Breast Cancer has changed my fitness ideas to another level

Karen in Darwin
Karen in Darwin Member Posts: 9
edited September 2016 in Health and wellbeing

Hi, my name’s Karen and I am a
Breast Cancer survivor, a member at Fernwood Darwin and I have just completed
my 'Certificate III in Fitness' through Fernwood Learning.

In March 2012, at the age of 37
married with 3 young children, my life was turned upside down. I went for a
routine mammogram and ultrasound following my 40 year old sister's breast
cancer diagnosis. On the 20th March 2012, my GP shattered me with the news
"It is Breast Cancer". I had a 7mm, Grade 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
tumour and extensive pre-invasive cancer cells to the ducts which had possibly
been there since my late 20s! My tumour was Hormone Receptor positive, but
unfortunately HER2 Positive making the cancer more aggressive requiring 6
cycles of chemotherapy and Herceptin treatment every 3 weeks for 12 months. I
had a total of 8 hospital admissions, including 6 operations. This included a
double mastectomy with reconstruction. I continue on medication for 10 years to
block the effects of hormones and further reduce my risk of recurrence.

I’m now focusing on my next breast
cancer treatment in line to help with the management of the side effects I have
experienced since my diagnosis. Regular exercise improves both physical and
emotional health which is beneficial for general wellbeing. Exercise has shown
to provide these benefits and improve women’s health and quality of life,
including reducing fatigue, improving moods and management of depression,
anxiety, pain, lymphedema, sleep, bone health, menopause and maintain a healthy
weight. Research supports regular exercise reducing the risk of Breast Cancer
recurrence by 24% and can reduce the risk of developing Breast Cancer in those
fortunate enough who have not been diagnosed with this disease.

Fernwood has a very supportive
relationship with Breast Cancer Network Australia, a national organisation who provides
free information and support to Australians affected by breast
cancer.  Earlier this year I was fortunate to have received 1 of 10
scholarships offered to Breast Cancer Survivors in Australia. The on-line
course was easy to follow and I was well supported by staff at Fernwood
Learning (Melbourne) and Fernwood (Darwin). Attending the weekend intensive
gave me the opportunity to meet other students with similar interests
and to develop fitness programs  in a safe learning environment. I
enjoyed studying the 'Certificate III in fitness' as whilst it kept my brain
ticking, it also kept me physically active.  Long-term I would like to run
fitness classes to Darwin's breast cancer community whilst maintaining my own
fitness at Fernwood Darwin.



  • Deanne
    Deanne Member Posts: 2,163
    Well done Karen. I also have changed my ideas of fitness as a result of bc. The benefits make the effort well and truly worth it. 
    You are a great example of how exercise can help you recover and minimize those side effects. You look terrific!
    I hope you get to run that Fitness Class for other bc ladies!  :)
  • primek
    primek Member Posts: 5,392
    Fantadtic story.
  • Jane221
    Jane221 Member Posts: 1,196
    Good on you Karen and given your determination I'm sure you'll be running those fitness classes in the not too distant future!
  • LITHGOW1950
    LITHGOW1950 Member Posts: 314
    Such a lovely interesting story to read. Well done. 
  • ccasper
    ccasper Dragonfly Posts: 190
    Well done Karen. Such a great story. An amazing way to give back also. I have always been fit and a competitive athlete a lot of my life so keeping up my fitness is definitely something I am aiming to do during my treatment. 
  • iserbrown
    iserbrown Member Posts: 5,606
    Karen you look so proud!  Good on you!
  • Michelle_R
    Michelle_R Member Posts: 901
    Well done, Karen!  What you say is so true.  For me, following an exercise routine has been a life-line throughout the past 4.5 years, and has had a positive effect on weight, fitness, moods and general wellbeing.  You look wonderful and I hope you get to do your classes!  Michelle x
  • melclarity
    melclarity Member Posts: 3,524
    Such a great story, thanks Karen!

    Ive actually found it so difficult doing exercise and Im 9 months post chemo, but working 3 days and being a single parent has tremendous time constraints not to mention fatigue. The other thing Ive battled with is pain constantly, no matter how much I walk, its the same, I enjoy walking when I can. I did an 8 week rehab and loved the strength training, hardest thing now is trying to fit it all in and not be in pain. 

    Melinda xo
  • Bevkk
    Bevkk Member Posts: 26
    Your story is very timely and has encouraged me to follow up on the revitalise programme. I finish Chemo in one week Yay and I'm looking at starting the programme. Can any ladies advise if this programme is worth doing and how did you find the Fernwood Gym. I have never been a gym person so interested to hear your stories. 
  • Karen in Darwin
    Karen in Darwin Member Posts: 9
    edited September 2016
    Thanks everyone for your lovely comments.

    It is good to hear that many of you are enjoying exercise. If you are finding it difficult or pain may be a factor, start off slowly.......a 10 minute walk around the block. If side effects are on-going please see your GP or health care provider before commencing any exercise routine. We are all at different stages in our journey so listen to your own body.

    Encore have a gentle exercise program which they offer to all women diagnosed with breast cancer. A great way to get back into exercise. Speak with your Breast Care Nurse to see if Encore is available in your area.

    The Revitalise program sounds like a great idea and I will be looking into this very soon. Fernwood gym have been very supportive and I highly recommend them.

    Keep up the good exercise ladies.


  • melclarity
    melclarity Member Posts: 3,524
    Hi Karen,
    Unfortunately Arimidex seems to be the culprit coupled with chemo side effects. I would have thought by 9 months post chemo I would be much more active. My job is extremely demanding physically and can only manage 3 days and my feet/legs ache. I also walk about 3 times a week for about 30 mins which I love. I did the ENHANCE program through the Epworth Hospital in Melbourne and totally recommend it!!! 8 weeks with professionals and strength training was awesome! Though back to reality without it. I have a Fernwood near me and was wanting to check it out but a friend also I met through the program tried the Enhance program, said the setup was ok, the only thing she found was the where she went the Staff just had no clue about how to help her, werent educated. So she didnt continue. I think every Fernwood would be very different however. My income protection has now engaged an exercise physiologist so am looking forward to that, so I can get moving!!! From there hopefully I can join Fernwood as somewhere ongoing.
    Thanks Karen.
  • socoda
    socoda Member Posts: 1,767
    Hi Karen, Congratulations first of all on getting the scholarship and now on having completed it. What a wonderful sense of achievement you must get every time you look at the certificate or go to the gym. I'm sure your commitment to health and goal of running classes would be a great boon for Darwin's BC ladies :) All the best Xx Cath
  • Ann-Marie
    Ann-Marie Member Posts: 1,142
    Karen this is just fantastic. Congratulations on completing this qualification. I think it would be amazing if you could run fitness classes in Darwin for the community. I will be following your journey. Please keep us posted on how you are tracking x 
  • Yamo
    Yamo Member Posts: 26
    Well done Karen, that is a great achievement. All throughout my journey the gym was my savior. I continued to exercise and still doing it now. I can say that I am so much stronger and fitter than ever before. No matter how weak or depressed you may feel, exercise always helps. There are days that I feel weak and think that I won't last the day but once I get to the gym and do a workout, it definitely improves my mood and end up having a much better day. I feel more depressed and weak when I don't go.
    Wishing you all the best. xxx
  • Melhay
    Melhay Member Posts: 157
    Hi Karen,
    Congratulations on your achievement.
    Some of the side effects of breast Cancer treatment you mentioned really resonated with me - you've inspired me to get back out there pounding the pavement with my dog who is missing the exercise as much as me!