The studies keep piling up. The proof is in and well documented. Exercise is very important if you want to be and stay your healthiest. Who doesn’t know this, right? Exercise also reduces your risk for a whole host of serious health problems, including breast cancer. (Remember, lowering risk does not equal prevention).
Diagnosed anyway? Exercise can lessen your risk for (again, not prevent) recurrence. Yes, exercise is important no matter who you are, what your age, what your cancer stage or how healthy you are or are not.
So why not “just do it” like that old Nike ad suggested?
I’ve never been the athletic type. I’ve written about my inadequacies in this department a few times before. However, before my cancer diagnosis I was a consistent exerciser, my form of preference being walking – either outside or on my treadmill. Walking was easy. Walking was effective. Walking was fun. Sort of. I could do it with my dogs, or Dear Hubby, or my kids or any combo of the aforementioned.
For the past umpteen years, walking has been what I do/did for exercise.
In fact, days before my bilateral, Dear Hubby and I participated in a 10K. (Not sure how I pulled that off). A year later, we did it again. I had something to prove to the world, well, actually more to myself – that cancer couldn’t keep me from crossing the finish line. And it didn’t. Not for those two years anyway.
But here I am, a couple more years after that, and let me tell you, I would not be able to participate in a 10K today. Well, unless it was a very long and very slow-paced version of one.
This is a difficult thing to admit because it’s sort of feels like I’m saying yes, cancer has taken something else from me.
It’s worth saying, the reason so many cancer patients (and others as well) aren’t exercising as much as they should be is because it’s not always as easy as, “just do it”.
Sometimes significant discomfort or pain holds us back. Sometimes hesitancy (for a whole variety of reasons) to join a health club or gym holds us back. Sometimes embarrassment of doing poorly holds us back. And yes, sometimes fear holds us back. For instance, post cancer treatment side effects, pain issues and new and other various health concerns to contend with, sometimes make it difficult to know how hard to push oneself.
This was one reason why last winter I participated in Livestrong at the YMCA exercise program for cancer survivors. I needed and sought some guidance. I got some, and it was a very beneficial experience for me.
However, after my class ended, I continued to experience increasingly significant joint, foot and toe pain. Walking my usual two miles a day became out of the question. Heck, I could no longer make it to the stop sign at the end of my own street without pain.
My bone health is quite poor compared to what it was before aromatase inhibitors became part of my daily routine, before cancer treatment. AI side effects have also been messing with my joints, among other things. Bottom line is, for whatever reason, walking as a form of exercise is not nearly as fun as it used to be and sometimes this is really frustrating.
Making my favorite form of exercise no longer quite as fun as it once was is just one more reason I despise cancer and cancer treatment fallout so much. Cancer robs you of many things, sometimes including your fitness level and/or preferred from of exercise.
So no, it’s not always that easy to just “do it”.
I guess I needed to voice this particular frustration in this post, and I hope in doing so, it allows someone else out there to voice hers/his.
Maybe you have pain. Maybe you have lymphedema (or other) issues. Maybe you find exercising of any kind to be a challenge these days. Maybe you do it anyway. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you are afraid to push yourself. Maybe you feel guilty for not pushing yourself harder. Maybe you’re sick of the cycle of meds and side effects like weight gain (or loss), fatigue or whatever it is that holds you back. Maybe you’re frustrated like me and miss what you used to be able to do. Maybe you need help, but have no where to turn. Maybe you’ve given up.
I’m here to say, in this you’re not alone either, and I hope you don’t give up. Exercise still matters. Movement matters, even a little bit at a time.
Forget about what you used to be able to do before cancer (yes, I know this is hard) and try to focus on what you can do right now, no matter how much or how little this might be. Then try to build on that. Tiny steps matter, even itty-bitty ones.
At least that’s what I’m hoping.
“Just doing it” might not be as easy anymore, but I intend to keep trying.
What about you?
Has cancer treatment hampered your ability to exercise?
Do you exercise regularly and if so, what do you do?
Do you have any exercise tips to share?