Passing through the first cancerversaries.

“Cancerversary?” I hear you ask…”You can’t be serious?”

Lol, it is a real thing.

First one to pass was 22nd March – day of diagnosis. Then…

29th March – full biopsy results and discussion of treatment plan…

20th April – Day of surgery.

3rd of May – results of surgery and discussion regarding the potential of needing chemo as well as radiotherapy. (I didn’t need chemo in the end)

It’s serious stuff isn’t it? Although you need to give me a break, after all it has only been one year since it all happened.

I sincerely hope as the years go by (and I’m hoping for many more years without evidence of cancer) that I won’t really pass comment on the dates but it all still feels a little raw in my heart. It’s still hard to believe it happened and I still don’t think there’s a day that goes past in which I don’t think about it at least once. It might be a fleeting thought but it occurs every day.

I’m one of the lucky ones. There are people who are still getting treated and living with cancer.

Anyway – time to make some new anniversaries. On Sunday I will be competing in my first triathlon in nearly 20 months. It’s a pool-based sprint triathlon in my home town of Derry. It’s actually one of the first triathlon’s I ever did nearly fifteen years ago!! I know I’m not as young and fit as I was when I was 22 but I’m looking forward to giving it my best shot.

Training has been going reasonably well for Ironman. I’ve now got 17 weeks under my belt with 15 weeks left. No injuries, no illnesses as yet which is all good. I’ve started doing a little bit of speed-work on the running front as well and am running stronger than I ever have in my life. To be honest I think this is down to just being consistent. If you look at my training diaries on fetcheveryone you will see that in previous years I’ve been a little inconsistent regarding the running.

My next target it to think about nutrition. I have lost very little weight, even with all the training I’m doing. I am a healthy weight, but am heavier than I was last year going through treatment. This could be due to me just eating appropriately and the fact I’m on tamoxifen. I haven’t been sick with any colds or viruses this year which is a good sign, but still I’d like to tighten up the nutritional side of things and make sure I’m eating healthily.

Coach has asked me to come up with some mantras and thoughts to consider when I hit tough patches mentally during the Ironman.

The one that comes to the forefront is “I get to do this”.

I’m so lucky to be able to exercise, to be able to get back into doing the thing I love best – swimming, biking and running. Many others can’t do it because they have bigger fish to fry and don’t have the choice I do. That’s what I will draw on.

I noticed on the Women 4 Tri facebook page today another competitor’s story for IM Copenhagen (IM Copenhagen is the official Women 4 Tri event this year.)

She is raising money for an Motor Neurone Disease (MND) charity because her father was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease earlier this year. She’s done loads of other challenges every month and August is IM Copenhagen. She finishes her story with this winning phrase –

“The ability to push your body to its limits is a luxury. If the only thing holding you back is tired lungs and legs, you’re lucky.”

My sentiment exactly. πŸ˜‰

Thanks for reading guys.

PS My yearly mammogram on 1st April came back with the all clear. Therefore one year clear ticked off.

I’ve started raising money for Macmillan at this link

www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jenny-cosgroveIMCope

8 weeks later…

Ahhhh! I was meant to keep up to date with my blog a bit better than this!
I’m now finishing the first 8 weeks of my plan tomorrow – this being my second recovery week. (Coach and I opted for a three week build followed by a one week recovery week as the foundation of ‘the plan’.)

It’s been going good…I think?
It’s weird following a plan I haven’t written myself. At times it feels very easy (too easy) and then other times I feel a little pressured to do stuff because I don’t want to disappoint my coach who will be watching on training peaks. :-/

All in all though I think this is the better way. I have a tendency to push myself to hard, expect too much of myself whilst paradoxically on the complete flip side I sometimes am so lazy and don’t get out of bed. It’s all or nothing with me. Having Arran help me out has actually made my life much more balanced.

Me and R went to New York and Boston on week 6 of the plan and I was fretting about getting the training in but coach sent me a little message saying to enjoy myself and don’t panic. The important thing was I got my long bikes and long runs in anyway, and I don’t think I suffered for that at all! By the way New York and Boston was fantastic, highly recommend both. If in Boston do the freedom trail, great way to see Boston.

So January and February have some consistent training in the bank and we are on to March.

sporttracks2019124 weeks left to Ironman Copenhagen 2019. No niggles yet but we are going to be pushing the mileage and hours up a bit in the next few weeks so fingers crossed I’m strong for it.

In other news, my parents have booked flights out to Copenhagen and are looking for accommodation now too. I think it might be an emotional finish line with my family and R there but I’ve got to get there first. The focus must remain!

In other other news…I have my first year scan (mammogram) on 1st April. Trying not to feel a bit worried that I’m having it on April Fool’s day. I’ve been anxious for a while about this – not sure if a mammogram is going to be helpful in ruling out any wee nasties but I guess I got to leave this up to the professionals. If there is any doubt they will likely book another scan, like a 3d mammogram or MRI.
If I’m honest I’m slightly less anxious now I have a date for it but am sure the scanxiety will be real closer to the time. It’s literally just an appointment for a scan, there won’t be any results on the day – have to wait a few weeks for that! Scary…ok not thinking about it anymore.

Once I get that over me I’m going to start a just-giving page for my Ironman endeavours. I want to raise money for Macmillan. I’m afraid to start it just yet until I know I’m in the clear. Paranoid and superstitious doesn’t even come in to it!! (It will be 5 months till Ironman so that’s plenty of time to raise a little fundraising money.)

Anyway, that’s my update. I’ve probably missed a lot but will try to be a bit more frequent in my posting for the next few months.

Thanks for listening.

Good to get it done!

So the first week of my plan came with one little hitch.
I’m at a work conference in London for three days…no access to my turbo or bike and although there are swimming pools close by I just don’t have membership and the inside knowledge of when is best to go for a swim! Running is no problem, lots of nice things to look at when running in London.

So…did back to back swims on Monday and Tuesday – job done. Got my easy jog in before I left and managed my first brick session in my hotel gym this evening. 30 minutes on an old school exercise bike and 10 minutes on the treadmill sitting beside it!!
Needs must.

On the plan tomorrow is a 50 minute turbo (back to the hotel gym bike) and then on Friday I have a 30 minute recovery run which I plan to do along the lovely South Bank. (Is that how it’s worded?)
Then back to Northern Ireland for my weekend sessions.

I got this.

:-)πŸ™‚

Wowee New Year!

Sorry to have been absent for the last few months, I’ve been busy!

Back into the world of work and life after a bit of a turbulent year navigating my diagnosis of breast cancer.

I’m getting on absolutely fine. Work has been busy and I feel I have been coping ok.

My first weekend on-call after returning from sick leave was at the start of December. Once I got this 72 hour call over me I felt more confident that I was capable and able for work. I had several on-call’s prior to this weekend and they were fine but this was the ‘hump’ I needed to get over to increase my confidence again.

As regards exercise and triathlon I have some big goals for this year. I am planning to do Ironman Copenhagen in August.

You may remember it was one of my goals for 2018 but I had to defer my entry due to my diagnosis of breast cancer.

I’ve been taking it relatively easy in December to make sure that I feel motivated at the beginning of my 32 week plan which starts tomorrow!!

A very kind coach, Arran from Fusion Triathlon Coaching, contacted me in early October to ask if I would like help to reach my goals in 2019. He was aware of the whole saga of 2018 and wanted to offer to help me with my training – no obligations attached!

He has been incredibly supportive and has taken some of the worry away regarding planning and executing an Ironman training plan. Base phase starts tomorrow for the next ten weeks. This is part of the reason I’m writing my blog after a few months of a hiatus. I want to try and document how the plan is going in my usual honest way!

There will be of course other races and challenges on the way but I will update as and when I know what they will be!! Happy New Year one and all. I hope 2019 brings you love, health and happiness.

Back to normal…

Turned a corner this last week. I am now officially off ‘the sick’ and back at work on a phased return.

It’s been going great so far. My manager (who currently is on leave following his own father’s death) had my phased return planned before he left for home and occupational health gave their input too.

No on-calls for the phased return, which lasts four weeks. I’m 50% the first week (which was last week), 75% the middle two weeks and then back to 90% the final week.

Then all being well I’m back to normal again.

It’s good being back to work again but I’m mindful that I need to watch out for the minor stresses that used to grind on me before going off sick. We work across two hospital sites and, unfortunately there’s occasional friction between the workers of both places. This drives me slightly insane, because I generally get on well with everyone and am happy to work hard but this constant background of simmering tension takes it’s toll on everyone. In this situation it’s usually those who are happy to work and are nice people that get shat upon. However, that’s all I’m going to say about that. I need to remember my new-found perspective on life in general since the cancer diagnosis and that means definitely not sweating the small stuff. Not worth it.

On the exercise front I’m keeping at it. I’ve officially been back at running for 8 weeks, after about a 16 week lay-off due to treatment etc. The pace is not lightning but I’m really just focusing on keeping it very easy aerobic for now. I’ve plenty of time until next triathlon season and Ironman Copenhagen isn’t for another 45 weeks (who’s counting?).

The swimming is ok, definitely got back into that a littler quicker than the running and my biking is good. I feel strong for having stayed on the turbo the whole way through cancer treatment. I’ve been out on social rides the last few Sundays with the triathlon club and it’s been great.

I’m starting to feel normal again. I don’t remember every waking minute that I’ve had cancer now because there are other things distracting me. I still remember every day but it’s nice not to be thinking about it constantly. With the passage of time, and clear scans (fingers crossed) hopefully those episodes of recounting the whole saga will start to dissolve slightly. We are definitely moving forwards and that can only be a good thing.

Onwards and upwards. Hopefully going to see the lovely parental unit this weekend with partner and pup’s in tow. Then will look forward to a holiday in Lanzarote (one of my favourite places) in a few weeks time. Always good to have things to look forward to. :-)

Line in the sand…

I’ve been meaning to write another blog post for a while but have not quite got around to it.

There has been a lot of discussion about cancer in the media in the week following Rachael Bland’s death from secondary breast cancer. This has brought up some raw feelings within me again. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just has made me realise that I haven’t allowed myself to fully heal both emotionally and mentally from the ordeal the last six months has brought.

What Rachael Bland and her colleagues, Deborah James and Lauren Mahon have achieved in the past six months through their podcast #YouMe&theBigC Β is unbelievable and truly amazing. They’ve opened the door on talking about cancer and all that it involves. I’ve listened now to every one of the podcasts, and whilst I couldn’t listen during my treatment I’m glad I finally got around to it. The discussions they have had are frank, honest and humbling. These girls are strong!! They really don’t leave any stone unturned. My favourite episodes were their very first one, “About Us” and then “About the Head” and “About the Nearest and Dearest”. All of them are good and all worth listening too.

So inevitably in listening to these podcasts I’ve had many thoughts about cancer and my own diagnosis and, for want of a better word, ‘journey’ over the past six months.

Alistair, Lauren’s dad, was a guest speaker on the show and talked about drawing a line in the sand which happens at diagnosis. You imagine drawing this hypothetical line in the sand at diagnosis and then stepping over it and bringing all your loved ones with you. That’s it…you can’t step backwards once that line has been crossed. It’s symbolic of – that life is never going to be the same as it was before.

It really isn’t going to be the same. Yes, the diagnosis of any cancer is devastating, and yes in the early stages I just wanted to go back across my line and be the person I was before. I grieved tremendously for that person. However, there are positive things about ‘the line.’

So in a way this blog is about my positives. (Of which the girls have done a podcast about too!! Listen to it.)

Whilst I appreciated life before (and I really loved my life) I love it all the more!

I appreciate every single day. Yes, there are days that I feel tired and I’m not able to do all I want to do but I’m so happy to be here. That’s a simple one to begin with. I love my partner. I love where we live. I love my family. I cherish every single puppy snuggle I get from my dogs. I love my friends and my work colleagues, and I love that I am still able to do all the things I did before diagnosis. I can still run (albeit more slowly), swim, cycle, walk, travel to foreign countries, drive my beautiful car. The list is endless actually.

Perspective changes your priorities.

You get a very healthy dose of perspective when you’re faced with your own mortality. We all have to face our mortality some time, but at 36 yrs of age when you think you’re pretty much invincible and someone tells you – ‘you got cancer,’ it puts things into perspective pretty sharpish. The most notable change for me was realising that for too long a time I have worried about what people think of me. That’s just ridiculous. It’s such a waste of time and energy. So what did this change of attitude bring about? Well I’ve been living in a semi-closet for most of my life and all of a sudden I just stepped out of it. Fuck that, I’ve cancer who gives a rat’s arse anymore what people think of me for being with another girl!!! Imagine that! Cancer trumps being gay any day. That aside, I actually do hope to continue to live being the real me, warts and all for the rest of my life. I don’t want to worry about what other people think, it’s their problem to sort out, not mine.

Joining the cancer community.Β 

The cancer community is unbelievable. I’ve met some amazing individuals through having cancer and am totally humbled by the work of volunteers and health-care staff working in any of the cancer units and areas. They truly are the best sort of people. I’ve also met a lot of other cancer patients, those who are living well with secondary cancer and those who have been through a similar situation to me, that is have been given the all clear for now. Don’t worry we don’t all sit around talking about cancer, sometimes we talk about anything but!! There is therapy in talking to people who have been through what you’ve been through and I’m very grateful to be part of this community, as grim as it sounds – the club no-one really wanted to be part of!

Learning to live in the present.

I’m still working on this one but I’m definitely better than I was before diagnosis. There is only the present, the past is gone and the future isn’t here yet. It sounds so bloody obvious!! However, we spend so much time worrying about the future or yearning for the past, that we don’t live in the moment and that is incredibly distressing. I’m working on my ‘being here now’ stance and I don’t think I ever would have worked on that had it not been for my diagnosis. Mindfulness is great and classes like Yoga and Pilates that focus on breathing also are something that are helping with this philosophy.

Strengthening your inner circle.Β 

Dear dear, it really sounds like I’m getting a bit buddha like here. What I’m trying to express here is that your inner circle of family and friends really come to the fore when you become unwell. I am still blown away by the absolutely amazing group of people who surrounded me and showered me with love, prayers and support after my announcement of breast cancer. I feel closer to my family than I have done in years. I have a small group of university friends who stepped up to the bat. I received flowers, presents, thoughtful gifts from work colleagues and friends and endless offers of support. My best friend came straight to our house as soon as she found out (that is the day of my diagnosis) and had a cuppa and a cry with me.

The most important person of all however, is my beautiful partner. She literally has been the rock at my side the whole way through this shit-storm and she’s been through it all too. Every rock-bottom, every break-down, every fearful disintegration into tears. I’m so proud of her and am so thankful I get to have her as my person. I am lucky.

 

There are probably loads more positives out there, they just haven’t come to mind during the writing of this blog. I just wanted to share because I do think it’s important to continue this dialogue about cancer and to appreciate those people who have opened those doors.

1 in 2 of us will have a diagnosis of cancer in our lifetime and it’s ok to talk about it. It’s important to talk about it, because it raises awareness, it makes people check themselves, go to the doctor sooner about worrying symptoms and also normalises the word cancer.

Thanks for reading to the end!! That was a bit of an essay. πŸ™‚

Starting again with baby steps.

I’m glad to say that I’m back at the exercise and have been for a few weeks.

I managed to get on my turbo at least five times a week all through radiotherapy and I think it did me the world of good.

The running started about three weeks ago and I thought about trying the Maffetone method of keeping my heart rate very low. Using his equations I got my MAF rate to be 133, which is extremely low, however surprisingly my min/miles have gone from a near walking 12:30min/mile to a 10:40min/mile in a matter of weeks. I am going to allow it to drift up to 138 for my steady runs now and will likely add in a little tempo runs over the next few weeks but the majority of runs will be keeping it low and slow!!

I did a long run of 6.2miles today and the sun was shining and my face was smiling and I just couldn’t stop with the goofy smile. I waved at all the cars passing me and even tried high-fiving a mum who was running with her child. I think she thought I was mad but she did put her hand out just at the last minute, although we didn’t quite make contact. Lol.

What has also buoyed me on in the exercise routine is returning from our long weekend in Copenhagen where we watched Ironman. I was meant to be doing it this year, but after my diagnosis had to defer my entry. No matter, we still made a holiday of it and I also got to support 17 wonderful team-mates from Lisburn Triathlon Club who all lined up on the day and did themselves proud. Suffice to say they inspired me to use my deferral and enter the race next year. Save the date – 18/08/2019.

I’m moving on. I have one more appointment next week to investigate a smaller lump that appeared post-op which we think is a thrombosed vein.

Yes it’s scary that I have to go back to the clinic where it all started but my logical brain is telling me that “it is, what it is, and not what I fear”.

This is what I am going to have to get used to…scanxiety and fear of recurrence. It’s never going to go away but…I can’t let it stop me doing all the things I want to do. There are soooooo many things I want to do!! The future is bright no matter what happens and I am so thankful to be able to get back to doing the things I love and to look forward to the future I have, no matter what happens.

Life is precious. I’m so happy to be here.

πŸ™‚

(These are some of the wonderful Ironmen from my club, the last evening of our trip walking into the sunset in beautiful Copenhagen)Β img_0883-effects