by Debbie Woodbury, founder WhereWeGoNow
Number one, like yourself. Number two, you have to eat healthy. And number three, you’ve got to squeeze your buns. That’s my formula. Richard Simmons
After cancer treatments and surgeries, our bodies are definitely changed. Where there once was health and vigor, there is now scarring, tightness, soreness and weakness. While it certainly takes time to heal physically, it often takes longer to heal our battered body image.
Even after our doctor has cleared us for physical activity, many of us are scared to get moving. We’ve become protective and have a real fear of doing our bodies further harm. Pain is a great educator and we involuntarily shrink so as not to experience more of it.
When my doctor cleared me for physical activity, he encouraged me to exercise. I joined a rehabilitative exercise class, which went at a pace specifically designed for women recouperating from breast cancer surgery. Emboldened by that class, I joined a gym and attended a Pilates class. The instructor told us to lie on our backs and raise our feet up off the floor. My feet wouldn’t budge a fraction of an inch. After a TRAM flap reconstruction, my abdominal muscles would have none of it. I was so overwhelmed by yet another loss of cancer, I wanted to run from the room crying. I didn’t run, but I never went back to that class.
Saturday, at the Survivorship Symposium I attended at Overlook Hospital, I spoke to a survivor who is out of treatment for a year. She experienced exactly the same “run out of the room crying” feeling I did when she attempted to go back to playing tennis. I commiserated with her, but reassured her that I subsequently found yoga and now can very easily lift my feet off the floor. It just took sticking with it and finding an exercise that worked for me.
There’s just one thing I won’t do anymore after my surgery – go back on a roller coaster. The thought of throwing my body around like that hurts just to think about. The truth is that I was timing out before my surgery, but the surgery put the kibosh on rollercoaster riding for good. That’s okay though. Screaming was the only exercise I got riding a roller coaster anyway.
If your doctor has cleared you for exercise, are you up and moving? Studies now show that exercise is not only important for healing, but also for lowering your risk for future cancers. Make sure to find activities that you like and are comfortable doing and get moving!