How To Get Yourself Back After Cancer Treatment

How to get yourself back after cancer treatmentThis past weekend I ran a 10-mile race. I realized afterward that it has been exactly three years since I received the call that changed my life. I remembered this same race, the Mid-Winter Classic in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, three years ago. I did not compete, but my husband did. That year the race was a few days earlier, and I didn’t know what was coming.

I had a mammogram and ultrasound, done two days before, which were both “reassuring”. I distinctly remember waiting for my husband to finish and thinking I had nothing to worry about.

I was wrong, and four days later I knew it. Because of the timing, in my mind, this race will always be associated with my cancer diagnosis. I competed this year for the third time. It is a great race. Well organized, good course. Big enough to be fun, but not so big that the logistics become difficult (making it less fun.)

The first time I ran was two years ago. I had just completed my treatment three months before; and, I had a great day. The weather was warm, for February. I ran well, finished strong and felt good. Since I had lost a lot of conditioning during treatment, I had no real expectations about pace or time and was pleased with an 8:39-minute/mile pace. I even ran the last mile, which is mostly uphill in an 8:08-minute pace. I have never been a fast runner, usually in the middle of the pack. The 8:39 put me right where I wanted to be.

I had come full circle. It had been a year. My treatment was behind me. I felt strong, was able to push myself. I had gone from thinking all I would need was a biopsy, to surviving the full monty of breast cancer treatment and now thriving enough to run a 10-mile race in a respectable time.  I felt like my old self.

After the race, I kept training and pushing myself to get faster. I did another 10-mile race two months later and ran faster. I did a few sprint triathlons and continued to feel strong, fast and improve with every race.

Until sometime in July, when the wheels came off the bus. I was tired and sore all the time. I did some more races. Instead of feeling strong and getting faster, I felt awful and got slower and slower.

In October, I ran a half marathon that was almost a minute per mile slower than I had run in April. I then realized my clothes didn’t fit, and I had gained ten pounds! I was exercising vigorously every day, and yet I had lost fitness and gained weight.

getting back to good health after cancer treatmentI am still figuring out what went wrong. So far I have come up with a few theories. I overtrained and did not let myself recover. I needed to back off, give myself some time to rest, both from my workouts as well as the long year of treatment.

I did not do any strength training. We all lose muscle mass with age and all the training I was doing, without any recovery, accelerated that loss.

Or maybe it was just too much for my poor body which had been through so much with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Whatever the cause, I was out of shape and overweight, despite working out all the time. What should I do now? I needed a new plan. More exercise, or, at least, more aerobic exercise, was clearly not the answer. But what was?

Some discomfort and soreness during and after a workout are good, which is part of what helps you to improve. Knowing when you have crossed the line from a challenging workout to an overdoing it workout is hard. I usually think more is better, now I know that it is not. Frequently, but not always, I can tell when I am doing too much. I listen to what my body is telling me because it does tell me.

It also seems that I needed more strength training. Strength used to be an afterthought. I more or less thought it was a waste of time, and it was the first thing to go if I had time constraints or flagging motivation. Strength and conditioning are now a priority that I make sure to do at least two if not three times per week.

Happily I can report that these changes seemed to have worked!

I ran the race this year 10 seconds/mile slower than I had two years ago. I think that’s a win. Pace aside, I felt strong, I finished well and had fun, which of course should always be the primary goal. So often the fun part gets lost, especially when you have a goal time in mind. This race reminded me that pushing yourself to perform is fun, even when it’s hard, and sometimes hurts.

The last 12-18 months were frustrating after realizing what I did to myself. I learned that my body has changed, I am sure cancer treatment caused, at least, some of that change, but so does age. The good news is that you can still improve even when you are getting older, and even if you have had to suffer through cancer treatment.

Listen to yourself, you can learn a lot.

What obstacles did you have getting back to good health after cancer treatment? Let me know

Dr. Kate KiloranDr. Kate Killoran is a board-certified OB/GYN with 15+ years of clinical experience and a breast cancer survivor. Medical school, residency, and clinical practice educated her thoroughly about disease. What her medical education failed to teach her was how to be healthy and well. This she learned from her breast cancer diagnosis.

She practices what she preaches using her knowledge of health, wellness, and disease to help other women be healthy, happy, and well. She sees patients both in her office in beautiful Camden, Maine as well as online at www.drkatemd.com.

For more information or if you’d like to contact Dr. Kate, please visit drkatemd.com.

Exercise! It’s Important For Cancer Survivors and Thrivers

Yoga On The Lawn With Diana Ross, Breast Cancer Survivors & Family Members.

Yoga On The Lawn With Diana Ross, Breast Cancer Survivors & Family Members.

By: Brian D. Lawenda, MD, Clinical Director, 21st Century Oncology &  www.1UpOnCancer.com.

Almost every opportunity I get, I take the time to sit down with my active cancer patients & thrivers and ask them ‘how are you feeling?’

…The number one thing I often hear is ‘I have no energy’ or ‘I’m tired all the time.’

Although potentially serious causes first need to be evaluated and addressed by your doctors, feeling tired during and after cancer treatment (also known as “cancer related fatigue” or CRF) is often a result of the cancer or the effects of treatment on your body. CRF is one of the most common and distressful symptoms our patients face, and it can persist for months to years after treatment. Did you know that one of the most effective ways to fight and reverse CRF is with exercise? Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

No one knows precisely how exercise is able to help you fight CRF. The most likely theory is that exercise reduces inflammation and free radicals in the body (by lowering levels of inflammatory proteins, called “cytokines”), both of which seem to increase the severity and risk of CRF.

Sadly, many patients and physicians feel that once you have been diagnosed with cancer there is no point in focusing on starting healthful lifestyle habits (i.e. smoking cessation, eating healthfully, weight loss if overweight, etc.)…after all, the ‘damage has already been done’, right?

NOT TRUE. Increasingly, researchers are proving that this fatalistic approach is absolutely wrong, particularly when it comes to not getting adequate physical activity.

Studies show that physical activity not only improves your overall health, but can reduce your risk of a cancer recurrence (or even dying from cancer) after treatment.

How many of your doctors have told you about the remarkable effects of exercise in fighting cancer? My guess is not many. You might want to inform them that credentialed research has found that by simply walking 3-4 total hours per week a breast cancer thriver can reduce their risk of a recurrence by up to 60%; this risk reduction is not unique to breast cancer.

An added benefit of exercise is that it will reduce your risk of developing future cancers. Unfortunately, just because you’ve had one cancer doesn’t mean you are out of the woods for developing a different one in the future. I have treated too many patients who have had more than one cancer in their lifetime.

While we are still learning exercises’ role in reducing the development, growth or recurrence of cancer, it seems that at least some of the anti-cancer effects have to do with numerous beneficial hormonal, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative changes that occur in the body from exercise and weight loss.

How much exercise do you need?

The majority of experts recommend that your goal be to get at least 150 minutes each week (30 minutes per day, 5 days per week) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. brisk walking) and at least 2-3 sessions of strength training per week (i.e. weights, resistance exercises.)

New information has come out recently that is also important to know: it’s not enough to only be physically active just once a day for 30 minutes.

We now know that the amount of time we spend each day being inactive (i.e. watching TV, sitting for prolonged periods of time) also increases our risk of cancer growth, recurrence, and death. So, at the very least, get up and do something active every hour.

The health benefits of physical activity extend well-beyond cancer:

  • Reduced risk of dying early from other medical conditions
  • Improved quality of life
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved muscle strength and flexibility
  • Improved bone density
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Improved immune function
  • Reduced stress, anxiety and depression

Need motivation to get your activity levels up?

I’m a big fan of using a gadget called a “pedometer.” You can clip these to your

waist or wear them on your wrist, and they will count the steps or activity you do through the day. Studies show that most people think they are far more active than they actually are. Using a pedometer is enlightening, as it doesn’t lie. When a person wears a pedometer, researchers have found that activity increases by over 25%. To maintain healthful fitness levels, a goal of 10,000 steps (approximately 5 miles) per day is recommended.

It is smart to be cautious before starting an exercise regimen if you’ve had cancer as you may have new treatment-related side effects or limitations (i.e. lymphedema, neuropathy, limitations in range of motion.) That said, most experts agree that exercise is very safe during and after treatment as long as you are careful. If you have any questions or concerns about what kind of exercise is appropriate and safe for you, discuss this with your doctors. You may also want to work with a fitness professional (i.e. trainers, therapists, cancer rehabilitation programs) to help design an exercise program specifically tailored to you. Make sure that you investigate their credentials first, as it is important that they have experience working with clients who have a history of cancer.

So, what are you waiting for… just do it!

Available Exercise Resources For Breast Cancer:
Restorative Yoga For Breast Cancer Recovery: Gentle Flowing Yoga For Breast Health, Cancer Related Fatigue and Lymphedema Management

Founder of  1UpOnCancer.Com

Rachel Pappas is breast cancer survivor. She is the founder of www.1UpOnCancer.com. And the author of Hopping Roller Coasters, which tells the story of her and her daughter, both diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Exercise & Breast Cancer

Exercise to Prevent Breast CancerBy: Michael Gregor, MD

We’ve known that physical activity can reduce breast cancer risk, and appears to work especially well at preventing estrogen-receptor negative tumors, the hardest ones to treat. But only last year did we figure how much exercise was needed. We’ve known that light exercise doesn’t work, like a leisurely stroll. It appears useless for preventing breast cancer. And we’ve known that fewer than 10 minutes a day of even good exercise doesn’t work either.

How many minutes of moderately intense exercise — hiking, biking, swimming, aerobics, or even just fast walking — does one need, on average, every day to significantly decrease breast cancer risk?
Less than 10 minutes doesn’t work, but how about a full 10? 15? 30? 45?
Or a full hour a day?
Well, It’s not 10.
It’s not 45.
And it’s not 15.
We need an hour of exercise every day.
Darwin was right: it’s survival of the fittest, so let’s get fit!

Subscribe for free to Dr. Greger’s videos at http://bit.ly/nutritionfactsupdates
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DESCRIPTION: How many minutes a day of moderately intense exercise is necessary to significantly decrease breast cancer risk? Have a question about this video? Leave it in the comment section at http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/exer… and I’ll try to answer it! And check out the other videos on breast cancer (http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/brea…). Also, there are 1,449 other subjects (http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/) covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well! Also be sure to check out my associated blog post Breast Cancer and Diet (http://nutritionfacts.org/2011/09/26/…)

Michael Greger M.D.About Michael Greger M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United States.

 

Tips to Control Chemotherapy Nausea and Vomiting (CINV)

Tips To Control Chemotherapy Nausea & VomitingBy Margot Malin, Founder and CEO of Lots To Live For, Inc.

One of the most dreaded and anxiety producing side effects of cancer treatment is chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting (CINV). In this blog post we offer a variety of tips to help you reduce chemotherapy nausea. Controlling nausea can significantly improve your comfort and help ensure completion of your chemo treatments as scheduled.

Medications
Speak with your oncology doctors and nurses to find the antinausea medicine that works best for you. Anti-nausea medications, also called antiemetics, are sometimes so effective that experts have shifted their focus from treating nausea to aggressive prevention. Unfortunately however, the majority of people on a chemo regimen still face some risk of becoming nauseous. Some patients have to try a few antiemetics before finding the one that works best.

Food
Try eating bland foods. For example – toast, oatmeal, bananas, broiled or baked chicken with no skin, or similar items. Eat small quantities more frequently. Delay eating for at least one hour after treatment. Try not to start treatment with an empty stomach. Avoid greasy, fried, salty, sweet, or spicy foods. A recent study funded by the National Cancer Institute showed that ginger, even in small amounts, can help reduce nausea.

Hydration
It is important to stay hydrated. Try taking small sips of water during the day instead of gulping or consuming large quantities at a single sitting. Broth is another liquid that may be easy to sip. Drinking natural root beer and/or ginger ale may be effective ways to reduce CINV. Some herbal teas may ease digestive discomfort while stimulating a weak appetite. Suck on hard candy such as Queasy Drops, popsicles or ice during treatment.

Smell
Avoid foods with strong odors. Avoid strong smells such as flowers, perfumes and some cleaning products. Some personal care product scents may irritate your senses. Some essential oils can be helpful, but they must be administered carefully.

Body Position
Do not lie down flat for at least 2 hours after eating. Rest by sitting up or reclining with your head elevated.

Products to Help
biobands_ pic_ 1Biobands – This simple and inexpensive wristband utilizes acupressure, a natural pressure therapy applied to a specific acupuncture point that controls nausea and vomiting. Wearing Biobands can help control nausea during treatment and throughout the day.

Queasy Pops and Drops are the natural way to ease a queasy stomach. They are effective due to their special formulation of essential oils, aromatherapy and their unique delivery method. They are also a great way to help with dry mouth symptoms.

Integrative Approaches and Alternative Treatments

Deep Breathing Exercises and Guided Meditation can help you relax before and during treatment. They can help put your mind in a calmer, positive and more proactive place.  An example of a CD to help teach you breathing techniques is Breathe With Purpose. An example of guided imagery is the Whip Cancer app. Calm.com offers a guided meditation app. Saagara offers two pranayama apps, with guided breathing.

Acupuncture for Cancer Treatment NauseaAcupuncture lowers nausea and/or vomiting in some people. In addition to reducing nausea, some patients find that it also helps to minimize hives and joint swelling, which can be other side effects of treatment.

Exercise – Get moving as soon as you can! Find an exercise that you enjoy and do it!  Even if the movement is minimal or slow at first, or on the days of treatment, don’t be discouraged. Exercise should help you through chemo fatigue as well.  However, exercising too soon after eating may slow down digestion and increase discomfort. A good resource is the new book Exercises for Cancer Survivors by Carol Michaels.

Hypnosis has been suggested by some professionals as another helpful complementary therapy.

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy
There are a number of essential oils and herbs that can be helpful. Discuss the use of these treatments with your oncology team before using them, because they have the potential to block the effects of your medication. Natural Remedies of CINV by Pamela Taylor is a helpful book that can help to familiarize you with herbs, essential oils, and aromatherapy.

Medical Marijuana
It’s long been general knowledge that marijuana can soothe nausea. This is now an option in some states where medical marijuana is legal. A synthetic version of the active ingredient, THC, is in the prescription drug Marinol (dronabinol).

Important NO-NO’s
No caffeine. No smoking. No alcohol.

The more comfortable you are during treatment, the better your mental and emotional state.  A more comfortable state of mind will contribute to optimizing your outcome. Don’t hesitate to consult with your oncology team for additional ideas. We hope our suggestions will improve your comfort by reducing your nausea during your cancer journey.

Related Article:

About Margot Malin: Intellectually cMargot Malinurious and fiercely independent, Margot Malin has a passion for knowledge.  After receiving her MBA from The Wharton School, she launched her career by analyzing and evaluating businesses.  In 2002 she embarked on the “creative reinvention” phase of her career with the intention of “giving back”. Margot founded Lots To Live For, Inc., an internet retailer that sells carefully selected products to reduce and relieve the uncomfortable and unpleasant side effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation.

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