I’d like to share with an excerpt from my first blog for MindBodyGreen.com a coveted website dedicated to provide the tools to make your life better and healthier or inspire you to keep doing the awesome things that you’re already doing
Change happens, and it affects everyone around us like the ripples that appear when a rock is thrown into a lake.
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For the past eight years, with and without cancer, I’ve inspired, supported, encouraged and sometimes blackmailed my clients in to incorporating fitness in to their lives. I’ve worked with all types of clients with a variety of chronic health conditions including cancer.
All of these clients were amazing people who inspired me to become a better trainer. They worked incredibly hard to rebuild their bodies or simply to recapture former fitness levels. I include my own rehabilitation from cancer in with my clients because we all have personal experience with radiation, chemo and rehabilitation from surgical procedures.
But there was this one thing we all did from time to time. We did it unconsciously, it was sort of insidious and crept in at the most unexpected time. Some of us would catch ourselves, some didn’t seem to notice it, some ran with it and some gave in to it. I point to this without judgement because even though I’m 5 years out of treatment, a MovingOn class participant caught me doing it this past week! I want to share it with you because I know from experience, both professional and personal, it’s something that we do unconsciously and it can make or break us when we are in any state of illness and/or rehabilitation.
Would you like to know what I’m referring to?
BC (Before Cancer) statements. BC statements are seemingly innocent comments we make about what we used to be able to do before we were diagnosed with cancer.
Think back in your recent conversations, have any of these comments (or similar ones) passed your lips?
- Before I got sick I used to…..
- I used to be able to……
- I can’t move my…. anymore…..
- I don’t know if I can/should do that now…..
- I’ll never do a marathon….
- My doctor say’s I shouldn’t….. Let me explain this one. Although we should always heed our doctor’s advice, from time to time, we might take things a bit too far. For example: Let’s say you have you have undergone a treatment or procedure on your upper body. Your doctor says he doesn’t want you to lift any heavy objects for a while. This is good advice that you should follow. (I am guilty of what I’m about to point out, so don’t laugh). If your doctor says “don’t lift heavy objects” that does not mean don’t ever move your arms again! (Unless you are using it as an excuse to get out of completing an unpleasant chore. Under such circumstances, my fellow cancer survivor, you have my blessing to say anything you want).
Please understand, I am not pointing any of this out as a judgement or to negate anyone’s experience with the discomfort that goes along with cancer and all it’s treatments and procedures. I’m pointing to this because our words can dictate our emotions. When we are led by “BC statements” we create an internal struggle that makes MovingOn from cancer all the more difficult. I believe that when our thoughts, our emotions and our bodies are all working together harmoniously it can play a big part in how we survive being Survivors.
Through the MovingOn program and this website, I hope to inspire you to regain control over your body through exercise and rework your thoughts to focus on what works. So just for this moment, instead of focusing what we can’t do, let’s spend some time focusing on what we can do to regain control over our bodies.
Studies show that exercise can improve your mood, relieve stress, increase energy levels, strengthen bone density, increase/decrease weight, increase lean muscle mass, improve cardiovascular fitness, alleviate nausea from chemo and radiation, just to name a few.
Exercise is not just high-intense, sweat soaked clothes, muscles sore for days programs. There are so many different modalities to choose from. The modality that worked best for me and that I’d like to share with you is rehabilitative exercise. The objective of rehabilitative exercise is to correct posture, increase range of motion and reconnect with your body. Just by improving posture, range of motion and body consciousness, you will learn from your own body what you can do to alleviate the discomfort that comes along with cancer treatment.
A few tips on beginning an exercise program:
First and most important, get your doctor’s approval.
Start slow. Most of the time, a cancer diagnosis slows us down. When treatment ends we want to jump right back in to life. Take it easy, remember to build in rest periods.
Start at the beginning. Build/correct your foundation first. You wouldn’t renovate a house starting on the second floor, would you? Start with posture, that’s your foundation. Sometimes just sitting up straight can make a huge difference in how you feel. For some examples of postural exercises, click here.
Don’t discount flexibility and range of motion exercises. If you can’t stand up straight or bend over without feeling like you are going to tear something, you might want to focus on stretching, not dumb bells.
Once you have regained some range of motion, move on to body weight exercises. If you can’t manage exercising with your own body (a push up), I don’t recommend adding external resistance.
Once you have your foundation set (correct posture and sufficient range of motion), progress with bands for external resistance, then add the dumbbells and kettle bells and the like. Click here to check out exercise bands I use in the MovingOn program.
If you choose to work with a fitness professional, don’t be afraid to ask questions, make sure they have experience working with health concerns/conditions similar to your own. Or just call me.
If you want to take a class, but you aren’t sure if you are ready for it. Talk with the instructor before class. I promise you, they will appreciate it and you will feel more at ease, I promise. If they don’t; call me.
If you have not visited my friend Debbie’s blog WhereWeGoNow you are missing out on some great information. I met Debbie when she was a participant in my MovingOn program. We soon became friends, colleagues and sisters. Debbie wrote today’s blog. She covers one of my favorite subjects, sharing your story.
We all have a story. No, let me rephrase that: We all have stories. As cancer survivors, we have diagnostic stories, treatment stories, doctor stories, family and friends stories, survivorship stories – the list goes on and on. There is no end to the stories, but what we might not have is the ability to tell our stories.
Let’s be honest. The further we get down the survivorship road, the less time we are allotted to share our cancer stories. Once others in our lives have returned to normal, they aren’t as likely to be willing listeners. You can’t really blame them, but what do we do with our stories?
The answer is as varied as our community. I started telling my story when I wrote my Gifts & Losses List. My list unleashed a torrent of stories and evolved into my website, WhereWeGoNow, where survivors create inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy. I also share on Twitter and Facebook.
There are many ways to tell your story and you don’t have to go public. Try journaling or keeping a diary. Putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, unleashes emotional and physical catharsis. The beauty of journaling is the release of our untold story into a space of safety and total privacy. When journaling, you can write anything you want, without fear of offense or reprisal.
Art, and specifically drawing, is another compelling way to release the story within. I shared an amazing experience with Lockey at a survivors’ symposium. Drawing to music, Lockey and I fell into a discussion about our scars. We shared their location, how we got them and, most importantly, how we felt about them. It was an amazing moment of telling our “scar stories.”
That experience and many others convinced me that telling our stories to other survivors who “get it” is vital to healing. One of the most moving comments I ever got on my blog was written from one reader to another. The subject was survivor’s guilt and Nina wrote a long comment about her struggles. Julie P wrote back to her saying:
“Your post did as much to help me as any of the healthcare professionals I’ve been privileged to be involved with during the course of my treatment … I think “why did I get this far to feel like this now?” I still don’t know, but reading what you wrote made me feel normal. I hope, hope, hope you are still well. You have helped a total stranger. Thank you, more than I can say. Xxx”
To me, self-expression and validation are the heart of support. Being heard heals us, especially when those who hear us “get it.” Tell your stories in a journal; join a support group or an on-line community like WhereWeGoNow. Tell your untold stories in whatever ways feel natural to you. Write to me in the comments section and let me know how you tell your stories. I want to hear from you!
Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” The healing power of sharing her story as a cancer survivor compelled Debbie Woodbury to found WhereWeGoNow, an interactive community for cancer survivors creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy. Debbie is also a blogger at The Huffington Post, an inspirational speaker, a support volunteer with The Cancer Hope Network, a member of the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center Oncology Community Advisory Board, a patient educator with the Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project, a wife and mother, and a former very stressed out lawyer.
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos.
Breast cancer survivor’s comments about taking Aromatase Inhibitors:
Six months on Tamoxifen. I have joint pain in my hip, knee and foot on my right side. I have hot flashes and rashes on my hands and feet. I have been doing water aerobics and acupuncture to help. I’m hoping with time, the side effects will lessen.
Started Arimidex five months ago and had bad bone pain and nausea for 3-4 days per week. Still exercised including dance and yoga to loosen joint and bone pain. Eventually quit taking Arimidex for two months due to extreme bone pain. Talked with doctor, and going to start Arimidex again next week. Why? Because, it’s going to be better than doing chemo twice a week for a year.
If you are taking AI’s and you are feeling the side effects of these medications, please know that you are not alone. Side effects can include joint inflammation, muscle/joint pain, trigger finger, heart problems, hot flashes and osteoporosis, just to name a few. The severity of the side effects can vary from patient to patient. Many patient’s taking these medications are frustrated and feel discouraged because of lack of information from the medical community to distinguish these side effects from the medications or something else that may be triggering them. Unfortunately, doctor’s don’t seem to have clear cut answer’s to manage the side effects of these medications.
The one thing patient’s and the medical community seem to agree on to alleviate discomfort from AI’s is exercise. Gentle exercise can alleviate join/muscle pain and inflammation. Joint motion exercise is gentle in nature, does not further tax an inflamed joint and increases synovial fluid which lubricates the joint. Incorporating range of motion (gentle stretching) exercises will further support movement and decrease pain.
An example of a joint movement exercise: Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Gently raise and lower one leg 5 times. Switch legs and repeat.
An example of a gentle range of motion exercise: Sit in a chair with your feet on the floor. Bend your arms with elbows out, middle fingers pointing towards each other (touching). Gently pull your elbows apart.
If you are experiencing any side effects with AI’s, check with your hospital to find out about rehabilitative exercise programs in your area. Click here to learn more about the MovingOn rehabilitative exercise video.
It seems as though from the day of diagnosis, cancer patients are fighting to reach the day are declared Survivors. We somehow get through chemo, count down radiation treatments and march through surgeries and reconstruction all with the thought that this will someday be over and we will become Survivors. Then everything will be better, right? We have been prepared (somewhat) for treatments, surgeries, side effects and test results but how do we prepare for survivorship?
These are some of the common questions recent survivors are faced with:
Will I have to write out my medical history for every new doctor for the rest of my life?
What should I eat? What shouldn’t I eat?
Can I exercise?
Will these new breasts always feel this way every time I move?
How often will I have to see my oncologist?
Will I have to take these medications forever?
Am I the only one who feels this way?
Tracy Whitworth, Survivorship Support Care Coordinator at the CTCA, Arizona, shared the CTCA approach with me for patients/survivors. The CTCA treats the whole patient. They treat the cancer and provide a plan that supports survivors to enter this new phase of cancer well-armed and informed. Tracy makes sure each and every patient has a plan that covers their medical information/history, information about diet and exercise, appropriate support groups, identifying support services and information about pain management.
Most hospitals are or will be implementing Survivorship care plans in the near future. Check with your medical professionals to find out if your hospital provides Survivorship Plans. In the meantime, feel free to utilize the Tips for Survivorship utilized at the CTCA.
Tips for Survivorship
1 Empower yourself to be your own patient advocate, know your rights.
2.Obtain a summary of your treatments. A brief snap shot of what your diagnosis and treatment had been can be extremely helpful to present to other healthcare providers that may be involved with your care.
3. Exercise to your fitness level. Exercise during and after treatment can assist with minimizing fatigue and help with a better recovery period. Work with your care team to develop a sound nutrition plan.
4. Connect with other survivors; this can assist with moving forward in your journey back to living life.
5. Seek out additional resources regarding physical, social, spiritual and financial needs.
6. Manage your symptoms; don’t suffer in silence. Voice the side effects of impairments that you may be experiencing to your care team. There may be some interventions that could be put in place to assist in diminishing or alleviating the issue.
7. LIVE LIFE!
By following these guidelines, you will educate and empower yourself through the new world of Survivorship.
I am very excited to share with you that I will be attending the 2013 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Blogger Summit this weekend in Arizona. The theme for this event is Innovation in Cancer Care and Personalized Medicine. Matthew Zachary, Founder and CEO of Stupid Cancer will be in attendance to speak about Survivorship: How to Cope After Treatment. We will meet with physicians, patients, tour the CTCA Hope Springs Organic Farm and meet with bloggers from around the country.
I will be blogging from the event but you can catch some of the action by clicking here for a live stream of the Summit.
I remember ridiculous comments such as “I hope you didn’t pass the cancer gene down to your kids.” I remember cute comments like when I was wearing a black scarf on my head and big silver hoop earrings and a little boy asked me if I was a pirate. I said “yes”. I remember supportive comments. Like the nurse who was herself a breast cancer survivor hugging me and telling me “You will be okay, I can just feel it.” but I don’t remember anyone offering me magic words that would change everything.
I pondered this for a long time, what would I say, better yet, what would I want to hear.
As I often do, I took this question to my yoga mat, as I was breathing in and out of each pose, it came to me. Breathing is the key. Breathing can change everything. Yoga practitioners have used breathing (pranayama) to control their mind and body in their practice for years. Breathing can be used to control the body’s reaction to stress. When stressed, breath becomes shallow, which can contribute to anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, insomnia, panic attacks, stress and some skin conditions such as eczema. Taking a conscious deep breath causes the body to slow down both mentally and physically. By slowing down for just a moment, awareness becomes available. In the middle of the chaos that is cancer (or any stressful situation), take a moment to breathe a few full, deep breaths.
Maybe you are thinking of too many things at once, maybe you have unanswered questions, maybe you are just scared and you need to cry. Conscious breathing creates that awareness that allows you to take care of yourself. You can organize your thoughts, get your questions answered, maybe it’s as simple as allowing yourself to have a good cry.
Cancer patients rarely have positive choices to make. By taking care of yourself even for just one moment, you will have the clarity to choose how the next moment will unfold, and that is your first step in powerfully MovingOn from cancer.
So the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, take a couple of long, slow deep breaths. Inhale and exhale as if you are about to change your life, because you are.
Soon after I completed cancer treatment, I started teaching the MovingOn Exercise program. I was fortunate to have Debbie Woodbury, founder of Where We Go Now attend my class. Debbie and I quickly became friends. From my friendship with Debbie I’ve learned many things (I’ll share two of them) I wish I had a cancer buddy while I was going through treatment and I wish I had a guide to prepare me for and get me through chemotherapy.
Once again, Debbie has offered me some solid information that I would like to share with you.
Don’t Start Chemotherapy Without This Guide
“If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires.” Abigail Van Buren
If you or someone you know is about to embark on chemotherapy, how helpful would it be to talk with someone who has gone through it? Would you have a little less fear after that person shared her experience with honesty and reassurance? Might you be a bit more prepared once you had answers from a survivor who stood in your shoes and successfully walked through the fire?
Reading “Getting Past the Fear, A guide to help you mentally prepare for chemotherapy,” is like talking with an empathetic, experienced friend. That friend is Nancy Stordahl, breast cancer survivor and blogger, and her guide is written from patient to patient with intimacy and warmth.
Nancy’s walked the walk and now she walks beside you to guide you through the process. Her book is conversational and leaves nothing unsaid:
- Giving yourself permission to feel whatever you feel
- How to ask for help
- The importance of research and asking questions until you are satisfied
- Questions to ask your oncologist
- What it is like to lose your hair
- The ins and outs of buying and wearing a wig
- The necessity of taking care of yourself
- Why you should consider journaling
- Plan a getaway before chemo starts and have something to look forward to when it’s complete
- Paying attention to your partner’s needs
- What to expect the first day of chemo
I believe The Secret to Making Your Way on Your Cancer Journey is very simple: find support from a network of people who “get it.” Nancy’s book offers the gift of experience and compassion that only a seasoned veteran can give. If you or someone you care about is about to start this journey, I highly recommend picking up Nancy’s guide here and reading it before you take another step.
ABOUT: Debbie believes “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” (Maya Angelou). The healing power of sharing her story as a cancer survivor compelled her to found WhereWeGoNow, an interactive community for cancer survivors creating inspired healing, wellness and live out loud joy. She is also a Huffington Post blogger, an inspirational speaker, support volunteer with The Cancer Hope Network, member of the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center Oncology Community Advisory Board, patient educator with the Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project, and a former very stressed out lawyer.
Copyright (c) 2012 WhereWeGoNow, LLC
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment. This review also contains affiliate links that compensate MovingOn should you make a purchase.
Breast Cancer Survivors are the strongest people I know.
After months of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries and/or radiation, some are asked to take a medication for a period of time (5 years minimum) that causes joint swelling, mood swings, random “arthritis-like” joint pain, insomnia, weight gain/loss and sometimes hair loss.
These medications are usually started just as the patient is declared a survivor and invited to “get back to normal.” So they do. They return to work, cook, clean, manage holidays, host fund raisers and take care of their families. What makes these women strong? They do all these “normal” things while managing the above mentioned side effects of medication.
…And we are grateful to be here to deal with all this…..
I am a member of a club that no one wants to be in, The Cancer Club. To get in to this club is not easy, one has to face their own mortality, endure having poison injected in to their body, undergo complicated surgical procedures and in general, have their lives torn apart. If they survive they get to take what’s left and rehabilitate from the inside out.
To rehabilitate a post-cancer body is no easy feat, The patient is fighting to recover from a war that started in his/her cells. The very job of chemotherapy is to attack and kill bad cells (like any war, a few good cells go down in the fight as well). Chemotherapy can cause a wide array of side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and weight gain/loss just to name a few. Now add radiation and/or surgery to the mix. “Sunburn”, skin necrosis and fatigue, are just a few examples of what one gets with radiation. Surgeries take a toll on the body in that while the patient’s body is trying to rebuild from the chemo or radiation, they now have to deal with healing surgical scars and wounds. And, if the cancer treatment wasn’t enough, there are also side effects to the afore mentioned treatments. Chronic issues such as; lymphedema, neuropathy, scar tissue adhesions, depression, loss of self-esteem and anxiety are just a few of the other issues arise with cancer treatment.
All of the above is part and parcel of the cancer patient/survivor experience. I am a cancer survivor and a personal trainer. Through exercise, I support cancer patients make the transitions from patient to survivor. It’s a tough road to travel. We start at the very foundation of fitness. Postural re-alignment. To put is simply, first I get them to sit up straight and we progress from there. We regain flexibility and strength while rebuilding confidence and self-esteem. We regain control over our lives. I’ve seen people get excited when they are finally strong enough to push a vacuum across a floor. It’s their first sign of regaining control, of no longer being a patient or someone who needs to be cared for. The cancer community is a group of supportive individuals, we want to support other’s who get drafted in to our club. We want to be there when they feel strong again.
So when I see average folks enduring cancer treatment, then rebuilding from the inside out, it really kills me to see someone like Lance do what he did. Wasn’t it enough to beat cancer? Wasn’t it enough to participate in a grueling display of athleticism in a post-treatment body? Wasn’t it enough to inspire millions to Livestrong after treatment.
Lance, you put yourself out there as an example of what the human body can do after beating cancer, and it was inspiring to watch. We wouldn’t have cared if you won or lost. We were just happy to see you ride.