According to Wikipedia, the statement “know thyself” has been around since the Ancient Greeks. From my quick research, the principle meaning of the statement was to “know your limits”, which seems to have spanned from knowing the extent of one’s abilities to knowing one’s place in society. Apparently though, the statement took on a slightly different meaning with Plato when he interpreted it to mean “know your soul”. Regardless of the exact interpretation, I find value in knowing who I am, what brings me joy and what I’m physically and mentally capable of.
I’ve always found myself to be very in-tune with my body and mind and with my physical, mental, and emotional boundaries. This awareness has helped me to know when I’ve drained myself mentally and taught me the methods I need to restore equilibrium. It has also allowed me to recognize when I need emotional support from a therapist, a family member, or friend. And throughout my years of training and racing, it has helped me push through perceived physical barriers and to know when I’m pushing too much or too hard.
About a month ago, I used this awareness to push for answers regarding my lack of energy during training activities. I hadn’t been hitting my normal power output (i.e., wattage) during rides or my normal paces during my runs. In fact, on runs my legs just didn’t want to move. It was a struggle to even walk some of them. My coach and I agreed to add in some additional rest days in an attempt to give my body the time it needed to heal and catch up with the demands I have been asking of it. While the break helped mentally, I was still struggling to achieve the physical results I was striving for, or I’d achieve them for a few workouts but need several recovery days before jumping back into the “build” phase of my training.
I could have chalked the energy zap up to grief and for a while I did. Yes, it’s been 4 years since losing Mike but his impact on my training and racing has been profound. He was the ultimate supporter, and it has been difficult without him, so it made sense to me that it negatively impacted my ability to train as hard as I wanted.
I could have attributed these setbacks to age. Let’s be real, I’m not old but things definitely get harder in your forties (ok…late-ish forties). Again, for a while I assumed this was the issue, so we adjusted my training load yet again to shift the number of “build” weeks I had versus the number of recovery days. I even added more recovery methods in an effort to restore my body. I had already been getting cryotherapy after big training rides and runs and I’m a big proponent of chiropractic care and deep tissue massage therapy. I’ve since added in a prehab routine to strengthen core muscle groups and stretching to release the built-up tightness.
While these all helped a little, I could tell something was still off, so I had bloodwork done in hopes of finding the underlying issue. This revealed an under-performing thyroid, the gland in our throat that produces hormones to regulate metabolism. An underacting thyroid can lead to, among many other things, tiredness and a lack of energy. My naturopathic doctor suggested a few supplements and weeks later, I am seeing improved energy with my run paces and power output returning to normal.
I share this story because it’s important to listen to our bodies. We have a unique ability to tune in to how we are really feeling, adjust things as necessary and seek appropriate medical advice when needed. This is no different in the world of cancer and specifically with pancreatic cancer.
The survival rates when pancreatic cancer is detected early are much better than when detected later in the cancer’s progression. This is generally because the cancer is contained within the pancreas and has not spread to other organs. Surgical oncologists can then remove the portion of the pancreas with the cancer before it has the opportunity to metastasize. Often though, people either do not listen to their bodies and seek professional help or do not push for second opinions when a diagnosis seems misaligned to what people are experiencing. I encourage you to tune into your body and seek answers when needed and, perhaps most importantly, be your own health advocate.