As a personal trainer, a breast cancer diagnosis not only put my career on hold – but it also changed my relationship with fitness and my body forever. In the beginning it was hard to accept the fact that the strength I’ve built and all of the hard work and progress I’ve made up until that point would ultimately be undone and it would be taking a back seat in my life for the foreseeable future. I know, it wasn’t what was important – because surviving was all that mattered – but it was something I had to work hard to accept.
For me, exercise helped me feel normal. It gave me purpose, it gave me coping mechanisms and it gave me a personal sense of power and freedom. This was something that was important to me, and this was something that I needed even more now that I was going through something incredibly challenging, and life altering. Who was I? How would this change me? Can I get out of this alive, and still be who I’ve always been? What if exercise makes it worse? What if exercise makes it better?
During conversations with my oncology team, exercise was always a topic I brought up in appointments and following their advice was something I took very seriously. One piece of advice has particularly stuck in my mind, still to this day. It was my mantra for a long time, and it’s still something I focus on when I need it.
“The more physical activity you do, the faster you’ll feel stronger and more like yourself.”
This advice is what helped me through the tougher times, and helped me be determined to stay strong, especially after every major part of treatment. Walking during chemo was a big win for me – I even managed a couple light jogs here and there when I was having a really good day. During radiation, stretching and basic resistance training exercises were highly beneficial for my body, and my mind. And after every surgery I took the recommended amount of weeks off, and then got professional help through physiotherapy to make sure I recovered safely and properly before getting into anything too heavy. Whenever I experienced setbacks that landed me back in the hospital or some kind of treatment – which happened more than a couple times for me – I would figure out something that worked, like walking. There are always options, they just may change a lot during the course of your cancer treatment. And you will feel like you again, just a new you, a stronger you, and more determined you.
5-10 minutes of full body stretching
15 minute walk at a brisk, but comfortable pace for your level
3 sets of the following exercises:
10 bodyweight squats
20 bodyweight alternating lunges
10 pushups (modified standing against a wall, or from knees on floor)
20 crunches or sit ups
5-10 more minutes of full body stretching