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Fighting back with fitness

primekprimek Broken HillMember Posts: 5,407
edited December 2017 in Health and wellbeing
I thought I would share my ups and downs regaining my fitness since chemo.

For a start I gained an astonishing amount of weight during chemo, around 20 plus kgs. I had gained 3 to 4 post surgery also before chemo. (Bilateral mastectomy and recon) After chemo with my oncologist blessing around 6 weeks I went on to optifast as I wanted to drop the weight as I was going back in for surgery to finish my reconstruction and I had such awful body image with the gain (and lost breasts). That was successful.

However once again  I started gaining weight...I was finally workingg full time (that took 6 months to be fit enough), I was quite stessed about workloads and my brother had a life threatening accident  (head injury and 3 spinal fracture) thankfully he came through. I am and always will be an emotional eater.

During all this and my gradual return to work I was trying to recover my physical fitness. Pre treatment I attended the gym 4 days a week and most weekends swam or did aquafit.  All I could manage on chemo was walking in a hydro pool which kept some muscle tone. My back hurt, my knees hurt, I had constant muscle spasms and lower sacral /hip pain. I was so weak in the legs if I got on tbe floor I couldn't get up. I did do a cancer exercise group for a few weeks but had to stop as started back at work. 

I started back at the gym and zumba then got exhausted and stopped. I was diagnosed with reduced heart function at this time.

I did the encore program and felt pretty good  then tried gym work again but felt exhausted again and stopped.

I became fearful of becoming overtired by exercising, more so after being back working full time as I really struggled. 

But I didnt give up.

I started with walking again using my fitbit and had got to 9000 steps a day after 3 weeks....then bam...spent a week on the lounge and barely could make it through the day. Plus my knees and sacral pain worsened.

Then I tried gym work. Light cardio. Some weights and stretching. Felt fantastic 3 weeks then bam...on the couch again.

So I have seen an exercise physiologist to help. What I am to do is not workout at 8-9/10 effort now. I'm to work out at 5-6/10. This isn't easy as I feel fine but so far this is working. I've been using that theory in classes also. I also have accepted if I can only exercise 3 weeks in 4 then that's better than no exercise. If I'm really tired I skip it.
I tried to have no exercise days but am focussing on not just resting on these days but keeping busy. 

I'm finally feeling like the old me. My holiday week away last week included long walks, bowling etc. I no longer felt like a recovering breast cancer patient but the old me.

My diet. ..well I'm focussed on that too. I've rejoined weight watchers and focussing on nourishing foods. I'm pre planning and packing lunches ahead and even breakfasts (frittatas, pancakes etc) so no time excuses in the morning. I'm down almost 5 kg. Still another 5 before I'm feeling better though.

So something is working. Life is most definetly worth reclaiming.

Kath x



  • DeanneDeanne Sunshine Coast QldMember Posts: 2,148
    You are so determined Kath! Hang onto that and those next 5kg don’t stand a chance! Finding the right balance is hard enough in ‘normal’ circumstances but after bc it is so tough. All our energy has gone into fighting the cancer but you are right. Life is most definitely worth reclaiming. xxx
  • ZoffielZoffiel Regional VictoriaMember Posts: 3,158
    Kudos to you, Kath. 

    The old adage, 'eat less and move more' has been thrown at people trying to keep their weight under control for decades. Given the circumstances some of us are operating under it amounts to nothing more than cruel trolling. Yes, weight loss is a product in product out' equation but it is just not that bloody easy.

    I'm very familiar with what you are experiencing regarding the sheer enormity of mustering enough energy to get  out of bed some days let alone getting up and pushing my broken body and mind to do what I feel I need to do to regain my fitness. I want to lose the saddlebags which are hanging off my arse. I walk 5 km every morning but it is not enough to move the flab

     It's interesting to hear that someone else is having the same issues with exercise in the no pain no gain arena. I had a three month open door membership at the local YMCA. I'm an old gym junkie from way back and thought 'You beauty, I'll get in there and sort this shit out.' 

    I'm still a very muscular old bird and can heave some serious weights around and unload a trailer full of sand in less than 15 minutes. But that 15 minutes is all I've got. After that I'm stuffed for the rest of the day. It didnt  matter how many days a week I went in and got on a treadmill. I was simply not improving. Same in the pool, 1.5 km and that is it. The pain in my muscles doesn't abate and hangs around for hours after I stop trying to push my boundaries out a bit.

    My stamina has stammed off into the distance and won't come back no matter what I try. The further consequences of that are being too shagged to even contemplate planning meals and generally looking after myself. A couple of hours work, what I consider a very modest exercise plan and I'm done. Maybe what you are being told, that less is more, makes better sense than flogging myself--though it contradicts all the advice I have ever been given

    My butt is still slapping me on the back of my cellulite coated thighs with every step. I didn't mind having jiggling boobs, jiggling belly fat is so not an acceptable substitute. None of this improves my mental health which, of course, makes it even harder to get motivated to try to fix it.

    Good on you for persisting. It would be all too easy to give up. You are an inspiration. Marg xxx
  • AfraserAfraser MelbourneMember Posts: 3,387
    Love the motto! I realise I was very fortunate, I lost weight during chemo. The battle has been to keep it off. Holidays are great, I come back lighter because I can walk a lot. Keeping up several hours walking with working is much harder. I have kept up my gym membership and this is now a routine. My energy is fine, my neuropathied feet get a bit battered though. But overall I have kept about 10 kilos lighter and feel much better for it.  
  • iserbrowniserbrown Regional VictoriaMember Posts: 4,477
    edited December 2017
    In my opinion, based on experience from long ago, I feel that the need is to treat it as endurance training and not sprint training - for the long run and not a 100m dash!  Slowly build up to where you want to be instead of pushing at full strength and falling down!
  • Brenda5Brenda5 Burrum Heads, QldMember Posts: 2,398
    Hat off to you. My weight only has one agenda atm and thats on, on and more on. I have taken up walking again but the weight still packs on. I think I have just completed menopause and my body's gone haywire. Hopefully it will all settle down soon.
  • adeanadean Member Posts: 1,041
    Kath you are bloody amazing. Xxxx
  • Lefty1166Lefty1166 Country W. AMember Posts: 17
    Great effort ladies. I to have always been active with sport.Even when I wasn't able to play due to sports injuries I managed to give back as a coach. Before my diagnosis this year I was feeling fit and healthy I do think that helped me recover well after my mastectomy in April. 
    6-8 weeks after surgery I managed to get back into the gym .It was frustrating at times because I just wasn't able to push my body as hard as before. It took a while to start working up to the level I was at and with walking nearly every day things seem to be back on track even though I do require rest in the afternoon. 
    Exercise has and is the best treatment for body and mind .With summer arriving living in the West we have great weather and beaches which I enjoy also as therapy. So gym walking and swimming is what helps me.
    I will continue on while my health is OK hopefully by staying that bit healthy and fit it will help through the tougher times. 
    So only do what your body allows you to do take it one day at a time .
  • SisterSister Adelaide Hills, SAMember Posts: 4,857
    @Zoffiel - I'm on my knees worshipping you!  I was at the pool today and 800m nearly did me in - I haven't even started any treatment yet!!
  • RomlaRomla AdelaideMember Posts: 2,070
    What remarkable women all of you ! I started a daily one hour walk plus a twice weekly gentle Stretch and Balance class and have just finished 8 weeks of Encore.
    The walking has helped on all levels - physical, mental and emotional - I did fall off the wagon for 3weeks however when a good mate died from cancer at 56 and succumbed to comfort eating - sadly Christmas is always a challenge foodwise as every goodie I like is available but due to persistent hinting and example of my husband am back walking again.Walking yet again have had joint pain my ankle this time but again seem to be able to walk thru it and it goes away. And yes need to lie on the bed for a while after as quite hilly where we live but am doing it. TBH exercise and I have never been tight but I listen to music on my phone which distracts me from the job at hand - even listened to the Bruce Springsteen autobiography for many walks spoken by the man himself -not a real fan but quite a good “ read”.
    Stretch and Balance is  gentle involves some light weights and designed for our community senior citizens and I am the youngest by quite a few years .The first time I did it was the day after radiotherapy ended and went home slept all afternoon - very embarrassing! This class has helped a lot too with joint pain but is in recess now until next year so have increased my walking to twice daily - am lucky my route is very shady as darned hot lately.
    Encore was fabulous for so many reasons - floor exercises followed by hydrotherapy in a very warm pool as well as a weekly guest speaker about matters of interest to bc survivors and above all being with others who had been there done that too.

    I think we are all human - things happen that distracts us from our health then it’s time to be gentle with ourselves but eventually to get back on the “horse that bucked us “ .Life is good and worth fighting for.
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  • primekprimek Broken HillMember Posts: 5,407
    @Joanie Yes...try and stay stable on chemo. The dose is weight dependent up or down. I saw a dietitian on chemo to stop gaining weight but it didn't help. For me it was probably the lack of activity that really contributed as well as requiring high amounts  steroids. One of the things they recommend post treatment though is to exercise as they have found women who do have lower recurrence rates. Why? They have no idea.

    I exercise as it keeps my arthritic back more mobile and assists with keeping my weight stable and is good for managing stress. It's nothing to do with cancer recurrence but it was definitely something my oncologist discussed even in our first meeting. Nothing dramatic. 30 minute walk and suggested weight lifting 2  to 3 times a week to keep bone health as our treatments can impact on that too.
  • AfraserAfraser MelbourneMember Posts: 3,387
    My day oncology checked my weight at every treatment, and discussed with my oncologist my dose when I lost weight, but there was no suggestion I should not lose weight (I wasn't really trying anyway!) or that adjusting my dose (my oncologist didn't) was in any way difficult. If you have 6 months of chemo, and your pattern of eating and exercise changes, it's not hard to imagine that it will take much longer than 6 months to get back to a healthier pattern - weight is unhelpfully like that! . I was double lucky in that my pattern of eating changed (due to taste buds loss - I could taste healthier options, ate less, could not stand alcohol) and I didn't have any significant change in exercise as I did not have fatigue. So I wasn't trying to change back to my old pattern after chemo, just trying to keep to the new one.
  • SoldierCrabSoldierCrab Bathurst NSW Member Posts: 3,322
    you are my inspiration 
  • jennyssjennyss Western NSWMember Posts: 1,071
    Dear Network members,
    Reading all the tips and experiences about fitness has been very encouraging for me. Four weeks after chemotherapy and radiotherapy finishing and now on anastrozole, I too am trying to build up my fitness and stamina. I have a hill behind my house - a 20 minute walk up and back, with birds to watch too and views of mountains - very good. I am having mild problems with my ankles aching. I also have terrible balance and those bottom kitchen cupboards are quite a challenge! I am going to try a yoga class at a local gym next week - one free session to see if you like it.
    Best wishes to you all from jennyss
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