How exercise transformed my experience of cancer

Furthermore, the trials also found that exercise could reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and even prevent the cancer from spreading and coming back, thus increasing the chances of long-term survival.

Far from being an outlier, this trial adds to a large body of evidence showing the benefits of staying active for cancer patients. In 2020, a study reported by the US National Cancer Institute indicated that women with high-risk breast cancer like mine who were physically active before, during, and after their cancer diagnosis and treatment were less likely to that his cancer would come back or that he would die. “Our data strongly suggest that the more active patients were, the better they did,” said study senior author Dr. Rickki Cannioto.

Even more surprising, a 2017 Canadian review of 67 published studies found that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as dancing, brisk walking, or cycling, five times a week, along with conventional treatment, could reduce recurrence of breast cancer by 40 percent. Similarly, American research from Yale University found that a daily walk of just 25 minutes almost halved mortality among people with breast cancer.

In 2019, a report by Macmillan Cancer Support, the Royal College of Anesthetists, the National Institute for Health Research Cancer and Nutrition Collaboration said: “People are less vulnerable to the side effects of cancer treatment if they are as healthy as possible, physically and mentally. psychologically.”

But the benefits of being active aren’t just physical. The organizations said giving people diagnosed with cancer help to improve their fitness and nutrition could also help patients “regain a sense of control.” The American College of Sports Medicine recommends exercise to reduce depression and increase quality of life.

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That certainly rings true for me. My initial diagnosis immediately sent me into a panic tailspin. Every little twinge in my body felt like proof that I was riddled with tumors. And suddenly the exercise that, frankly, he had undertaken with vanity in mind, took on a much deeper meaning. During yoga poses, I was able to identify healthy causes of discomfort as my muscles stretched or supported me. During the last minutes of relaxation, I repeated a mantra in my mind: “I’m fine. I’m strong.”

My body was not just a site of disease or an object to be subjected to increasingly terrifying treatments. By exercising I could feel in charge, have fun and get stronger. I was not surprised to read a 2017 report that yoga, in particular, increases energy, improves sleep and emotional well-being, and reduces pain and fatigue in women with breast cancer.

I was forced to stop working shortly after my diagnosis because I found I couldn’t concentrate. Also, the timeframes I used to thrive on increased my anxiety levels and plummeted my mood, which is bad for my family life and recovery. However, I instinctively stepped up my exercise as I felt this would help me both mentally and physically.

The day I was told the tests showed my cancer hadn’t spread, I headed to the gym to celebrate. I also made it a point to walk 8,000 steps a day. After each fortnightly chemotherapy session, I would call my husband and we would take our dachshund Merlin for a walk in the woods. The combination of fresh air, nature and movement offered a glorious contrast to sitting for hours in a sterile hospital filled with vital but toxic chemicals.

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