Do You Enjoy Pushing Yourself?

Dr. Kate Master Swim Meet - Breast Cancer Survivor StoryWhat did you do this last weekend? I spent the whole weekend at a Masters swim meet. Sounds super fun doesn’t it. NOT.

I almost didn’t go, but my husband was going to be away, and I figured instead of a weekend at home, my daughter and I could take a trip to Boston. She could play with her cousin, and I could go to the meet. Even still, multiple times I wondered why I bothered to drive to Boston, arrange childcare for the whole weekend, and then spend my precious days off in a pool room.

Truthfully, I have thought about going to this meet for years, but it never worked out for me to go. Or I never wanted to commit to three days away from my family to do it.

I consider myself a swimmer. Swam in high school and college. I dabbled in master’s swimming as an adult. Enjoyed the practices, went to a few meets about ten years ago. Then the practice times changed, and it was harder for me to get there. And, as I mentioned, with a young child, it never seemed to make sense to take the time to go to any meets.

Last fall I decided to focus more on swimming. I have had some issues with fitness and overtraining. Of all sports or fitness programs, swimming is what I know best. I thought it would be a good place to start as I tried to figure out what kind of fitness regimen was going to work for me.

I planned to swim at least three times a week and entered some meets. It was more than a little depressing to see how much slower my times were, even from ten years ago. But I wanted to have some gauge of where I was at and something to shoot for.

I decided to enter a regional meet in Worcester, MA last December. I thought I had been swimming enough and that my fitness had recovered enough so I could expect to improve on my times.Dr. Kate Regional Swim Meet - Breast Cancer Survivor Story

I was wrong. I performed terribly. More importantly, I felt tired and worn out. I was gasping for air on virtually all of my races. It was so disappointing. I wondered if my breast cancer medication (tamoxifen) was interfering with my ability to improve. Or, in addition to forcing menopause upon me, did chemotherapy do some damage to my heart and that’s why I was so winded.

Not that I could do anything about those things. So I stopped thinking about the things I could not control and instead considered what I could do differently. I decided to make some changes. I did not have more time for working out. Instead, I needed to work out smarter.

I changed my swim workouts a little and added more consistent strength and conditioning (CrossFit). Seems to have worked. In fact, I think I spent less time working out in the last few months. Another reminder that more is not always better.

I know I spent less time swimming which was another reason I almost didn’t go to the meet. I figured how could I expect to swim faster when I haven’t been swimming much. I didn’t want another example of my aging body and declining fitness.

But then I decided I’ll never know if the changes I made are making a difference if I don’t test it. If I wait until I know I’m in great shape to go to another meet, I’ll never go. So I signed up. Not right away, but within a few days, I started to regret my decision, started doubting myself.

Why am I doing this? I kept asking myself that question, without a good answer. When I arrived at the meet on Saturday morning, I sat in my car for a few minutes to wrap my head around swimming and the meet; and, to try to answer why I am doing this.Dr. Kate's Breast Cancer Survivor Exercise Story

It’s supposed to be fun, right? Yes. Pushing yourself is fun. Get out of your comfort zone. See what you can do. And it was fun, because I did well. For this meet, I felt strong. I wasn’t winded. I performed well in all of my events.

So different from the meet in December. However, it is because of the meet in December, and my crappy, disappointing results, that I made changes which produced better results. If I didn’t go to the first meet, I wouldn’t have known I needed to do things differently, and if I didn’t go to the second meet, I wouldn’t know that it worked.

So that’s why I compete. Pushing yourself is fun. It’s fun to see positive results. Clearly not all results are positive, though. But better things can come from disappointing results. Poor or mediocre results are not that fun, but are useful nonetheless and can be the reason for success down the road.

Put yourself out there. Be a little (or even a lot) uncomfortable. If you fail, learn from it, make a change and come back to try again. You’ll either enjoy the ride or learn something, and that’s a win-win.

Dr. Kate KilloranDr. 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.

Been Diagnosed With Cancer – When Do You Start To Exercise?

So you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and you want me to exercise?!So you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and you want me to exercise?! I heard this frequently when I approached ovarian cancer patients in chemotherapy clinics to participate in my research. I would sometimes sit for hours in the waiting rooms just to wait for a two minute conversation with a patient, in the hope to assist them to become more active.

I have no doubt that being diagnosed with cancer and having treatment is one of the most challenging things a person can ever go through, and without having cancer myself, i cannot act like I know what they are going through. However, what I do know – an emerging field of exercise oncology – the majority of patients, families and a lot of doctors do not know about. More and more support has been given by oncologists to tell their patients to be active and get moving, when in the past they were wrapped in cotton wool and told to rest. In fact, this has been shown in prospective studies for patients when asked how much they exercised, the ones who engaged in more, lived for longer.

Now going back to the original theme of when do you start to exercise? before or after surgery? during chemo? after chemo?

The answer is now.

Think of it this way – the healthier your body is from being active, the better you will recover from surgery, the stronger you will be during chemo and the more likely you will be back and feeling normal after treatment.

I’ve spoken with oncologists from around Australia and the world and I have told them exactly that. There have been studies for patients before surgery, during chemo and radiotherapy and after treatment, all showing benefits from increased aerobic activity (walking, cycling, aqua aerobics etc) and resistance training (weights).

The time to be active is now.

  1. A 5 minute walk around the block a day to start your regime.
  2. Next week aim at 10 minutes a day.
  3. The week after aim at 15 minutes.
  4. Before you know it, you have a larger endurance capacity, more energy and vitality again.
  5. Believe you can do it, because you can.

Please feel free to pass this blog onto any cancer survivor.

David Mizrahi About David Mizrahi: David currently works as a Clinical Research Associate at The Sydney Children’s Hospital. David is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and received a Master of Science from the University of New South Wales.

Advice For Contacting David: Interested in consulting with oncology patients, as well as setting up exercise-based programs in hospitals and oncology clinics. Contact me for more information – E: d.mizrahi@unsw.edu.au or M: 0404177629.

Physical Therapy Helps Breast Cancer

Physical Therapy For Breast CancerBy: Aaron LeBauer PT, DPT, LeBauer Physical Therapy.

Unknown to most people, physical therapy can play a role in the treatment of breast cancer. Depending on the severity of the disease, extensive chemotherapy and sometimes surgery may be required. Following treatment, patients feel drained and worn out and may feel pain and tightness across the chest, have limited range of motion in the arms, shoulders and neck. This can lower the patient’s quality of life by significantly affecting day-to-day function.

Physical therapy helps with pain management, range of motion and muscle function. In fact, the American Cancer Society strongly recommends a structured exercise program and physical therapists are uniquely qualified to assess the need for, plan and implement such a program.

Post Surgery and Long term Care

Broadly speaking, the role of the physical therapist in breast cancer can be divided into two parts: input immediately after surgery, and long term care input.

1. Immediately after surgery

Breast cancer surgery not only involves removal of the affected breast tissue, but can also include the nearby lymph nodes and some blood vessels as well.  Surgery can contribute to adhesions in the connective tissue, cording in the armpit and restricted motion.

Manual therapy, Myofascial Release and exercise facilitate healing and help restore function in the affected side. As soon as pain subsides, the physical therapist can help increase range of motion, decrease pain and encourage muscle contractions. Physical therapists will prescribe and teach certain self-treatment, stretching and strengthening exercises for surrounding joints like the shoulder and elbow to maintain mobility and muscle function.

Breathing exercises allow for increased expansion of lungs and movements of joints in and around the rib cage. Postural precautions (not sleeping on the side of the operation for a few days for example) may be provided by your surgeon.

The prevention of swelling in the lymph nodes (lymphedema) reduces levels of fatigue, helping patients to remain active.

2. Long term treatment

A physical therapist can help patients regain confidence, improve lung capacity, move without pain, remain physically active and live happy, healthy and productive lives. This is achieved using a combination of exercise therapy, manual techniques and home exercise programs.

Patients may also be asked to participate in group exercise activities involving othe cancer patients. A social environment is a good way to promote rehabilitation and allow the patient to recover in a relaxed and comfortable environment.

The Road to Recovery

If you are experiencing any pain, tightness, cording, neck or shoulder problems or feel fatigued, call a physical therapist to schedule an evaluation.  In almost every state you do not need a referral for physical therapy and should call the physical therapy practice of your choice.  You can get recommendations from your friends, family, physician and use the interenet to find a physical therapist in your area. If you have any questions about whether physical therapy is right for you, reply to this email and we are happy to answer your questions.

Your physical therapist will teach you a gentle, progressive exercise and self myofascial release treatment program and will encourage you to work within your pain limits. Never push yourself to the point of sharp or shooting pain. Always take long, deep breaths, and never hold your breath while exercising. In the first few weeks of recovery, it is recommended to exercise with the guidance of a physical therapist.

Physical therapy plays an important role in the road to recovery for patients with breast cancer. Give us a chance to help you, and we’ll show you everything we can do to change your life.

Photo Source: LeBauerBlog.com

Aaron LeBauer PT, DPT, LMBT NC License #5361 & P12004
Dr. Aaron LeBauer is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Licensed Massage and Bodywork Therapist. He owns LeBauer Physical Therapy, LLC, with his wife Andra, in Greensboro, N.C.  He earned his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Elon University in 2008.  Dr. LeBauer graduated from Duke University in 1996 with a B.A. in History and moved  to San Francisco where he studied  Massage Therapy and Health Education at the National Holistic Institute.  He has specialized in Myofascial Release since 2000 and is an Instructor with the John F. Barnes MFR Seminars. A native of Greensboro,  Dr. LeBauer returned in 2005 to continue the third generation of LeBauers as health care professionals in Greensboro. 

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.

Breast Cancer Recovery Walking Meditation

Walking Meditation

Walking Meditation

Well there are many of us who just don’t or can’t sit still. The mind takes over and we struggle with quieting ourselves. We can’t sit, we need to move around so why not a walking meditation. The picture I shared of a path in the woods is from my morning meditative walk with my dog, “Happy Riley”. We both so look forward to this time. He smiles the entire walk.

To begin YOUR walk you need to be conscious of your footsteps, and your pacing. You want to breath in feeling the your expand inside you and walk with slow and deliberate steps. Feel the earth under you feet. Notice if you feel light or heavy. Is your chest lifted or is it drooping forward? Be as comfortable as possible. Now notice everything. Let you vision expand to every space. Smell the air. Is it crisp? Is there a breeze? Notice everything. Just be mindful of your surroundings.

Now notice your breath. Without taking control of your breath, allow it feel natural and satisfying. Let your arms and hands dangle to your side body or maybe in your pockets. I personally love pockets. Feel your inhaling breath come and expand your chest; now let your exhaling breath release thoughts that may take you away from this walking meditation. Walk if you can for 15/30 minutes. Then when you reach home see if you can sit comfortably and quietly for 5 minutes. Set an intention for your day. This could be the start of a great restorative walking meditation.

Diana Ross
Founder
Breast Cancer Yoga

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