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.
A 5 minute walk around the block a day to start your regime. Next week aim at 10 minutes a day. The week after aim at 15 minutes. Before you know it, you have a larger endurance capacity, more energy and vitality again. Believe you can do it, because you can.
In my next post, I will give some insight to my work with women with ovarian cancer, who were involved in an exercise study whilst undergoing chemo. Ovarian cancer generally has a really tough outlook, but with some great courage and determination, I was able to work with a lot of amazing people who were able to reach some fantastic goals.
Please feel free to pass this blog onto any cancer survivor.