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Let's Discuss...being active

Making time in your day or just finding the desire to be active may not seem that important when you’re living with cancer. But it’s worth the effort. There are many ways that being active during and after treatment helps both mind and body. Being active during treatment can:
  • improve your sleep and appetite
  • lower your blood pressure
  • reduce stress and anxiety
  • ease side effects like nausea, pain and fatigue
  • boost your self-esteem and improve your quality of life

Discussion Questions:
  • How often are you physical active?
  • What type of activity works best for you?
42 Replies
2343 Posts
Lacey_Moderator‍ Hello
Exercise is SO important....for the mind, body and soul.
You will feel terrific, even if a brisk walk is all you have time for.
I try to walk every day.....do my thinking.....stop and stretch a bit too.

This week, in Toronto....we have had gorgeous, warm temps......20C......am heading out now!
Oops.....gotta find my sunscreen!

130 Posts
I’ve been taking part in an exercise program for cancer patients through the University of Calgary called EXCEL. It’s a study. We exercise 2 times a week via zoom. It is an amazing and supportive program where we are encouraged to go at a pace that feels best for us on any given day. The trainers are very knowledgeable and encouraging! 
Even on the days during treatment I can just show up and do the best I can to just move my body! 
Because of this program I have also become more motivated to walk outside and yesterday I walked 20 minutes in my neighbourhood! 
Exercise helps with fatigue and leaves me feeling much better about my day! Just gotta stay motivated through the winter to keep going!

44 Posts
Lacey_Moderator‍ , I try hard to stay active but I have very bad neuropathy in my feet caused from chemo. I now walk with a walker and I can't walk very far. I also am on permanent oxygen and I have to carry that with me as well. Not trying to make excuses, I do try to get out once in awhile , but most of my activity however is in my very tiny apartment and I certainly know I don't get enough. If you have any suggestions for me I'd love to hear them. Thanks and enjoy this beautiful day.
sgt. pepper
195 Posts
Exercise has always been a great way to get physically strong for me.  I have mostly regained my strength and stamina after multiple surgeries, mainly by daily walks of up to two hours in good weather.  Unfortunately, I cannot tolerate the cold so instead once the weather restricts me I do home exercises, such as using a mini trampoline or rebounder.  Since going to the gym is no longer possible due to covid I am trying to do as much as I can at home, including weight training and strengthening.  When I was younger (and healthier) I was addicted to high impact aerobics classes and never missed a day.  Now that I'm closing in on 70 years of age (this December) and am not as spry and strong, I still try to keep exercising and hope to keep doing so into the future.  Exercising is also a potent stress release for me and boosts my emotional well-being as well.  Even with gruelling caner treatments (radiation, immunotherapy) I kept up my exercise routine as much as possible.  My heart thanks me.

Sgt. Pepper
10 Posts
OMG I'm struggling so much with this!!  Before cancer I was exercising 4-7+ times a week doing a mix of HIIT, pole, swimming, and weights.  During Covid it was not unusual for me to be on the pole for 2-3 hours at a time.  Then the diagnosis started and one of our employees quit so all of a sudden I was anxious, working two full-time jobs and exhausted all the time.  I got out of the habit of working out.  After surgery I couldn't exercise, which I found depressing.  and now I feel like what's the point because I only have a couple of weeks until my next surgery.

But I feel awful and am not sleeping well so I'm in the midst of trying to give myself a real ass-whooping to get back to it.  Did well for a couple of days and then yesterday was hit with ridiculous fatigue all of a sudden again and didn't do the yoga I'd planned.

Do other early stage BC women experience fatigue that comes and goes sometimes with no rhyme or reason?
744 Posts
Thanks Lacey_Moderator‍ 

I am/was, as many here will relate to, not having a particularly good day and felt like going into “turtle mode”.   Then Toby, 100lb. of happy black lab decided I needed exercise which meant chasing and “fighting” him for his toy.   Being outside, moving around and laughing certainly helped me a lot.

Depression and anxiety have often made their presence felt for much of my life and I have put together my toolbox to deal with them.   This morning though, just before reading this topic, my husband and I were talking about how COVID, social issues, politics, climate change, shorter daylight etc etc and in our case illness
​are having an impact on everyone’s lives.   Exercise has certainly in my life become more important to both my  physical and emotional well-being.

Personally I cannot run marathons or the 100mile mountain race which my son does but gardening, stretching and chasing the dog a few times a day certainly keep me moving physically and emotionally.

4 Posts
I'm having trouble with exercise and it's driving me crazy. Because now apparently my lung is so scarred it's gone into pulmonary fibrosis--part of the lung that was radiated that it, I get very short of breath very quickly. The oncologist has now increased the prednisone back up to 60mg daily for a few weeks to get the inflammation under control, so while I love going for walks, especially in this glorious weather, my balance is affected and I can't go far without stopping to catch my breath. Mask doesn't help either. If anyone has any suggestions I'd love to hear them. 
253 Posts
Hello everyone,
I was told by a naturopathic oncologist to try to walk everyday to keep the cancer away.  I have always been a person that loved sports, so for me it is a pleasure to be out and about.  I try to walk at least 4 kms. everyday.  I love seeing  the changes of the season right now.  They are beautiful. 
I also love gardening, so you will find me in my garden whenever I have a chance.  I can feel the stress just disappearing when I am out there.  The flowers, colour and new life in the garden just make me smile.
Even after my mastectomy, the second day I was walking only about 1 block, but out in the fresh air.  It felt so good to have the wind in my face. 
I know that some of you are suffering from pain and find it hard to exercise, but I would suggest to find something that gives you a peace of mind so you stay healthy and take your mind off your problem. Be patient with yourself, it will come.
Stay safe everyone,
Hugs from beautiful BC
48 Posts
I had my double mastectomy and lymph node dissection a few weeks ago so I’m currently focusing on the range of motion exercises and walking. I’m hopeful to get into physio soon to sort out my cording and develop a routine that works for me . I love indoor cycling and hiking and look forward to getting back into those too. I used to use my Fitbit to challenge my family and friends to step races and will be starting that back up in the new year. I still have radiation ahead of me so setting small fitness goals is something doable for me right now . 
300 Posts
I was very active before Cancer 1.0 and managed to maintain yoga throughout treatment... except when I was nauseous because downward dog is NOT recommended when you are nauseous. Before Cancer 2.0 I was back up to my regular active self with hot yoga and HIT classes 4-5 times/week. When cancer returned in my liver I was forced to give it all up EXCEPT yoga. I do low intensity, meditation, breathing and gentle stretching EVERY morning and a longer class Tuesday evening via zoom. It may just be 10 minutes, it may be 20 or 30. Do some deep breathing, wake up your body, a little core so you remember to be strong throughout the day and protect your back. I also walk the dog rain or shine (in Vancouver so queue the rain). Again it may be a short walk and I might need to stop and rest (especially on a hill) but it is fresh air. With covid it may be the only time I get out all week. www.doyogawithme.com has a variety of free yoga classes from a 10 min morning stretch to other longer and more intense classes - all free. For those with neuropathy - balance postures area  non-starter. But you can stretch from a chair or the floor and still do the deep breathing and meditation. The yoga stretching also really helped post lumpectomy. A few positive mantras also can't hurt. Mine that my daughter told me with cancer 1.0 was "you have enough - you do enough - you are enough". 
85 Posts
Good topic!  I have neuropathy in the feet like Sher49‍ .  I am working from home for Bell Canada, sitting in front of a computer.  I live with my mother and she used to harass me to go for evening walks.  She has given up on me as I am too lazy lol.  When I do walk I move slowly, I have actually lost balance a couple of times.  Luckily I did not injure myself.  I should check if Wellspring is offering exercise classes online.
5 Posts
Exercise has been an ongoing issue for me.  I was off work for two years with dlbcl stage 3b.  Chemo was wicked for me.  I lost a third of my bodyweight and too much of my muscle mass.  But I walked any time I could (worst was vomiting over a fence into an undeveloped lot😤). Since being declared NED, I've had my gallbladder bladder removed and have had a completely daunting flare of rheumatoid arthritis.  I am still walking 4 days a week and cycling the other three days, most of the time.  I often have to make myself do it.  The fatigue from RA and the residual fatigue from cancer and chemo sometimes take hold completely.  But like others have observed here, once I get going I almost always feel energized and glad I did it. 

30 Posts
Great topic for a conversation. 
I was really worried about not being able to stay active after my bowel resection for colon cancer this mast April. I’m 54 and active but not a jock. I’m slightly overweight but strong and had been quite healthy before cancer. I started back a bit too quickly and  had to learn to slow down on the hard stuff for a while. We live off-grid from April to September, and as such, exercise is not really optional. I have to hike to get to our cabin and we carry our groceries and supplies in that way. My husband was great helping to do not only his share, but also much of mine for the first 4 months or so. I’m back to being able to do most of what needs being done now, although I’m learning to space out bigger tasks. Moving logs with a peavy was the last to return at almost 6 months, but it’s a real strength activity. I am still struggling with muscle cramping when extending my legs or arms too long or too quickly. This was surprising and I didn’t expect it, having never encountered this symptom before. Walking has always been a joy for me and a comfortable “go to” when no big projects or jobs are looming. I’ve never been good at exercise for the sake of it, no judgement, that’s just my experience. When I feel like I’m not active enough we start another project of some sort to get moving. Tomorrow I have my two granddaughters for the day, age 3 and 6, which definitely keeps me moving. Hopefully it will stop raining enough to get outside. 
One of my favorite topics! I am a strong believer in being physically active.  I took baby steps at first,  but am proud to say that I walk between 3-5 kilometers daily. Yoga daily,  to loosen up thoes muscles And I feel great ! It helps on so many ways . When I walk alone, it's time to soul search,  and enjoy the views and wildlife along the way . When I  walk
with my friends, it lifts all our spirits.  I say do what you can , start small and work your way up from there . Enjoy and have fun .
391 Posts
I could talk about this all day...

i have always loved to walk.  I grew up tramping around the Scottish hills with my parents, and it just went on from there.  Recently, a friend sent me a book called “In Praise of Walking “, by a neuroscientist who says that, among other things, walking helps to protect and repair organs, slows brain aging, helps us to solve problems, improves our mood, and lowers stress.  Any one of those would be a good enough reason to go for a walk every day!

I’m dreading the winter days when I can’t walk (and I’m a wimp about cold weather, so there will be some for sure), so for backup I have a yoga CD from my former teacher, and also a “poor man’s exercise bike”, which is just a set of pedals on a little stand.  I mean, why have wheels?  You sit in a chair to use it, or even put it on the table and pedal with your arms.  It tells you how fast, how long, etc., and has adjustable tension....I love it!

I usually go for a 2 hour walk along the Rideau Trail every day.  In the summer I was kayaking one day a week.  Apart from the physical benefit, the mental benefit to getting out in the woods, or on the water, is huge.
15 Posts
Hi,  Exercise has always been very important to me and so even during my "lowest, weakest" periods of chemo I walked as much as I could even if it was just short walks around the house.  Before surgery and chemo I loved to hike and was a big time walker, today I am in month four of recovery and average about 11,000 steps a day. (that is for the whole day).  Several things have helped me, I have a fit bit so I know when I need to just get in a few more steps to meet my own goal which like I said really varied according to how I was feeling.  The second part of the story is I have a walking buddy (my husband) so even when I was to weak to go any distance at all he just strolled along side of me.  If you don't have a walking buddy it would be well worth getting one.  I always say a little exercise is better than no exercise.  I call it medicine as for me it truly makes all the difference in the world on so many levels.  I walk seven days a week except for the days when appointments have made that impossible.

I also have neuropathy,  having had it in both hands and both feet I now only have minimal neuropathy left in my left foot. I have gone to physio and continue with physio three hours a week both for the neuropathy and for body strength and muscle rebuilding. Massaging my foot (or feet) helped a lot and just using your feet even if it hurts is very good medicine.  I would say I maybe have about 5% left in the one foot so nothing really. I was doing 5 hours a week of physiotherapy, but have had to cut back to three hours as was finding the five hours to much.  

I still have weak legs if that makes any sense even with all the walking and exercising. I am told that is a side effect of the steroids. Has anyone else experienced that? 

I encourage all of you who are struggling with getting in exercise I totally  understand as it can be a absolute grind on some days, but don't give up it will get easier!

162 Posts

This is 100% truth ! And I slack sooo bad. I’ve heard from an oncologist my GP and research students that regular exercise can reduce cancer  up to 40%!!  Also an intern told me there is significant research that proves that daily exercise with woman in breast cancer it is particularly true. 40%!!!  I personally need to do way better at this. I find it hard to get motivated. Extreme fatigue is a side effect I am experiencing and even the days that I do exercise, I have way more energy. So I have no excuse haha.

391 Posts
There’s a Zen saying that goes: walk your dog every day, even if you don’t have one.  

A good way to make yourself get out there!
732 Posts

There’s a Zen saying that goes: walk your dog every day, even if you don’t have one.  

A good way to make yourself get out there!

Ian always says everyone has an inner dog - that's who makes you get up amd check the fridge in the middle of the night (or during commercial breaks). Now that dog certainly needs the exercise ;-)

there's a church i pass regularly. 
they have a sign outside right now saying:

" Daily Exercise
Walk with the Lord "

I'm not religious, but that one speaks to me.
There is a meditative thing about walking that gets you closer to that frame of mind. (Unless you have an actual brat of a dog with you...)
10 Posts
Great topic. I feel like I am becoming more and more lethargic. I still go for a walk in the mornings but am played out the rest of the day. And for no good reason. I have yet to start me radiation  

Did you all work out during radiation?  My doc doesnt want me to.  I used to do weights and was quite active. Now I feel like I'm spiraling.  In a matter of a few weeks, I had a lumpectomy,  4 sentinel nodes removed and a colonoscopy.  I dont think my body has bounced back. 

I need to get out of my funk 
1995 Posts
4 months before my diagnosis I had taken myself in hand and decided I needed to lose my ‘menobelly’ and shift some fat after all the measurements showed I was carrying too much. Saw a personal trainer and got stuck into a routine of weights and high impact cardio in addition to dog walking, canoeing, hiking. I shifted that belly in 4 months and I credit my gym time for helping me find my breast cancer - I was checking out how my new gym kit looked when I noticed that one boob looked bigger than the other, and so investigated in the shower after exercising...

Exercise kept me sane through diagnosis and I was in good shape by the time I had surgery. My surgeon gave me very specific instructions based on my activity choices and I was back in that gym as soon as I could after my partial mastectomy. I tried to exercise through chemo but it got challenging as I wasn’t working and the gym was at my workplace. However, yoga and dog walking and the odd snow shoe trip helped - getting outside daily was an objective whatever the weather and however I felt. There were times when I wanted a bench to crash on halfway round town with my dog though.

After chemo was completed I got back in the gym and eased into it gently. I discovered that exercise was my medication against fatigue. I put energy into exercise and got energy for daily living back. I started running (couch to 5k) 3 weeks after finishing radiation and I credit it with helping me back to work within 3 months. Running has become part of my life now. It’s good weight bearing exercise and I can do it from my door, even through COVID. I complement it with a full body weight program done from home with resistance bands. A shoulder injury has cut the canoeing this year, but I hike too, and of course the dog walking. Yoga has been great for my mental health working from home all these months.

The benefits for me from exercise were obvious during treatment. I was fit and strong and recovered reform surgery well. I tolerated chemo well and my immune system was in excellent shape. I bounced back quickly after treatment. It also helped me come to terms with the neuropathy. I worked hard on balance stuff which was an issue (and still is but less so) and I got used to the ‘walking on pebbles’ feeling in my feet - my running style can be a bit odd when it hurts but I keep moving!

I see exercise as an investment in my future. It’s the best defence against cancer returning, it’s my medication against osteoporosis. But it also helps me manage my weight, sleep well, maintain a healthy appetite and manage my mental health. Through COVID I have used exercise to break up my time at my desk, and those Teams and Zoom meetings.

anyone looking to get started - I totally recommend the couch to 5k program for running. It took me from my fatigued getting breathless getting dressed state to being able to hike in the mountains. I hadn’t run since high school either. Yoga - check out Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube. Walking, anyone can do at their own pace and it’s great to get out with a friend or family member to do this. Dogs help too - they demand walks, daily! For working out with weights, it’s best to do a few classes to learn how to handle things without hurting yourself and there are programs for cancer patients to take advantage of, some of which have gone on line. It’s hard to buy your own weights for home with COVID but bottles of water, or sand, and resistance bands make great alternatives.

Thanks for starting the discussion - as you can tell, I’m an enthusiast!
26 Posts
Great topic! I love reading all the responses. I am about 5 months post treatment and I try to walk every day. My goal is 5km, I don't always get that far, but whatever distance I walk feels good. Walking really helps me cope with fatigue and is great for my mental health. I have been feeling some side effects of the medication I'm on (Tamoxifen) and I find that walking seems to help a bit with the headaches and fatigue. I think it helps my blood pressure and circulation too. It's hard sometimes to push myself for a walk when I'm feeling tired or have a headache, but I always feel better when I get outside for a walk. 

I also like to stretch and try to do some arm stretches throughout the day. It seems to help my stiff shoulder. I would love to try some weights and try to build some strength in my arms and shoulders. I also try to do beginner level yoga stretching at night before bed. 

Thanks for the tips and suggestions! 
1170 Posts

pre-cancer I was kind of a slump-a-dump------I HATED exercise and really the only activity I participated in was walking and breathing.....

I was lucky enough to be accepted into the ACE, (Alberta Cancer Exercise), programme at the end of my treatments this fall--it is all on-line and offers exercise classes 2X per week. (found out about the program here in the discussions --- THANKS AGAIN Cancer Connection)
I also found some Covid lock-down seniors zoom stretch/yoga sessions following my surgeries that I credit with restoring my complete range of motion so quickly.
I now follow a local yoga practice online, and not only participate in the yoga classes, but enjoy the mindfulness sessions as well. (happy to share - DM me if you'd like the link)
And I am starting to gingerly walk more & more each day - (broken foot was the icing on my COVID Cancer cake this August)
I still feel EXHAUSTED by the end of every day -- have started back to work full time healthcare, so I am counting my 7.5 hours daily as stamina building exercise also ;)

I guess you could say, breast cancer has given me a more active lifestyle!  huh-who knew that I could ever be a jock--certainly not me!  I'm still waiting for the 'hard body' and the fatigue relief, but for now I feel great after each and every session knowing that it is making me stronger than before!

2343 Posts
Maly‍ Hello and welcome to our site......sorry for the reason.......Glad you walk too.....I also love nature and outdoors and fresh air.....
Wonderful that you have terrific support at home.....everything helps along this journey.....
Off to the park.....with sunscreen....


2288 Posts
WOW!! look at the responses!  Some really great ideas and love Kuching‍ the zen motto of "walk the dog, even if you don't have one"!

Growing up I was not athletic as the rest of my family was - read - very, very uncoordinated.  The focus of "gym" at school was always team sports or gymnastics - so i tried to avoid this as much as possible.  It was until later that i realized the physical exercise can be fun - it can be anything you enjoy.  When i hurt my back - i did chair yoga, during cancer treatments exercise may have been as simple as just walking outside and enjoying the fresh air. Later, running became part of my healthy routine for my mental health. 

I really think our medical system needs to prescribe "exercise" in addition to medications. Even if your exercise is just moving more - shuffle your feel, move your arms or run, paddle, swim, dance, hike - there is something for everyone.  

Now with gyms closed in many areas, we get to be creative on how we get our exercise.  Thankfully there are now some online classes - even free - or video classes on YouTube that you can do in the comfort of your own home, if the weather outside is frightful!

Got to go walk the dog!  Kim

716 Posts
Kudos to all who are motivated to do a physical activity.  I find it so helpful for fatigue, self-image, and breathing. I love to take walks with a friend (2 metres apart these days!) or by myself, through the beautiful residential areas here in Victoria and also through the park nearby.  This city is full of exquisite gardens and duck ponds.
I am so often lazy that I don't walk daily---- I used to during my first months of recovery over the past 2 years, but I find I need more motivation these days...Maybe it's the COVID wackiness? Any suggestions are appreciated.
15 Posts
Thankyou and so true. 
15 Posts
Motivation   hmmm  I would suggest to things.

1. Schedule it into your day in the same way you would a medical appointment. It is medicine. We all need this medicine and so just like you wouldn't miss your medical appointments you won't miss this either.

2 Book it with a friend. If that isn't a option ask someone to keep you "honest". Have them text you when you have indicated you are heading out. Better yet have a visit with them while you walk. Technology and head sets make this possible.

3. Oops thought of one more idea. Find your favorite pod cast or music and only allow yourself to listen to it when outside walking. You will be excited to go, ha ha so you can enjoy this treat.

Happy trails.
44 Posts
Hearing everything that you ladies do to keep yourself active and keep the exercise going has actually inspired me and made me feel a little bit guilty about not doing much at all for activity. I do have a lot of struggles as I had mentioned including neuropathy and my constant need for oxygen, but that is no excuse. I can get around and the more I try the easier it will become. So given that the weather is still nice .....we have no snow yet. I am going to try to get a little more active and if it works ...I am   pretty stubborn ....I have you ladies to thank. I'm going to start this tomorrow morning so I will keep you all posted. Thanks for the motivation.

283 Posts
I do think that exercise is very important, I still can’t do everything I did before my surgeries but I know that I will get there eventually, in the meantime Ido a lot of walking and I have never climb so many stairs has I have in the past month, my husband started telling me that pretty soon I will be leaving a trail on the stairway that goes upstairs. The weather has been so nice that I even did three hours of raking leaves and pine needles a few days ago, it felt so good to be back in the yard....invigorating. During my follow up last week the surgeon told me that I needed to do more exercises with my arms so my windows are all very clean now just in time before the snow gets here! I still can’t do strenuous exercise but slowly I am getting there. I had started meditation but I found that my mind tends to wander too much for meditation! I am back on my craft, working on some snowmen right now, also back at the sewing machine but no matter what I do or what the weather is like I stop everything 3 times a day to go for a long walk outside!! I find that the more I push myself a little bit everyday the more I can do and it feels....great!! Still doing the breathing exercises many times a day and my lung is getting stronger.!! Tomorrow putting up the outside Christmas lights!!
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