cancer veteran

Emily Jones: Cancer Dancer

After undergoing chemotherapy for six months and facing five more months of same, I found myself having a hard time talking myself into exercising, which is important to my continued recovery.  Sometimes it feels like there are two people living in my body and they are completely different personalities, each fighting for control.  I don’t even think they like each other.

One is a sweet gentle creature who likes to lounge in the world’s most comfortable recliner with a good murder mystery and a bag of Reese’s; the other is a restless, frustrated woman who starts new projects weekly, knowing full well she will never finish any of them.  She rearranges the furniture in her house at least once a month and recently swapped out the dining room for the living room.  Now no one knows where to go when she says “Dinner is served.”
With my new expanded living room, I have room for an activity both ladies can enjoy – dancing – but only when the curtains are drawn and no one is watching.  Oh, I also sing like no one can hear.   Not only is it fun and great exercise, I think those squirrels living in my attic have moved on.  They probably got tired of hearing all the stomping around to the tune of “Brick House” which rattled the windows of my old home – literally.
I began my dancing career while looking around for a new fitness program that doesn’t involve getting down on the floor or sweating in the summer heat.  I read a report in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed a lower risk for dementia among people over 75 who regularly danced during their leisure time. But what was so surprising about the report is that other types of physical exercise didn’t affect dementia risk — dancing was the only physical activity that made a difference.  Okay, that did it, I’m in!         
It doesn't matter what type of dance you choose.  Mine is “free style,” incorporating a bit of a high kickin’ Irish jig, the tango, the bebop, and watusi. It doesn’t really matter so long as your body moves constantly and energetically so that you're elevating your heart rate and burning calories. I draw the line at break dancing because I would probably break something including a lamp or a body part.  By all means, turn the music up to the max and sing along, but you might want to wait until your closest neighbors have gone to work.  
I may even install a pole and a disco ball so I can ramp up my routine even more.

Richard Powers, a dance professor at Stanford University, explains that freestyle dance actually requires more brainpower than choreographed routines. You make rapid decisions about how you move, rather than following a predetermined set of steps. Supposedly this helps reduces the risk of dementia more than any other physical activity.
Freestyle dancing is easy to do anytime, anywhere; you don't need a dance floor, a partner, or a wide space. You can dance standing in front of your desk, or on top of your desk for that matter.  You can dance around your kitchen as you prepare dinner. My favorite kitchen routine is called slap dancing.  You simply move your feet around while slapping together a tomato sandwich. 

I’ll never be on Dancing with the Stars but I have worked up a couple of routines I can perform during commercial breaks.  There’s the Omaha Traveler, where I hop around while swinging an imaginary baseball bat. I invented the dance while watching the super regional baseball games in Virginia this week.  

For even more fun, dance in front of a mirror if you can stand it.  I promise you a good laugh, and a better mood will follow you whereever you go the rest of the day.
Emily Jones is a retired journalist who edits a blog for bouncing baby boomers racing retirement.  She invites you to stop by

Sequestered to death?

Hey my people,

Thinking about sequestration today. Honestly, is that any kind of name for policy? The word is so meaningless that it continues to resist explanation even as it's grounding airplanes and leaving seniors meal-less and wheel-less—and of course shutting down cancer research.

I've been reading a site called PhysBizTech. (Who knew?) You might want to check out Deborah Cornell's piece on how the sequester stands to damage that most precious asset for a cancer patient: the hope that if we can just hold out, there'll be better treatments before too long.

Here's the link:

Cornell writes, "The federal government is the largest funder of cancer research, and the sequester threatens to cut this funding by almost 23 percent in real purchasing power."

These 23 percent cuts fall just when we're about to solve the jigsaw puzzle.

Cornell explains: "Many grants today focus on basic cellular biology to understand what causes cancer, what allows cancer to spread from one body part to another, which components to target for treatment, genetic mutations that characterize certain cancers...and so on. These are targeted toward finding more effective ways of killing the cancer without killing the patient."

What hurts most is what Cornell writes next: "Unless the large number of people who are affected by cancer ― as patients, family caregivers, healthcare providers, employers and friends ― stand up and tell Congress to get serious about cancer research funding, affected families will be left with few options and little hope."

Austerity is supposed to harm everybody equally, but we know that's not true. In practice, there is nothing so easy as cutting funding for invisible sick people. So what do we do? Are we supposed to storm Washington with an army of people with pic lines and port-o-caths and bandannas? Yes, I think we are. In fact, I suggest we wear our hospital gowns open at the back. Just so we can twirl around from time to time and show Congress the same respect they've shown us.

Thanks to jannoon028 and for the IV image.

Meet Jessica: Cancer Road Warrior

"If I fall down, it could kill me, so I don't fall down," Jessica told me -- as we set out on a two-mile walk. Like me, Jessica is a three-time cancer vet. Unlike me, she has complications that threaten her spine.
Jessica's backbone, however, is rock solid. Cancer ended her job, sapped her savings and forced her out of her home, but she's not bemoaning her losses. She and her pickup truck are hitting the road to see America.
I had the privilege of meeting Jessica when she came through LA. To me, she embodies what Well Again is all about. Cancer has done rotten things to her. She's responding by doing things she's always wanted. Jessica's filling her eyes with new sights and her heart with new memories. She's not falling down. She's embracing the adventure.

If you appreciate Jessica's attitude, then how about sending her a shoutout here on the Well Again blog? Better yet, tell Jessica what town or landmark in America you'd most love for her to see.  

So much more!

I've been dreaming up Well Again in my own mind for two years. I dreamed how great it would be to connect with even a few cancer vets out here in Survivorworld. After only two days of hearing your generous responses on our Contact page, I realize I had no clue how fantastic you are. You're SO MUCH MORE amazing than "civilians" know.
It's not just that you have courage. People are forever telling me how courageous I am, which is sort of silly in a well-meaning way.  (What am I going to do, NOT run out of the burning building? Maybe you relate.) Our courage is not what people think. It's more like a beautiful defiance we learn as we're buffeted around between recurrence and the fear of remission. What I'm saying is, this is not well understood and it's nobody's fault, but people congratulate us for the wrong stuff.
So here we are with all these insights going on (yeah, a bunch we didn't ask for, but still). And there's nobody to tell!

I say we deserve more!

And from your messages, so do you. Well Again is going to be adding a lot of cool functions, including some you may never have considered. But that's yet to come, and I want to build our community right now.  So I hope you'll think about working with what we've got at this moment. Let us get to know you! 

You're seeing some of my favorite adventures in our Gallery; please post your own pix and stories at Well Again on Facebook.

And SEND ME COMMENTS on this blog! Y'all are way more interesting than anybody knows. Talk it on up, people! Whatever you care to share will be amazing. I can't wait. More next time.

Warmest regards,