My Life As A Gym Hero

Yes, my life as an easyGym gym hero continues. My slow but steady weight loss continues. Over the last ten months, I’ve lost almost thirty pounds. The first fifteen comprised mostly cancer cells and the fluid they had produced. The rest has come off little by little since June, when I joined easyGym. Yesterday, I pulled out one of my favourite t-shirts, put it on, and discovered I could wear it to the gym. It felt so good, I hit the weight room after I was done with the recumbent bike, and remembered once again why I love weight machines.

Free weights are great, and I’ve talked about my pyramiding routine in a previous post. But weight machines can help you work more of your muscles more easily––you just fit yourself into the machine, read the instructions, and go to it. After thirty-five minutes on a recumbent bike, I don’t bother with my legs––they’ve had their workout. I use six or seven machines, things like chest press, lat pull-down, seated-row, bicep curl, triceps, but most important for me, abdominal and back extension. If I were pressed for time, I’d make sure I used at least the last two. Abdominal first, then back extension––using them in that order feels wonderful. 

It took a few months before I was able to add the machines after the bike. I was so out of condition when I started, the bike finished me for the day; I had just enough energy to shower and I still had to sit and rest for a while afterwards. And I’m not lifting prodigiously––I usually follow in the wake of several well-muscled guys in the weight room and I always have to re-set the stack to something really wimpy. But the guys are nice. All the people who belong to the Wood Green easyGym are nice. Sometimes I feel a little self-conscious but that’s just me, not anything that anyone’s said or done to make me feel that way. Most of the time, however, I’m too blissed out on endorphins to worry about anything.

And apparently it’s not just endorphins. Someone pointed me at an article that said recent research shows that happy feeling produced by intense exercise comes from endocannabinoids: 

That’s right, the human body produces its own cannabis––one more good reason to legalise it. Of course, having an exercise high doesn’t make it unsafe to drive a car, enter into legal contracts, or make important decisions, like whether you should cut your own hair or get a tattoo. Also, there is no extra charge for endocannabinoids, and it’s never cut with oregano even if you eat Italian food afterwards.

But I don’t spend all my time getting high at the gym. I’m not going today––it’s a rest day, I have to let those muscle fibres recover from lifting all of nine kilos. Today is all work under the supervision of Jynx, aka The Gent (the only cat I ever met who doesn’t scratch furniture).

The thing about being a writer is, you’re always really busy but most of the time, it’s all internal. To the casual observer, nothing seems to be happening except perhaps intermittent bursts of typing/writing. So when something does happen, writers make a big deal out of it. Last weekend, it was the Gollancz Festival 2015, held in London and Manchester, and online.

Today, I woke up to see this online:

Dead Letters will be out in Spring 2016 and it would be a big deal to me anyway, but especially because my story was written while I was having chemo. This wilI be old news to regular readers as I blogged about it at the time. But I’m as thrilled about it as I was when I finished the story, and when Conrad said he was taking it. Because it meant I wasn’t all talk––cancer really wasn’t beating me. 

Isn’t beating me. Cancer can’t take my life, not even if it kills me.

If You’re In London This Week––

The banners below will tell you about some things that are happening.

Yes, some of these events are “sold out”––however, I believe you can still buy a book or two and get them signed by the authors in question at the mass autographing at the London Piccadilly Waterstones.

Hey, how often do you get a chance to meet Joe Hill? I’ve read him and yes, he’s as good as his famous dad. Different, wth his own voice, but every bit as good.

And while you’re at it, you can discover––or even rediscover––some other terrific storytellers: people like Paul McAuley, Joanne Harris, Ian MacDonald, Sarah Pinborough, Joe Abercrombie, Jaine Fenn and more. 

Oh, and me, too. If you want to stop by and say hello, I’ll be delighted to see you. If you’re more into ebooks than hard-copy, bring your ereader and a Magic Marker and I’ll scribble my name on it for you. 😉 (Or not, if you’d rather keep it pristine.) Hell, bring an autograph book or index cards. My policy on signing body parts is, only what you can reveal without getting arrested and nothing above the neck. Especially if one or both of us has been drinking.

(Not all the action is in London––there are a few events in Manchester as well. Check for more information.)


The Silver Fox At The Gym

EasyGym has made me their gym hero for––well, it says September but in fact the video was made just a few days ago. No matter, here’s the link:

I’ve talked about the importance of getting exercise in previous posts here and I don’t think the good effects can be overstated. Endorphins are real, and one of the best things about them is, they come from you and only you. There are no endorphin pills. It’s tremendously reassuring and validating to realise you have the power to make yourself feel that good. Trust me; I’ve been doing this all my life.

When I started on progesterone, my oncologist strongly urged me to get exercise to reduce my risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots, high blood pressure, and other trouble it can cause. Of course I’m all in favour of reducing my risk of all of those things––I’ve got enough problems, I don’t need more. But knowing an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure isn’t always enough for motivation. The well-intentioned though flawed human animal responds more to things that pay off now. Instant gratification may not build character but even the noblest among us wouldn’t turn it down.

Exercise rewards you immediately with endorphins. Moving around makes you feel good; exerting yourself to move around more than usual feels even better. It may seem like Mission Impossible to get yourself to do it for the first time, or for the first time after a long period of inactivity. Once you do, however, endorphins can help you keep going.

And it’s never too late to start, no matter how old you are. My mother quit smoking and started walking when she was 65; she moved from the US to London with us when she was 76, and she lived to be 92. Everyone else in her family was gone before 70, usually after a long, painful illness. She was not in the best of health when she died––she developed breast cancer at 90 and there were other problems related to ageing. But she survived two cancer operations and a partial hip relacement after falling and breaking her femur, and she lived independently to the last. She had handicaps but she was never an invalid; it wasn’t breast cancer that killed her but a heart attack––she simply wore out.

As I said in the video and many times here and elsewhere, most cancers not directly related to a specific and/or environmental cause are pretty much bad luck. Exercise and a proper diet won’t absolutely prevent cancer or anything else. But you can make yourself as strong as possible to deal with it.

Life will give you lemons of one kind of another. Maybe you’ll make lemonade or maybe you’ll learn to juggle them. Maybe you’ll dye them like Easter eggs; maybe you’ll dress them up like Mr  Potato Head. Whatever you do, show ’em you’re the boss. When life gives you lemons, make those lemons your bitches.

And Then, Suddenly: The Silver Fox!, or OMG I Have Hair!

Hair, someone told me once, was a sure sign of life. I.e., if you’re growing hair, you are alive. (There are other signs but hair is a definite yes-I-live). I’ve even heard that any mole with hair growing out of it––mole as in the things on your skin, not the things that dig holes in your yard––is almost certainly not a suspicious mole, because hair is a sign of life.

But here I’m talking mostly about head hair, which I lost pretty much all of to chemo. As I’ve said before, if I’d been younger, I’d have been devastated. My hair has been my obsession, probably bordering on fetish. I’ve had all kinds of hair:

This is my 1982 hair. (I’m the one on the left, smartass. The one on the right is George RR Martin. Just FYI.)

This is my 1986 hair. (I’m the one on the right, smartass. The one on the left is my son. Again, just FYI.) (I have no idea how gigantic this photo may be, as WordPress’s photo editor seems temperamental today.)


 This is my 1990 hair.


 This is my 1999 hair, which is in fact mostly monofibre. I went through a mermaid phase with hair extensions.

This is my 2011-ish hair, which continued all the way up to when it finally fell out.

About a month and a half after my last round of chemo, my hair began to grow back. Not slowly, but at a natural rate, as if I had deliberately shaved it off. By August, when I was preparing to go to the world science fiction convention in Spokane, Washington, I had what could have been a pixie-cut that was just slightly too short. Ellen Datlow told me she thought it looked cute and I could probably get away without any head-coverings. I will always love her for that, truly. There’s nothing more reassuring to someone recovering from chemo than to be told she looks cute with her short hair. I mean, really. It goes a long way toward recovery–not just a physical recovery but the psychological recovering of yourself from cancer patient to Who You Are. (Yeah, you may be both but it’s important to be Who You Are first, cancer patient second.)

Still, I left the head scarves on. I wasn’t quite ready to expose my itty-bitty head with its itty-bitty hair. 

A month later, however, my hair was an inch longer and it was a different story.


This is my 2015 hair, the Silver Fox. I’m afraid this is about the best shot I have at the moment, but you get the idea. Suddenly,  I had thick, kinda curly, more-salt-than-peppa and although it was still quite short––shorter even than it was in high school, when I had my shoulder-length mane chopped off for the shock effect (adolescence, a weird and baffling time)––but it actually looked good.

I took it out to dinner with my son, who is much more than an armful now. He pronounced it good.

Then Chris and I took it to dinner with John and Judith Clute, where it was a total hit. “Don’t let it get much longer,” John advised me. “It looks great.” Judith agreed.
After that, I took it to TitanCon in Belfast… 

…where it inspired mass demonstrations of approval. Okay, not really. We’re all saying good night here and my hair just happens to be in the photo.

Chris agrees my hair is epic. Neither of us would have thought that hair this short would actually become me but somehow, it does. My hair is like an Apple computer––it works as soon as I take it out. There’s a lot to be said for convenient hair, especially now that chemo has given me super-powers (I can walk).

If you look good, you feel even better––not exactly a profound conclusion. But cancer patients are often told they look great––and quite often, that means “You look great for someone with cancer.” That’s not an insult, cancer patients would rather hear that than see a horrified expression on someone’s face.

But when you can look good as Who You Are…well, you get the idea, right?