Finding Your Strength During Cancer

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24 May, 2021
  • Teens

Finding Your Strength During Cancer

Hey! I’m Yani – I’m 33 and I’m a Cancer and Exercise Rehab Specialist & Personal Trainer. 

In my teens I was an U18 GB Sprinter, which lead me to becoming an athletics coach (after a spinal/hip injury while competing in the USA), so sports has always been my thing. 

When we were in our 20s, my best friend, Jess, was diagnosed with Stage 2 unfavourable Hodgkin Lymphoma – so while I sat with her while she was having her chemo, she’d ask me to train her, but I was too afraid I’d ‘break’ her – as I didn’t understand the treatment she was going through. So now, I’m a qualified Cancer & Exercise Rehab Specialist, so I can help more people like Jess feel strong before, during and after their treatment or surgery.

Here’s some of my favourite reasons that exercise can benefit you, throughout your cancer journey:

•    It can focus your mind and give you something to control, when your life feels completely the opposite.
•    You’ll maintain strength during treatment and be in a much better place when you finish.
•    It can help reduce chemo brain, fatigue and side effects from your treatment.
•    It can help reduce the chances of a recurrence.
•    Lowers the chances of treatment related weight gain and improves mood.
•    Keeps you feeling confident doing the everyday things you’ve always done!
•    Finally, it’s really fun, so why not!

So, it’s clear that you can keep moving and use exercise for SO many reasons during your journey but I know there might be that little doubt in your mind that you can actually do it. Every day I hear those doubts from my clients and the patients I work with and every day I help them see that it’s the complete opposite. Read on to find out more!

Over my time working with all the amazing cancer thrivers, I’ve heard some amazing myths, so I thought I’d bust them for you!

1.    'I can’t exercise during chemo'

You couldn’t be more wrong! As before, if you’ve had the okay from your team, you most definitely can! So long as you’re working with someone who’s qualified and understands your treatment plan, meds, surgery, diagnosis etc, exercise is 100% fine. It can help you maintain strength and mobility, work to help preventing recurrences, subside some of the brain fog and other chemo side effects, give you something to control when It feels like your life is controlled by your doctors, give you some time out from being a cancer patient and just make you realise how awesome you are!

2.    'I didn’t exercise before my diagnosis, so I can’t exercise now'

There’s no time like the present and if you ease yourself in and listen to your body, you’re fine to exercise (so long as your team okays it).

3.   'I’ve got a stoma bag, so I can’t exercise' 

Yes you totally can – I wouldn’t recommend anything which involves crunching at your abdomen or flexion at your spine, but it’s fine to exercise – just work around what feels comfortable to you (as long as you’ve been signed off for exercise).

4.    'I have tingling in my hands and feet, so exercise probably isn’t for me'

While it may feel uncomfortable with peripheral neuropathy, you still can keep moving. I’d recommend sitting down if you feel wobbly or unstable, not holding anything that would hurt if you dropped it, if your grip is affected and just working around what feels right for you – but definitely, movement can be implemented into your day.

5.    'I’ve had a mastectomy, so I’ll never do a push up'

WRONG! Given that you’ve had the okay from your oncology team, we can work towards and get you SMASHING push-ups like it’s nobody’s business!

6.    'What with chemo, blood tests, appointments, school and life – I can’t really exercise, so I’ll just wait' 

Add more movement into your day – whether it’s parking further from school and walking a slightly longer journey in, or tidying your room, walking the dog, unloading the dishwasher in batches, rather than all at once, going for walks with friends on your break times, marching on the spot and moving around while watching your favourite Netflix show – there’s loads of movements you can add to your day. 

If you ever have any questions about exercise and what will work for you, or would like to check out some of my cancer friendly workouts – head to my Instagram @stronginsurrey and you can follow along or message me there.

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