Monday, 30 December 2019

BRiC's Collective Voice: Exercise and Breast Cancer; Nov. 28, 2019

'Accepting our physical limitations is one of the most difficult mental challenges we face with serious illness.'

We all know that exercise is good for our bodies and our minds. It's good to raise our heartbeat, move our limbs, stretch our muscles. Exercise releases feel good chemicals into our brains and it lifts our mood. Recent research shows that exercise positively affects our brain, improving processing ability and connectivity. We just need to get up out of our chairs and move. It's as simple as that. Or is it?

This week our women, who all have a breast cancer diagnosis, some primary, some secondary, discussed exercise. It soon became clear that our personal experiences bear out the idea that being a regular exerciser does not stop us getting breast cancer. Nor can it prevent recurrence or the development of secondary cancer. There is no evidence to suggest that exercising can prevent progression of cancer either. Many of us were 'fighting fit' and still got the disease.

What exercise can do is help us to feel better about ourselves. It can assist in speeding up recovery from harsh cancer treatments and surgery, helping our bodies gain strength and heal better. Exercise can, most importantly, lift our mood. It may be the hardest thing, but to get out of our chair and move our body, whether this is a few gentle stretches or a full gym workout, will undoubtedly help us to feel less fatigued and less stressed, and better equipped to deal with daily life.

We were reminded that for many women, exercise is curtailed following a breast cancer diagnosis because of the debilitating effects of active treatment and the side effects of ongoing treatment. When getting out of bed and showering becomes a major feat, then exercise has to take a back seat. Much as many of us might like to be swimming the channel and running marathons, for many of us this just isn't possible. We do what we can, and rest when we can't.

Accepting our physical limitations is one of the most difficult mental challenges we face with serious illness. As one member put it, we need to stop beating ourselves up about what we should/shouldn't be doing. We each need to find a way to enjoy exercising in a way that supports our healing.

If you are a woman living in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis and you would like to join our private group, please leave your name in the comment or send us a private message.

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