State of body

A couple of months ago, I started doing a set of daily crunches. Not a lot because I’d lost a lot of strength in the time between, but it was a start, and the bonus was that I felt virtuous doing them.

In the last few weeks, I’ve added further exercises to my routine – pushups and squats and some dumb-bell sessions. I’m coming from a low-base because I’m not up to doing more at the moment. Yesterday, for example, I struggled to do 17 push-ups. A year ago I’d have managed over 30 with some ease, and used to be able to do 50 at a time. (In fact, I won a push-up contest with a much younger colleague about 2 years ago).

I’d estimate my exercise capacity is just nudging 50% of what it was not so long ago, but that’s okay. It gives me something to aim at, and considering my capacity had dropped to about 10% after my surgery, I can’t complain.

In time, much of the missing capacity will return to me, if not all of it. Getting stronger and fitter is a big focus for my general well-being because it feeds into a healthier state of mind. It’s an attempt to reclaim some of the physical capability I lost and the sense of self that was part of that, as well as perhaps trying to claw back – or, at least, hold back – the years.

I don’t know how normal it is, but clearly, a large part of my self-identification was tied up in my physical capability and appearance. Objectively, it seems odd given that I’m a rational man whose most prominent feature is intelligence.

It goes to show that there are limits to rationality, and that’s no bad thing. We’re human beings, after all, not robots.

Speaking of my appearance, I’m surprised at how much it has improved from late last year. I was grey-haired and puffy then. While not disfigured, I was misshapen in some aspects. I had aged drastically and looked probably 5-6 years older than my age.

I expected to improve some – such a low base, how could I not – but didn’t expect I would to this extent.

My hair has regrown and is a darker colour now than it was even before all these cancer shenanigans. Much of the swelling and puffiness have diminished. I’ve returned to looking about ten years younger than my objective age. And though my features are marred in places by the treatment, I have a face now that is alert and masculine. It’s more attractive in concept than fact – a good look subtly spoilt, but with the outlines of a handsome face that might have been.

With all that said, I still feel some self-consciousness. A lot of that is triggered by my speech, which is perfectly understandable but thicker than it was. I have hopes that it will improve also. It gets worse as I tire, and it sometimes takes great effort to speak clearly. There are words I avoid altogether now, and it requires thought when I construct my sentences. I feel sub-optimal, and I am.

It’s problematic in a work sense also. I’ve been very busy, and I’m in a role that sets the agenda and requires leadership. I have to do more than my fair share of speaking, and I fear that I’m not clear in what I say, and what amounts to a speech impediment means I’m taken less seriously. That hasn’t been the case, but it’s on my mind.

All of this is particularly frustrating for a man formerly known for his articulate speech and wit. You’re lucky you get the written version. It would be very different if I had to speak it.

It’s probably true that I’m more aware of and see things as worse than what others do. I’m constantly told how well I look, though I always hear it with an asterisk. And it appears that my speech is perfectly intelligible if a little awkward. I’m told it’s improving.

Fair enough. But I know I’m less than I was before, and it’s hard to let go of it, especially when you’re a proud man.

I’m keen to get back to a more normal life. I’m making an effort to get out more and be social. I started writing creatively again yesterday, and it felt like meaning and value had been returned to my life. And, though I feared my virility had been lost in the months post-surgery, it has returned, and I yearn to be back in the mix.

In the meantime, I still have the hyperbaric treatment ahead of me, for which I have high hopes. The idea is that it speeds up natural healing and kills off any lingering infections. In my case, it repairs the damaged bone, reduces swelling and returns some of the natural function to me. I hope that my speech will improve and I can eat properly again. I expect some cosmetic benefits and even some improvement to my hip.

I met with the doctors at the Alfred about two weeks ago. It was fascinating. The plan is for daily treatment, Monday to Friday, for six weeks – 30 days. All going well; they may well tack another ten days on top of that.

I’m impatient for it to start, but nothing has been scheduled yet. I hope, once completed, I’ll have a different tale to tell about my state of body.

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