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Getting a Leg up on Hating My Legs

This morning, as I was exercising in the weight room at our local YMCA, I looked down at my legs and thought, “They’ll never get you into a beauty pageant.” More succinctly, I said, “Gross.”

Afterward, I wondered why I wasn’t as kind to myself as I would be to another cancer survivor who had been through the wringer. After all, I had just gone to a barre class and was now lifting weights after warming up on a rowing machine. I would have congratulated that cancer patient just for being there. Some people might be easiest on themselves, but the cliché of being your own worst enemy wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t true for most. So instead of congratulating myself, I thought about how bad my legs looked.

My legs might be “gross,” but they allow me to do so much

I think I found a way to back off of this criticism but first, let me back up and talk about barre class for those that aren’t familiar. I don’t mean going to a bar to get a drink. I’m talking about going to a ballet barre.

When a friend told me she was going to barre class, I had no idea how it worked, but as soon as I did it I felt the benefits of doing small controlled movements while holding onto an edge of a barre that ballet dancers use.

Sadie Lincoln, founder of barre3 fitness, explained it this way to Fitness Magazine: “Most barre-based classes use a combination of postures inspired by ballet and other disciplines like yoga and Pilates. The barre is used as a prop to balance while doing exercises that focus on isometric strength training (holding your body still while you contract a specific set of muscles) combined with high reps of small range-of-motion movements.”1

If you’re trying to get stronger and improve your balance without doing a lot of running around, this could be good for you. (Do a search for “barre class near me” or check your local Y.)

Skin cancer after blood cancer

Now, back to my legs. My calves and shins are dotted with actinic keratoses – rough, scaly patches caused by sun exposure.2 Although not originally pinkish, some are now, especially the ones on my left calf. That is because, true confessions, sometimes I pick at them. Often it is when I’m stopped at a traffic light. Some have a funny texture because a dermatologist has frozen them off and they never look like normal skin again.

On my right calf, there is a faint scar from where I had a squamous cell cancer removed. As noted previously, transplant patients are more susceptible to skin cancer. My previous sun exposure is also a factor, as is being on prednisone, which decreases immune function.

GVHD, dry skin, and clumsy bruises

My skin is dry and flakey. On my left shin, I have a purple bruise… from hitting myself with my tennis racquet after I followed through on a serve. I’m working on putting my energy into fixing what I can fix and trying to accept the rest. For starters, I can stop hitting myself with my racquet and make more of an effort to stop picking. In general, I can also appreciate all the things my legs allow me to do.

Dry skin can be a symptom of chronic graft vs. host disease, which is something that I got late in the game, seven years after my transplant. I need to remember to moisturize more frequently and to possibly ditch the body butter in favor of one of the products on a best moisturizer list. Also you’re not supposed to take hot showers, but that’s a hard one because a good shower can sometimes wash your cares away.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Blood-Cancer.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. The Beginner's Guide to Barre Class. Shape Magazine. Available at https://www.fitnessmagazine.com/workout/pilates/exercises/barre-beginners-guide/
  2. Actinic Keratosis: Diagnosis and Treatment. American Academy of Dermatology. Available at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/scaly-skin/actinic-keratosis#symptoms

Comments

  • Ann Harper moderator
    3 weeks ago

    @ronnigordon I agree with you about showers – I love to just stand there and let the hot water run over me. I have very dry skin too. What I do, and it’s helped a lot, is to do a dry body brushing before showering. After showering I use a moisturizer and then a skin protective barrier cream. I make it out of coconut oil but you can buy them in the stores. The moisturizer moisturizes while the barrier will protect your skin from anything that could cause dryness. I hope this helps. It has helped me a lot. Oh, and I’m also drinking a lot more water!

  • Daniel Malito moderator
    4 weeks ago

    @ronnigordon I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked in the mirror and no matter how many times people say “oh you look good!” I say, gross, I”m totally gross and thank you prednisone for destroying my body. SO I get it. I try to tell myself someone, somewhere, someday is going to be like “it’s cool we all got our own stuff,” but in reality that’s probably not going to happen. But, we keep on keepin’ on, as I always say. As do you! Thought provoking and important, Ronni. Keep on keepin’ on (hehe) DPM

  • Ronni Gordon moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Thanks Dan! How much prednisone are you on? I’m only on one milligram but they still won’t let me off. I feel a post coming on about the difference when I was on a higher dose and looked like a chipmunk.

  • Matt Goldman
    4 weeks ago

    thanks Ronni. I can so identify with this. I look at my legs and arms with all their bruises and think how much cancer has messed up my body. But we’re still here and still able to work out.

  • Ronni Gordon moderator author
    4 weeks ago

    Thanks Matt! We’re probably much cooler than we perceive ourselves to be!

  • Shayla.Oakes moderator
    4 weeks ago

    Hey Ronni! Thanks for the article. We really are our own worse critic at times. I have thought about doing the Barre class. Did you enjoy it? You are always such a strong supportive voice in community, try not to be so hard on yourself! Shayla (Blood-Cancer.com, Team)

  • Ronni Gordon moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    Thanks! I can’t say that I exactly enjoyed the class but afterwards I felt the benefits and have tried it again.

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