Excerpt from Chapter 19 A New Body →

This excerpt is about cancer recovery and exercise:

A Good Day: Three to four hours of passable energy so I can function normally around the home, which includes the occasional foray for groceries, car maintenance, or a school or medical appointment. Success here encourages me to do more, but is blunted by fatigue, combined with recurring colds.

A Bad Day: Two to three hours of muted energy a day, primarily focused on household chores, including some laundry.

An Ugly Day: A handful of 15- to 20-minute spurts of energy dedicated to making meals while fighting the urge to lie down all day, fingers of phantom pain tracing the earlier course of shingles down my face.

I explain that guessing which days will fill a week or sequence of weeks is a crapshoot. A closer look at the data confirms the unpredictable nature of my energy.

Dr. Hicks tells me about an upcoming study by the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Sports Medicine that will examine the potential benefits of moderate aerobic exercise on the energy levels of cancer survivors. The target group is bone-marrow transplant survivors, the group most critically impaired by chronic cancer-related fatigue.

The chief investigator, Dr. David Smith, is an expert training athletes, including Canada’s winter Olympic team and the New York Rangers hockey team. His specialty is the design of conditioning programs for elite athletes that help speed recovery (and subsequent performance) after high-intensity bouts of physical activity.

This will be serious stuff, a yearlong commitment. There will be out-of-pocket expenses and overnight trips every month to Calgary to participate in successive days of exercise. Candidates will soon be selected for participation in the study. Am I interested in applying?

Am I? I have tried to exercise, but each routine has led to energy blackouts or relapses after barely noticeable gains in my level of fitness. No activity has promised ongoing benefits, so I no longer do anything that causes physical exertion.

Patrick’s story about his application continues:

I will never find another program with so much potential to restore my health. This is likely my only chance to gain enough fitness to once again do fieldwork.

I carefully complete the many forms that describe my health during the five years since my transplant, concerned any errors might disqualify me from the study. I am also worried my history of depression might be a problem—there is a big section about mood. I suspect negative feelings would impair the will to train for the lengthy duration of the program. I cheat a little here, afraid of being eliminated from contention.

My interview seems to go well. Two weeks later, I become one of the twelve survivors selected from a pool of 222 candidates to start the program. I rush down the hallway to tell Dr. Hicks I have won the lottery.

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