I wear them. If you would like to know more. Check them out. I bought mine in black but might get another pair in pink ;).

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We all know exercise is important but for me it made such a difference in my recovery. In the past I exercised to calm the body shaming voices in my head. My reasons for exercising today is to stay strong physically and mentally. My body is beautiful just the way it is and my daughter recently informed me that a curvy figure is in. God saved me for a reason and I want to do everything I can to live out that calling. Before I was diagnosed with leukemia I ran about 4 half marathons. I never pushed myself to run a full marathon. I know what your thinking, Your goal is to run a full marathon? No! Well, I shouldn't underestimate myself :)

All that running prepared me for my biggest run of all...recovering from cancer. Cancer or no cancer, get out there! A walk to the grocery store or that Marathon that you have been putting off. Yes, do it because you want to get into your size four jeans but mainly exercise to stay mentally and physically strong for anything that comes your way.

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