If someone told you that in as little as 20 minutes you could turn around the negative effects of breast cancer and:
• Look better
• Feel better
• Take some control back in your life
What would you say? Unlikely? Impossible? Or words not to be shared in polite company?!? You may surprise you, but I'll admit I said all of the above.
By making a little time for physical activity, such as gentle walking or swimming - even as little as 20 minutes - you can reduce the impact of some common side effects of breast cancer, such as swelling around the arm, anxiety, depression, fatigue, impaired mobility and even weight changes.
I can assure you from experience that exercise works when it comes to coping with cancer. I used to prescribe exercise to many patients as a former physiotherapist for the National Health Service. And my belief in this ‘wonder drug’ was tested when I became a patient myself.
In 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer - the biggest curve ball thrown at me during my otherwise ‘doing-very-well-thank-you-very-much!’ life!
I was stunned. This horrid disease had occupied my body. In order to survive, had to relinquish control over my body to teams of surgeons, nurses, treatments and multiple surgeries. I can assure you that wasn’t an easy feat for an independent woman used to making my own decisions!
I had stepped onto the ‘cancer treatment treadmill’, a non-stop deluge of appointments in which had to make life-changing decisions about my treatments in very short windows of time. I was constantly hearing ‘guess-timations’ of possible outcomes of treatments from medical professionals, and continuously (and apprehensively) signing consent forms, without feeling I fully wanted to consent…
Though I am truly grateful for the outcome of medical intervention (I’m seven years free of cancer - hurrah!), at the time, I struggled from the impact of being on the ‘cancer treatment treadmill’.
Having a mastectomy affected me both physically and psychologically
Having a mastectomy affected me both physically and psychologically. Physically with post-mastectomy pain, and weight gain as I had to remain inactive while healing - for months. This impacted me psychologically too; my confidence plummeted because my body had dramatically changed. I felt as if someone had pushed me down a deep, dark hole. I longed to gain back control of my life, feel better about myself, and I will admit, to feel beautiful.
What could I do? What did I do?
As a former physiotherapist, I knew exercise played a significant role in recovery from illness. I had witnessed how exercise affected my old patients, literally transforming them physically and mentally from head-to-toe. But after my mastectomy, my confidence was at an all-time low. I had to work hard to take some of my own physical therapy medicine. ‘Physician heal thyself’ in the most actual sense!
I have always had a desire to learn how to scuba-dive. I also had a phobia of being in deep water resulting from a near-drown experience when I was four years old. My fears prevented me from pursuing this dream. With breast cancer came the clarity to face many fears, including my water phobia. I made a pact with myself: when I had recovered physically enough from my mastectomy, I would learn how to dive.
I had once but to start off really slowly. I was building my fitness levels up after a long periods of recovering from su madergeries and constant fatigue. It was tough! But I kept at it, strengtheningwith swimming lessons and yoga classes. After some time (and having myself a pocketed mastectomy bikini) I was physicalable to don a wetsuit and swim with the fishes!
My point is not that you have to take it to the extreme and take up scuba-diving (though I would encourage you to as it is breathtaking)! It is to say that your physical victories are yours to have, if you just take on exercising at your own pace.
Please go at your own pace, as any gentle exercise will do to start!
Even gentle exercise gets your heart pumping, as well as releasing your own feel-good hormones serotonin and endorphins, and put you back in touch a sense of confidence and a feeling of a relationship with your body. By deciding to exercise, you can start to reconnect to your body and your wellbeing. I encourage you to have a go!
What's your favourite activity that gets you moving? We would love to hear in the comments below. And, if you’ve enjoyed reading this article, please share it with your friends on social media.
With warmth, Clover
All information provided in this blog and website are provided for informational or educational purposes only and are not intended to be, or serve as a substitute for, professional medical/psychological advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical or psychological condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of information you accessed on or through this blog or from www.cloverlewis.com.