Running Away from Cancer
I have never loved running. In fact I’ve always dreaded it. For the longest time, a run consisted of slowly jogging a mile or, if I was feeling really ambitious, I would do a mile and a half.
Getting back on track after chemo
Let me backtrack to the beginning of this year when I was fresh out of chemo and eager to get my life back on track. A huge part of that was getting myself in better physical shape. I talked recently about how I hired a personal trainer and started going to the gym, but running also became a big part of my cancer recovery process.
One day, I decided to show up to a run club to get my fitness journey started. The planned route was a 3.5 mile loop and I was determined to do as much as I could. When the run started, I took off with a confidence level that was much higher than my physical ability. I barely made it a half mile before my legs got so weak that they actually gave out on me. Right there in the middle of the trail, I tripped over my own two feet and fell to the ground.
At one point in my life, that would've been enough to stop me from ever showing up again, but not this time. I had just finished chemo, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, so a little fall was no big deal in comparison. I kept showing up and I kept running. I ran my first 5k in March and I accomplished the one goal I had set for myself- running the entire thing without stopping. I ran very slowly and I was completely exhausted by the end, but I did it and I was so proud. This happened just four months after chemo and I believe it was at this moment that my love of running was established.
Finding my love of running
I started signing up for all the 5k races I could find and I kept running at least once or twice a week. Running gave me an easy way to measure my progress and I think that’s what became so appealing to me. It was so fun to beat my old run times and it helped that the running community I was surrounded by was so supportive.
Running became my therapy. There was more than one occasion that I had been having a terrible day simply due to the aftermath of chemo. There were days that I had been crying non stop and couldn’t explain why. There were days that I couldn’t even force a smile on my face no matter how hard I tried. For some reason, I kept showing up to this run club and there was never a time I regretted it. Sometimes the run itself would be such a struggle, but I always found myself in a better mood when it was over.
I owe so much of my cancer recovery to exercise. It’s amazing to me how much of an improvement I saw physically in such a short amount of time. I haven’t even made it to my one year mark since finishing chemo and now I’m about to run a half marathon!
I share a lot of my fitness journey, both the highlights and the struggles on my instagram page @CrystalHarper_
Did you ask yourself "why me?" when you were first diagnosed with blood cancer?