Shakespeare famously likened life to a stage. Many Shakespeare quotes have become clichés. Nonetheless, this one popped into my mind this morning:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances …
[As you like it, II 7]
I hasten to add that I have neither received my exit cue from the Great Director, nor am I expecting it any time soon. But Shakespeare’s simile applies as much to the daily aspects of our lives as it does to grand entrances and exits. I am at a mini-exit in that I have nearly finished the exercise classes that I wrote about previously. I am wondering what to do next, and what life will be like when I don’t have to haul myself off to the Hawthorn Aquatic Centre three times a week.
Whatever I decide to do — more on that below — it feels like the end of an era. The classes began in November. The dreadful bushfire season and Christmas formed a background to the routine of class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Fortunately we had a mini-break over Christmas, which came just in time — I was feeling quite worn out. Three times a week is just a bit too much. However, the exercise has had good effects. I have been a bit more flexible physically, and been slowly putting on a bit more muscle. The Zolodex, however, inhibits this process, so I haven’t been bulking up as much as I would have expected to. (I would have liked to lose a bit of the spare tyre, too! But this is also associated with the medication.) Nevertheless, the exercise has has minimised the muscle wastage that would otherwise have occurred. This by itself is a good reason to continue, at a level that I can sustain.
I will miss the social side of the process, meeting the other participants for coffee before class, and swapping prostate cancer war stories. Such things are a chance to find out what life is like for other fellas with PC. It possibly takes a circumstance like cancer to get Australian males at our stage of life to talk about themselves to total strangers — even, shock horror, about how they are feeling! Everyone has been very generous with their experiences. Having had the three big cancer treatments (cut, slash and poison), I have been able to give them some idea of how these have affected me. (I am always careful to add the rider — your mileage may vary.) At Christmas I gave them a bit of my spiced fudge. One of them lives in the next suburb to us, and keeps bees. I gave him quite a few of the empty jars I had in the garage, in return for which I have got several jars of the most delicious honey. (I am going to give him a jar of my lime marmalade as a quid pro quo.)
These acquaintances are like work friendships; after the work ceases, they could either continue, or come to a natural end. I am hoping it will be the former. Of course, this will depend on everyone feeling the same way, and being prepared to make the effort to keep getting together. We will have to see what happens next. However it works out, it has been very enjoyable and reassuring, somehow, to have the encouragement and support of people who know exactly what you are going through.
So, what happens next? Before I started the research program last November, I had a membership in a local gym, and a weekly group class at an exercise physiology practice in Camberwell. (I put both of these on hold until February.) Instead of resuming at those places, though, I could continue with my membership at the Hawthorn Aquatic Centre. The cost there is very similar to the local gym. Also, the university will be continuing to run the research classes at Hawthorn, as they have been doing for a couple of years. An exercise physiology student will be supervising those classes, as at present, and they would keep an eye on me as well. They would also adjust my program as required. So I would sort-of be getting a two-in-one deal, with gym and exercise physio in one.
I looked at the cost saving of maintaining the Hawthorn membership over going back to the combination I had before November. Over a year, it comes to about $1400 — not a huge amount, but not nothing. On the other hand, I would miss out on working with the Camberwell exercise physiologist, of whom I have been a client for about eighteen months. And Camberwell is easier to get to, just a twenty minute tram ride. Hawthorn is about a half hour drive from home, or a one hour tram trip. So inevitably I would end up driving, and doing my bit for global warming.
However I decide, I am thankful to have these options to choose among. My oncologist certainly wants me to keep up the exercise. Exercise has had so much research showing its beneficial effects on cancer patients, it is becoming a front line treatment. As I heard someone say at an open day at Peter Mac: if you could get a medication which would reduce stress, risk of heart attack and stroke, improve sleep, and bring about a more positive outlook, with no side effects, you’d want some of that! These are generic benefits, but there are specific ones for cancer patients as well. The idea is that, if your blood is circulating faster, you are exposing the tumours to more of the effective compounds in the medication than if you are just sitting on your backside. So, although brevity is the soul of wit, it could keep me treading the boards a bit longer.