One of the hardest things to do for many people after breast cancer treatments, and in particular surgery, is to resume or begin to exercise. While there are those who have made exercise a part of their life in the past and are immediately ready to resume activity when cleared by their doctors, such is not the case with the majority of people and there are many reasons for this as I have found in my own experiences.
“The feeling of accomplishment will automatically make you feel better about yourself and you will also physically see and feel the improvement.”Barbara Jacoby
Regardless of your treatment program, just about everyone with breast cancer will have pain at one or more points in your treatment journey. You find yourself doing everything possible to limit movement and this might continue for a very long time, if not forever. As a result, it quickly becomes a way of life as no one wants to do anything that is causing them physical pain when it isn’t necessary. Before long, you convince yourself that it is perfectly fine to continue your life this way and find that you are sitting more and more and limiting the movement not only in your arms and upper body as much as possible but also in your hips, legs and feet.
The time may come when you may continue to have pain that is intermittent or managed with medication and although pain overrules just about anything else going on in your life, it is absolutely necessary to get up and move. Of course it is easier when the weather is nice and you can take a trip around the neighborhood or go to a park nearby in order to enjoy some scenery and take the focus off everything else. You might find it difficult if you have not been doing anything for a long time and you learn that your duration is extremely limited but don’t give up. If 5 minutes is all that you can do today, that is fine.
Perhaps you can start setting yourself some simple goals. Promise yourself that you will walk for 5 minutes at a time but perhaps you can increase the number of times per day that you do this. As it becomes easier for you, you might want to increase the number of minutes each time you walk and set that for your goal for each trek during the day. In no time, you will not only have created a new habit that will become a part of your regular daily routine but you will find that you will start feeling better both physically and mentally. Then as your stamina grows, so should your time and speed, if possible.
The most important thing to do is to have some sort of measurement for what you are doing and set goals accordingly. You might want to focus on your length of activity each time you do it or you might want to count your steps and challenge yourself in that way. In order to make your walking time more fun, you might want to put together a playlist of your favorite music and listen to it while you walk. This will certainly help the time pass much faster and lift your spirits at the same time. And if your playlist consists of upbeat music, you might just find that the tempo of your walking will also pick up.
I realize that the weather may keep you indoors and if you can’t get to a gym or don’t have access to a treadmill, you might want to do what I do. I have a path through my apartment that goes from the living room and down the hall to the bedroom where I circle around and come back. I can also loop in through the kitchen instead of the living room and I can do this walking with my music to make the time go faster or keep count of my steps. Another thing that I do is turn on the TV in the living room and the bedroom to the same station and listen to a favorite show. If something comes on that I want to stop and see, then I continue to walk in place while I view the part of the show that I want to see.
You can create your own scenario as long as you keep moving. You will still have days when you don’t feel like getting up and moving but just do it anyway and make it doable by doing it at your own pace or in more segments, if necessary. The feeling of accomplishment will automatically make you feel better about yourself and you will also physically see and feel the improvement. And this is something that you can continue to do for a lifetime because you will never be limited by age and/or appreciation of the world around you.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.