The physical and mental benefits of exercise during chemo treatments
Posted on April 27, 2023
Fitness has been a constant in my life for the last 30+ years. Throughout its many forms – step aerobicizer, runner, triathlete, personal trainer, CrossFitter, yogi – exercise has been a big part of who I am. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2022, I felt like I lost almost all of my normal life. One thing I refused to let go of was my fitness. I made it a priority to get to the gym as many days as I could throughout chemotherapy. My strength plummeted, my stamina differed from day to day, and my curly ponytail was replaced by a bald head, but I still showed up.
Because I did that, I was able to power through my treatments. My lab work came back great every time – rarely did my white blood cell count dip below the acceptable range, even for a healthy person. Any side effects I experienced were mild and I didn’t miss much work. I was able to go into the office a lot more than anyone had expected me to.
In addition to the physical benefits that exercise had on my chemo treatments, there were many mental benefits as well. Starting each day off in the gym with my friends put me in a good frame of mind. My “fit fam” constantly asked how I was doing and reminded me how strong I was, giving me the confidence to tackle scans, treatments or whatever else my day had in store for me. It was my stress release, my way to deal with anxiety, something that is so important during this battle.
I encourage anyone with cancer to stay active as much as possible. Modifications might have to be made, extra rest breaks might have to be taken, but who cares? You’re showing up and making yourself a stronger fighter in so many ways. Make cancer wish it had never tried to go up against you.
– Stephanie (Patient at Tennessee Oncology)