A diagnosis of cancer is difficult and downright scary. The person receiving the diagnosis immediately starts wondering how it will affect my life and my family. The family surrounding the person starts contemplating what they can do to be supportive and helpful during treatment. As a cancer survivor, I have my own memories and experiences and I know my diagnosis affected all those that love and care for me. My diagnosis was for Hodgkin’s disease and with the help of many people I successfully completed 12 chemotherapy sessions. I am a little more than two years out of treatment and am doing very well.
We do a great job of focusing on the immediate needs when a diagnosis is made and treatment ensues. But I think we could do a better job and help each other more if we educate and encourage cancer survivors to be more active during and after treatment. Emerging research shows that among cancer survivors an increase in sedentary behavior can be correlated with a decrease in quality of life and other health issues. Simply stated – too much sitting leads to poor health outcomes. Certainly this is true for all individuals but cancer survivors need to work a bit harder to increase their physical activity.
I recall the extreme fatigue caused by the chemotherapy treatments. For me the lingering effects of the chemotherapy continued to depress my energy level and even two years later my natural energy level isn’t back to where it was two years ago. It is easy to fall into a pattern of inactivity when your energy level is decreased. However research shows this is counter intuitive to what we should do to become stronger and regain our energy level. Additional research shows the cancer survivors that were inactive three years after chemotherapy had poorer physical conditioning and general health than survivors that were less sedentary.
We believe those that are more sedentary and have higher BMI’s have an increased risk of insulin resistance and inflammation. This combination can lead to an increase in obesity which also contributes to decreased energy levels. When I was in treatment I tried to maintain my normal schedule, park far away in parking lots, take the stairs and be as active as possible. After treatment I employed a personal trainer at the Hendricks Regional Health YMCA to help me regain muscle and energy level. Now I use my treadmill at home to help keep me active. Some days I have more energy and can meet my walking goals. Some days I have to work to get in my minimum 10 minutes. Trying to be active is still better than sitting on the couch. The key to moving more is just getting started and even if the activity is in smaller increments….that is better than not moving.
If you or someone you know is a cancer survivor, I encourage you to employ strategies to incorporate physical activity back into the schedule. You will feel stronger and have more energy when you become more physically active. Our Hendricks County community has great resources that are available to those in treatment or post treatment. Our Livestrong program at the Hendricks Regional Health YMCA is a 12-week program that meets twice a week for 90 minutes. The focus is on building muscle mass and strength, improving flexibility and endurance and improving confidence and self-esteem. Relaxation techniques and healthy health habits are also taught to help participants continue to improve their health.
If you are interested in learning more about the Livestrong program at the Hendricks Regional Health YMCA, please call (317) 273-9622. To learn more about services provided at the Hendricks Regional Health Cancer Center, call (317) 272-3636.