Saturday, March 21, 2009

Getting back to exercise after breast cancer
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Fifteen months after my breast cancer surgery, eight months since my last chemotherapy treatment and five months past radiation I still have days when I am very fatigued.
When I finished the radiation in April I had the expectation that I would be back at full throttle in no time at all; running, lifting weights, riding my horses. I made plans to do some road races and even a Ride & Tie race in very hilly terrain. But, I realized that my stamina wasn’t coming back as fast as I thought it would.
Upon my next visit to my oncology doctor I found out that one of the chemotherapy drugs that I needed to take for one year had temporarily damaged my heart. This was quite a shock since my heart tested above normal before I started the treatment. It did explain why my heart rate would shoot up quickly when I exerted some extra effort and why it would take me a few days to recover from an exertion level that, before the chemo had been an easy workout.
This new glitch in my recovery plan caused me great anxiety and depression. I had to rethink how I was going to move forward with this limited capacity. I had to figure out how I wanted to spend my energy. It is a hard realization to discover that you can’t just pickup where you left off.
I’m sure many people over fifty have faced this same dilemma whether they have had cancer of not. Knowing you can’t run as fast or play as hard can feel very defeating, maybe to the extent that you quit doing everything because you can’t participate with the same intensity and results. This also happens to plenty of people under fifty too.
This is when you need to think about what gives you joy. For me it was spending more time riding my horses. By choosing my very favorite outdoor activity I not only helped myself physically but, more importantly my mental attitude improved immensely.
You don’t have to run like you did twenty years ago in order to reap the benefits of regular exercise. Try new activities or think back to what you enjoyed most when you were younger. The important thing is that you participate in some kind of physical activity not only for the health benefits, but for the mental stimulation and clarity that you will derive from aerobic exercise.
There are plenty of days left in 2007 to get out and appreciate the wonderful Santa Cruz Mountains where we are so fortunate to live. Take the time to enjoy your surrounding and boost your physical and mental well being at the same time.

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