How I built up my fitness after treatment for myeloma
Edward, 58, is a retired soldier. He was diagnosed with myeloma in 2016, and had a stem cell transplant in 2017.
Please note, this story was written before the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. If you’re shielding, some of the activities described here may not be appropriate for you. Speak to your healthcare team for tailored advice – they know you and your individual circumstances.
Eight weeks after I was diagnosed with myeloma, I was at home and my back went – I ended up on the floor. I was rushed to hospital, and an X-ray showed that due to the multiple myeloma, my spine was broken in six places and had collapsed. I was in hospital for 11 days, then I was in a wheelchair for four and a half months, and I had surgery on my back.
Taking things day by day
Because I was in the military, I had some idea of how to build up my fitness levels. So, once I was home from the hospital, I started by walking in the garden with my crutches. We’ve got a fairly large garden, so I spent time walking up and down there. Then I built up to walking down to the end of the road, then down to the village. Each day I just went a bit further.
Eventually, I managed to lose one of the crutches and just use the one stick, and then I managed to get rid of that too. I expanded each day, going a little bit further.
I began going to the swimming baths, treading water for 10 minutes or so. Over time, I built it up to half an hour. It was just a process of gradually increasing what I was doing.
Recovering from my stem cell transplant
I had a stem cell transplant in 2017 and I spent two weeks in hospital recovering. Once I was back at home, I had to stay in bed at first, but after a while I’d come downstairs and watch TV for an hour. Gradually I started doing more – to the point where I’d come downstairs and start cleaning the dishes and helping my wife with the housework. It was all a form of exercise.
Having goals and treats
I find having things to look forward to and goals is really important for my motivation. ‘Give yourself a little treat,’ I would say to myself. ‘If you achieve the things you want to achieve in the next week, and you do your swimming, you can buy that book you want.’
If I manage to do a three-mile walk, and I really fancy a glass of wine, then I will have that glass of wine in the bath after! I have all the girly scents and bubble bath and I lie there and listen to my radio. I was in the army – but I do like to pamper myself!
Gardening and DIY
I find the gym boring – most of my fitness has always been done outside. Everything you need to be fit is there for you.
I renovated my house myself – I still do work on it, I cut my own wood with a chainsaw. I go walking every day, I pick the grandkids up, jet wash the car. Keeping active helps in some way – the only other option for me is not to do it and lie in bed.
The other day I mowed the lawn, painted my gate and garage doors. Before I was ill, I had started to build an outside shelter, somewhere to have a barbeque and pizza oven, but I didn’t finish it, and now I’ve got some of my fitness back I’ve managed to finish that.
I couldn’t sit on a cycle in a gym and go around and around. How boring! At least when you’re walking around the village you get to talk to people.
Dealing with the change to my fitness levels
Before I became ill, I was doing 42-mile non-stop runs, with a 60-pound pack. Now I’m walking slowly down to the village. So, yes, it’s been a massive change, but I still enjoy what I do now. My attitude is: there are people who’ve been through worse than me. You’ve got to decide how you want to live your life, regardless of what life’s dealt you. But also – always be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up.
Having a positive mindset
I’d say the most important thing of all is your state of mind and how you approach exercise and life. Do as much as you can and when you’ve done as much as you can, you’ve still got the strength to go a little bit further. Every day in the pool I say to myself, I’m going to tread water till half past. I get to half past and tell myself to try and do five more minutes.
The cancer’s got your body, and you can’t alter that. But you can’t let it take your mind or your spirit.
Janssen-Cilag Ltd has supported Blood Cancer UK with funding for the production of this web page and others within the ‘Living well’ section. It had no influence over the content.
Share your story about living well
Your experience can help others with blood cancer