Growing up, I was always a really active and athletic kid. Junior rodeo and surfing were just a couple of the many things I enjoyed doing. Cheerleading, though, was life.
I started when I was 6 years old and was immediately hooked. I loved watching football and cheering on my cousin’s team. I dreamed of one day making the varsity cheer squad and becoming a “Blue Cougar.”
So I worked hard. I joined gymnastics and learned how to tumble. I even made my mom buy a trampoline and I practiced 24/7. During 8th grade year, with high school cheer tryouts approaching, I was determined. I danced through the hallways and drove every teacher bonkers because I wouldn’t stay still in my seat. I’m pretty sure I even landed in detention once or twice.
But I loved it. Cheerleading was my thing. It was something I worked hard to learn and something I trained my body for. I can still vividly recall what it felt like the first time I landed my first round-off back handspring. I can remember the signals my brain sent to my body to prepare for the jump and the way each muscle engaged – the way my mind and body worked together to make something amazing happen.
Today, after two bone marrow transplants, my life is a lot different. My body definitely isn’t what it used to be. It’s been 11 years since my diagnosis and I am still learning how to accept this.
Too many times I’ve run myself into the ground – or back into the hospital – because I didn’t rest when my body told me to. I blame “FOMO.”(Fear Of Missing Out)
So I am learning to embrace new activities. Activities that my body can actually handle. Once I stopped fighting the changes in my body and started to accept them, I found some pretty awesome ways for my young adult mind – and my old body – to get on the same page.
Cooking and Baking
This is a tool I was forced into learning, and man I’m glad I did.
My treatment leaves me with an extremely limited diet, and eating the same old things day after day can get pretty boring. And when your food is boring and unappetizing, you’re far less likely to eat it. But eating is a huge part of being healthy. I never knew there were so many ways to make chicken! Being able to cook an entire meal that doesn’t violate my dietary restrictions makes me feel a bit more in control. Like I am the one running my illness instead of the other way around.
Art and DIY Projects
I’ve come to love painting and learning new DIY projects. And with the internet, sources of creativity and inspiration are almost limitless. Pintrest and Youtube are goldmines full of tutorials. Recently, I made my bunny an indoor condo using only metal organizers and zip ties. He loves it! And I had a great time learning how to do it. Make yourself a Pintrest board and let the inspiration flow.
Gardening has become one of my favorite pastimes. I love getting outdoors and enjoying some good old-fashioned fresh air. I also love getting to see the literal fruits of my labor – when all your hard work pays off and you get to make a homemade meal straight from your backyard. I felt so excited the first time I made my own lavender tea! It’s fun and great for your health. Lord knows many of us cancer patients have been exposed to some pretty extreme chemicals. Anytime there is an opportunity to avoid more exposure, I’m in. I’ve also found out about the many different teas that can help with the side effects and symptoms I struggle with.
Journaling and Reading
OK, this was a big one for me.
Growing up, I never really enjoyed reading. Mainly because when you’re young and told you must do something, you don’t always enjoy it. So, it never was my thing. Neither was journaling. I made a few attempts at keeping diary, but always got distracted by other things. Eventually it just began collecting dust.
But as my journey through cancer and treatment found me really struggling with chemo brain, I began writing things down. At first it was more just to keep track of things that happened. Eventually though, it became an outlet for me to just spill my guts. It can be exhausting trying to stay strong not only for yourself, but the people around you. Having a place to take off my game face and reflect really helped me in my journey. When you get to look back on how far you’ve come, it’s a great motivation to keep going.
What are some things you enjoy doing on your not-so-well days?