My 2013 adventures around the world talking about the benefits of exercise at cancer conferences

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2013 was a big year for me. I managed to present my research involving ovarian cancer patients at 3 conferences, I spoke at 5 different hospitals in Sydney as well as 3 patient support groups. I am 100% happy to put my work aside so I can take these opportunities, as it is very important for patients, clinicians, families, nurses and the general public to be aware of how something as simple as walking can actually help a cancer patient.

The year started off with a trip to Adelaide, Australia for the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer Survivorship conference. This was a great opportunity and and interesting mix. Half of the delegates were medicos (doctors, nurses, allied health staff) whilst the other half were cancer survivors/patients/advocates – So all in all it was a really nice dynamic. This was my first conference presenting this research, so naturally I was a little bit nervous. The main points of the poster above were:

* ovarian cancer patients undergoing chemo were asked to achieve 90+ mins/week of exercise for 12 weeks – They could do it!

* Their sleep improved

* Their fatigue reduced

* Their quality of life increased

* Their muscular strength increased

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I actually got some great exposure from this conference. I had oncologists from around Australia asking me what they should be encouraging their patients to do, and also some amazing cancer survivors telling me of their experiences with trying to remain active. I simply encouraged them, keep up what you are doing and every week try and out-do what you did last week. “A little bit longer in duration, a little bit higher in intensity and you will reap the benefits.”

Next stop – Liverpool, United Kingdom – the home of the Beatles, Liverpool or Everton Football Club (depending who you are speaking to), lack of sun and many a pub.

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The European Society of Gynaecological Oncology Conference. What an experience this was. Over 3000 medical folk, a handful of Australians, in which I did not know any and a lot of great research presentations from top European doctors. This conference was interesting for me, as the majority of topics were related to drug or surgical administration, and minimal on complementary medicines such as exercise, diet or psychological interventions – which are all extremely valuable to the well-being of each patient. This was a good thing for me, as my work was more unique, and again I had decent interest from people around the world. So many European doctors were telling me they didnt have the funds to employ an exercise physiologist or a physiotherapist in their hospitals. My response – educate the patient on the importance on remaining active during and after treatment. They will listen to you. That is it, a couple of sentences will provide encouragement.

Image(my abstract at the bottom underneath all the very complex medical trials)

In this conference I spoke about the relationship between physical activity and sleep quality for ovarian cancer patients undergoing chemo. Firstly, they dont sleep well at all. So i monitored them with this high tech GPS device to track their sleep quality for a week. Turns out, of the participants who were more active than the others, they actually slept better. This is important because more sleep -> less fatigue -> more energy -> less anxiety -> higher quality of life = good news.

However, it was a great experience and a lot of hard work. Hard work means hard play – so naturally, being on the other side of the world, I thought it was only fair I could have some down time

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Image(me enjoying delicious Manchester pub lunch, visiting the Cavern in Liverpool – where Beatles played their gigs, giving a fake press conference at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and seeing Arsenal play vs Chrystal Palace at Selhurst Park, London).

Back on a long plane ride to Sydney (26 hrs) and straight to Adelaide again for the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia conference.

ImageNow this picture was taken of me in front of my poster during the networking function, in which a couple of glasses of wine were consumed compounded with my jetlag from the UK and I guess I was just being silly.

Nonetheless, this was another great conference for me. This time I spoke about what were the reasons holding patients back from exercising – the barriers. In a nutshell, the main reason for not exercising for fatigue. Now, I get that. But when there is evidence showing engaging in exercise will reduce your fatigue, you would wish to give it a go. The patients who were exercising more in this study, reported less fatigue again. A trend appears to be going on. Other reasons for not exercising was that it was not a priority and procrastination was an issue. If you have read my previous articles showing exercise can increase life expectancy, reduce recurrence risk and improve countless symptoms, I think it IS a priority and I dont think procrastination should be a word in your vocabulary anymore.

These were amazing experiences. Now i set up 2014 with a more meetings, conferences and patient support group talks ahead of me, I am full of excitement for what this year has to come. If I have an audience of 1 person or 150 people, it does not matter to me, as long as the message gets through. You can do it, one step at a time.

David

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