In my last piece on the recovery process I wrote “My partner is cunning. Each day we set a destination and walked. Each day she made subtly sure that I walked further, gaining strength” It is now just over a year (5 in 2020) since I came out of hospital, and the recovery road has proved to be long and hard. Walking has been a central part of the plan. It is an easy form of exercise.
To start with the target was low. No pressure to walk quickly, just gentle strolls daily. Gradually the length of walk, along the beach, then the cliffs, has changed as the process became easier. Initially walking 3,000 steps was difficult, complicated by the types of medicines I was on which impacted my musculature and caused some muscle spasm. I stopped pills in turn until thing began to improve. My doctor cooperated, changing type of pill and dosage size.( In 2019 I discovered, with the help of a physio, that I could replace tablets with an exercise routine)
Now I am breaking the 10,000 steps a day barrier for the first time, and as my strength has returned so my spirits have risen. I am back in the studio. I have said that so many times, and the number of aborted canvases stand testament to the false starts, but now things seem to be flowing again. The walks have sharpened my photography and mind alike. My partner and the doctor have gradually stiffened the tasks for me with beneficial results.
The tests don’t stop. As the consultants warned at the beginning of the cancer treatment, “we never let you go” and they don’t. Each visit and test brings the fear of the cancer back followed by relief as each time I test clear (even 5 years on). In the Valley of the Shadow I wrote how fear clouded my creativity. The fear has declined in direct relationship to the improvement in my physical health.
I accept that the accidental removal of an artery, the loss of a kidney and other problems mean I will no longer live free of pain. But it is low level and manageable. As fitness levels have risen so my sense of self has returned and my confidence in pushing on with my work has likewise enabled the development of working habits.
For those who suffer as I have suffered I would say take one small step, but take it often and it will grow into many and your fitness levels will rise. I walk every day now. I grudge the time it takes away from the studio but the benefits feed back into that same studio, so I persist. I have a doctor who encourages smilingly, a loving partner who pushes and plans for me.
You never need be alone with fear in your recovery programme if you don’t want to be. Organisations exist to help, starting with the NHS, and supported by others such as Macmillan. Family and friends are important, but it is your own determination to improve that matters most. Set small targets to start with and as you improve, as you surely will, just gently raise them.
It has taken the years since the operations to fully recover, as much as I ever will fully recover. I’ve had my ‘three score and ten’ now, plus a few. Probability says I have perhaps another decade. I intend it to be productive and positive. I paint, therefore I am. I hope you too will follow your dream. Never say never, never give up.
Previous posts from the last four years detailing my experience with diabetes, cancer and treatments whilst struggling to get a work flow going in the studio include
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