Looks Can be Deceiving – I’m a Perfect Example
Hi Everyone! I am a 32-year thyroid cancer survivor. I am fortunate that I have enjoyed great health since my 1984 diagnosis and treatment. I have 19 first-degree relatives with many different types of cancer, my mother having thyroid as well.
The way that it has affected me the most is my self-image. I have had one eating disorder after another my entire adult life. I punish myself (mentally) if I gain weight, or if I consider myself “overweight.” In 1984 immediately following my thyroidectomy, my wonderful boyfriend publicly announced that I should “LOSE WEIGHT – ITS OVER.”
I have binged, purged, starved, and injected myself with rounds of HCG, among other methods of weight loss.
I found some degree of solace in exercise. I became a personal trainer in 1992 in an effort to ensure my own health and fitness as well as help others like myself. I have since trained hundreds of clients, young and old, healthy and not so healthy. Many of my clients have been cancer patients and survivors at various stages of treatment and recovery.
There are so many emotional and physical scars left behind from cancer. You may be better, stronger, smarter, more resilient, healthier, etc….after your diagnosis, but I think we can all agree, you are never the SAME! Being diagnosed with cancer has given me a greater appreciation for life and my very limited time (in the big picture) here on earth. I realized that cancer may have stripped me of my self esteem, self-confidence, and feeling that I was in control of my body, but it did not win. It did not defeat me.
I already admitted that I still battle my self-esteem and body-image demons, but my cancer diagnosis has helped me to help so many others take control of their minds, their bodies, and their love of life, at a time when cancer stripped them of everything. I have written over a dozen books (most for health and fitness professionals) on helping cancer patients during treatment, recovery, and well into survivorship. I want to share with you the many benefits of exercise in case you are trying to convince yourself, or motivate yourself, to make positive changes.
During treatment exercise can help give you some much needed energy at a time when FATIGUE seems to take control of your life. It can help to minimize psychological disturbances and depression as well as help you to sleep better (you MUST sleep in order to allow your body to heal). Strength training on any level can help to prevent the muscle wasting that often accompanies cancer treatment. Functional exercises will help you to perform some of the very basic activities that we take for granted on a day-to-day basis, and can help you to feel like you have some control of your body at a time when your body may seem like it is failing you miserably.
During recovery exercise can help you to return to your previous level of fitness or, in some case, to reach new heights in fitness (for those who were inactive previously).
When exercise programming and prescription is done properly (following a comprehensive range of motion, biomechanics, lymphedema, and postural analysis) you can: 1) correct muscle imbalances that may be the result of surgery and/or treatment and may be causing you pain now or lead to future pain and joint degeneration 2) strengthen the heart and lungs following chemo and radiation 3) prevent or minimize lymphedema following radiation and/or lymph node removal 4) prevent or minimize osteoporosis (a potential side-effect of hormonal therapy and chemotherapy) 5) prevent diabetes 6) reduce body fat which can reduce your risk of future cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and lymphedema 7) increase lean muscle mass which is often lost during treatment and also helps to increase your metabolism so that you burn more calories daily and 8)help you to regain range of motion following radiation and surgery.
Unfortunately, there is no “Exercise for Dummies” for cancer patients and survivors. It is not simple….I wish it was. Many things need to be considered – your physical assessment, your health history, short and long term side-effects of treatment, and how you as an INDIVIDUAL are responding, or responded, to your treatment(s). Don’t get me wrong….getting moving is the best thing that you can do for yourself, but too mush too soon, or in inappropriate quantities can be detrimental to your long-term success.
When your blood cell counts are low you must protect yourself and make sure that your environment is as clean and “bacteria free” as possible. Do not swim in lakes, rivers, the ocean, and public swimming pools (unless your doctor tells you otherwise). Exercising at “too high” of an intensity can cause oxidative stress –
the idea is that intense training produces more free radicals than moderate exercise, which may “overwhelm antioxidant defenses” and cause “irreparable oxidative damage… potentially resulting in ill health and/or disease,” writes Dr. Kelsey Fisher-Wellman, the author of a review published in 2009.(4)
Be careful of ports and PICC lines – this includes excessive range of motion and strength training that can have negative implications. For those with multiple myeloma, primary or secondary bone cancers, and anyone with clotting issues, it is critical that you keep areas clear of things that you may trip on or bump in to and that you do not put yourself in situations with a high risk of falling (treadmill, balance/stability balls, BOSU(R) balance trainer, etc. Don’t get me wrong, each of these modalities is incredible when proper supervision and spotting is available.
Exercise alone is not the end all be all….you must follow a nutritionally sound eating plan that is suitable to your age and body type as well. There are special considerations during treatment which should be discussed with a licensed nutritionist or registered dietician who SPECIALIZES in working with cancer patients. At the very least PLEASE eliminate refined sugar from your diet – this included alcohol. There are studies that show a direct correlation between sugar, alcohol, and obesity and different types of cancer.
I am giving you the Readers Digest version of my 500 page training manual. It’s a lot to take in, but it is ALL so important in your long-term health and survivorship. Please feel free to explore our website for even more information, videos, webinars, etc.
I wish you all a happy, healthy, and satisfying holiday season. Hug and kiss those that you love and enjoy every beautiful day!