It is a quiet Thursday morning, cozy for sleeping in and staying under the covers and enjoying the silence of an almost-rainy day.
That’s not what happens, though, since we have children!
We have to get up and get our exercises finished before the children wake up, or it gets impossible. Someday we can let them join in the hilarity if they want, but right now we are focused on the discipline itself. We will invite them in the future, but for right now, our mission time is our time, and we need to be sure it is part of our habits before we make more changes. Sometimes the toddler is already awake, and she just laughs at us.
Our exercises are not pretty, or perfect, or advanced, but we are getting them done, together, every morning. It’s not the same as pre-children when we could go hit the Y together after sleeping in, and then work late to make up the late start to the day. Everything is different now.
Besides the children factor, we aren’t just maintaining health or working on weight.
We are fighting cancer.
Crazy as it seems, this treatment is working wonders for us, and we are excited about it.
And it is so much better than just feeling sick.
Except for at six in the morning on a rainy Thursday when every muscle already hurts.
I do have medicine, of course, and a billion vitamins that I try not to complain about too often.
There is eating every three hours, which is actually way harder than you might think.
But the exercise – the moving – has brought us back to life.
I am supposed to do this nine or ten minute routine very first thing in the morning. I get up, say my prayers, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, and we start. Sometimes I am not even awake yet, and I think that is a good thing because it is insane! They are not the same exercises every morning, just three of them. But everyday is a different three, and each day is a different routine. So for example, on Mondays, we do one of the exercises for twenty seconds, then rest for ten, and then do another twenty, etc., for three minutes. Then we do the next exercise in the same pattern for three minutes. But on Thursdays, for example, we do one repetition of each exercise (all three), and then do another circuit of doing two repetitions of each one, and then another circuit of doing three, etc., for the entire nine minutes without stopping. The specific exercises we did today were different ones than yesterday or tomorrow, so that every morning our routine is different, and it doesn’t start over for a whole month. That keeps our body working and going strong instead of adapting to the same kind of exercises. It’s a kind of interval training, and you can read more about it HERE, or getting either of Chris Powell’s books – they are great for explaining these missions, showing the exercises, and teaching the basics of carb cycling. If you already know those things beyond the basics, you might think you don’t need the books, but the motivation and structured plan is really good.
It seems super simple, and doesn’t take long each morning, but we feel it EVERY SINGLE DAY. We are so sore! It is the good sore that means it is working, but ouch! It is way more intense than you think, and every morning we end up collapsed on the floor giggling (or crying). Each exercise has three levels of difficulty, so we started at the beginner level of everything. When we started three weeks ago, I was so week that I had to go down on my knees to get into my pretend burpee, and then go back one foot at a time. We had burpees again for the first time this morning, and today I was able to jump down, jump back, do my pushup, jump forward, and jump back up! I nearly died, I was sure of it, but I was able to do them legit for the whole mission! I cannot do the advanced yet, where you go directly into the pushup right as you jump down. That, to me, sounds pretty much like an invitation to jump and fall on my face on purpose.
But I am starting to imagine that I could get there someday.
We get pretty silly as together we face our fears and private insecurities. Here are some of my favorite quotes so far, from our morning missions:
That was hard enough I need to go spit.
Is this called the faceplant dog position?
Does it count if I just stick my butt up in the air?
I don’t need this. I was celibate for 35 years.
I was much more comfortable when I was just lazy and sat around.
I want to slap Chris Powell right now.
For the record, no one actually wants to slap Chris Powell.
Except on Fridays, which is endurance day.
Clearly, we are not good at enduring yet, which maybe is why we got ourselves stuck in this program, since Mormons are supposed to be really good at enduring. #fail
Nathan has been a very good sport, and does the morning missions with me.
I walk Five to school, and have my long walk then, or else the toddler and I drop him off at school and then walk the trails or at the park. I am walking for about 45 minutes, and getting in a little more than two miles most days. That’s still slower than before, but it’s a lot of moving. I get more movement in when I am working, playing with kids or taking teenagers for walks. Nathan has a pedal thing under his desk to “bike” while he works, and the desk I made him for the treadmill so that he can walk while working, too. In the evenings, we do a little more than a mile together as a family, and then play with the kids on the playground. It all comes out to a minimum of two hours of exercise a day, most days more, and only nine of those minutes are independent of the kids (for now). Half of it we do while we are working. That’s what I love about being healthy: it includes functioning and adaptability (my new favorite phrase from training for the new DSM) as a part of our everyday lives. It’s not just crazy hours away from our family or our work. It’s just how we live, and it feels good.
Except for the backs of my legs or the insides of our thighs or our shoulders or or or, wow! It really is working, and it is good to be alive again. I am not yet medically cleared for my kettle bells or running, but the stretching feels amazing and it has done wonders for my spirit to be outside again, walking and playing.
Yesterday I put that stationary bike together all by myself! I got to use it this morning, and it was so fun! It worked great, and at a setting of only a level two, I had to stop after ten minutes. I was surprised I had to finish so quickly, but it was tough! One thing I love about the “missions” is the training for how to push through something your body thinks is too hard. I am excited to try it on the bike, but have to wait until the doctor says it’s okay. I think I am far enough from surgery that it will be fine, but I still have to pace and balance or the pain comes back. So if I want to plan a day to push through on the bike, I need not to walk two miles at the park first.
That’s what I am most learning: pacing and balance. These are not spiritual gifts I have. I would work like a mad woman at anything, and push myself through anything, just because enduring is what I do (except for Friday morning missions). I can work long hours at three jobs and care for eight children until my body collapses, clearly dis-eased. I can fight through surgery without pain medication, walk until the pain goes away, or see second shift patients after the sun goes down. But I cannot work at just a regular pace, giving my best to both family and work without completely surrendering myself. These are good, and important, lessons, I think, this pacing and balancing. It is maybe the best thing I am learning from cancer, and it is changing how I function as an individual and how we function as a family.
The structure of my treatment is holding us accountable to it. As soon as we finish our mission, Nathan hits the shower to get ready, and I hit the kitchen. I make our morning green juice, oatmeal, and eggs (one egg each, and two egg whites each). The kids drink their green juice, too, as does Nathan, and everyone is being a good sport about it. The green juice is not as easily-yummy as the other juices to make for fun, but since it is prescribed for me for now, we are all getting it down first thing and over with for the day. After my morning walk, it has usually been enough time that I make our daily protein shake (with frozen green juice thrown in like ice cubes), and so I have that while I get ready. To eat again at lunch time is hard, because it is so much fuel for my body that I don’t feel hungry. But fueling well is part of moving well, and it makes me stop and take a break instead of pushing through work days without eating anything at all, and then eating too much after work because I am starving. In the afternoon there is another snack with proteins and carbs and a handful of medicine and vitamins, and now I have much more energy for those final work hours than before. It keeps me awake, alert, and active for the hardest part of the day. Dinner is easy when I have remembered to lay out meat, and especially when I use the crockpot in the mornings of days that I know will be late evenings. Our evening family walks have become some of our favorite times together, and bridges us back together after our long days instead of just having long days disconnected and sending everyone to bed without reconnecting.
I know that in and of itself green juice doesn’t solve the world’s problems. I know that our meager attempts at exercise are nothing compared to what real athletes can do. I know that medicine doesn’t promise cancer won’t come back. I know that no treatment plan is a guarantee of months or years or days.
But I do know that we, today, are working really hard at being good stewards of our own mortality, and that we are enjoying every minute of it (except those first nine in the morning), and that it is making us strong in ways more than just muscles. I know that it is good for us, that we can already tell a difference, and that it is making us happy as increase our capacity to work and play together as a family.
And really, when you think about it, our family is our greatest miracle.