Saturday, December 22, 2007

Exercise and Cancer Recovery

I had breast cancer in 2001. Fortunately I found it early, so all I required was a lumpectomy and radiation--but I am the poster girl for self-examination, because nothing showed on my routine mammogram six months earlier. I found the lump myself, and went straight off to my doctor. The rest is history, and I am a six-year survivor.

My home town, Murray, Kentucky, has a very active breast cancer support group, which I joined, and began participating in the Relay for Life as one of the 8th Wonders--a relay team made up completely of survivors. We're a lively bunch!

But a couple of years ago we became livelier, when Dr. Matt Wiggins of Murray State University began a program of Exercise and Cancer Recovery and invited members of our group to join. In essence, each participant gets a personal trainer tailoring a program to his or her own needs and abilities. We are measured against our own progress, not against one another or some abstract standard.

I was in the program for a year, becoming stronger and more flexible, when suddenly last June I developed a new set of symptoms that turned out to be endometrial cancer. The important thing for my continued survival is that it was not a recurrence or spread of the breast cancer, but a completely unrelated cancer, and one of the few that can actually be cured.

Unfortunately, the cure requires a radical hysterectomy. Not fun. They remove everything concerned with reproduction, so it is major surgery. When cancer is in the picture they can't take any chances, so I had a big incision and six weeks to complete recovery.

BUT--because of Dr. Wiggins' Exercise and Cancer Recovery program, I was in better shape than I had been since college. I also had a surgeon who doesn't believe in coddling patients--the day after surgery he told me to get up and walk at least eight times each day I was in the hospital.

I did what he told me, and asked him about driving and going back to the exercise program. He told me to wait a week to try driving, and then if it hurt to wait another week. He also told me to go the exercise session ten days after my surgery, and trusted Dr. Wiggins to work with me to get my strength back as I healed. Sure, I started out with just a few upper-body exercises and some slow walking on the treadmill, but now, six months later, I have worked my way back to the two-hour sessions of cardio, strength, and flexibility exercises that I was doing before the surgery.

I credit the exercise program with keeping me strong through this new situation. It didn't hurt when I returned to driving after a week, and eight weeks after surgery I was able to go off on a long-planned tour of Japan, and keep up with everyone else on the tour. Well, maybe not "keep up" with the young and vigorous who sprinted on ahead, but I was able to do everything anyone else did, and I had a wonderful time!

Now, today's video won't be of that much interest to most of you, because you don't know the people involved. Still, it's the second video I have shot and edited, and those of you interested in the Flip Video Camcorder may be interested in what a rank amateur with almost no experience can record and edit. Any of you who are members of the Murray Exercise and Cancer Recovery group will be interested, because you and your friends are in it!

Find the video here that I shot at the group's Christmas Party.

I'm never going to be a great videographer, because I have no visual talent, but it was fun to shoot about half an hour of video and edit it into something that is at least a bit amusing. I definitely recommend the Flip Video camcorder for the electronically inept!

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