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There are multiple stages to your cancer journey. The diagnosis, treatment, and the longest stage by far is healing after cancer. During the treatment phase, your primary focus becomes beating this horrible disease. You are aware of the potential side effects, but you do your best to block them out, so you can make it through and ring that bell as a survivor. What you do not realize is the effect that a year’s worth of treatment can have on your body.
As I woke up this morning, I am sore in places that I never expected could be so sore. Sure, your first thought maybe I overdid it at the gym, but my aches and pains are caused by something so many take for granted, running errands. Prior to my advanced Stage 3A Breast Cancer Diagnosis, carrying a basket full of groceries was something that I did without giving it a second thought. But a year’s worth of treatments took more of a toll on my body than I could have ever imagined.
During the treatment phase of my cancer battle, my side effects didn’t really hit me hard until a few days after my chemo treatments were administered. This resulted in me spending hours either resting in bed or on the couch watching TV. I had very little energy to do much of anything, and even the almost mile-long walk to my desk at work was a struggle. I could barely think straight most days, and I seemed to lose all strength to do the simplest of things, like opening a new jar of pickles. I also developed the “dropsies”, a case where things would fall out of my hands unexpectedly like my brain no longer had control over my reflexes to catch something that was tossed to me or to maintain a grip on something I was already holding.
Climbing stairs became a struggle as just one flight of stairs would leave my legs feeling I had run a marathon. I knew I needed to rest as much as possible to allow my body to heal, but this is extended amount of rest had the same effects on my body as that of someone who has been placed on bed rest. Without physical activity, your muscles will atrophy, or begin to waste away. This is the number one reason why tasks that were easy prior to your Cancer treatment now seem like they are almost impossible to achieve. It also explains why a simple task like grocery shopping left my shoulders feeling like I spent the afternoon lifting weights, which I guess in some ways I did.
The path to regaining your health and muscle strength is not something that will happen overnight, but there are a few things you can do to support your body in healing after cancer.
Make Healthy Food Swaps:
One of the biggest changes I made was replacing my morning scrambled eggs and an apple with a protein shake. High-quality protein, like that found in my Isagenix IsaLean Protein Shake, helps support the body in retaining and building lean muscle mass. Items like beef, pork, and poultry are also good sources, but nothing can beat the 24G of protein a shake can provide, especially when you’re short on time. Soy is also another option, but if you happen to have been diagnosed with cancer that is Estrogen positive, it has been recommended to avoid Soy as much as possible as some say it can mimic estrogen in the body. There is still mixed information on this, so my suggestion is to avoid it as much as possible.
Move Your Body:
In addition to eating healthy, it is of the utmost importance to get your body moving. For me, this was the hardest thing to do because I was constantly paranoid that my body would not be able to handle any strenuous forms of exercise. My oncologist constantly recommends 30 minutes of strenuous exercise every day to help improve memory function, but my mind kept convincing me that she was wrong. I started small by working out on my Total Gym but there are also many apps or streaming sources that can help you get up and moving without the need for pricy exercise equipment. No matter what you choose, doing something is always better than doing nothing.
Listen To Your Body:
I am about four months out from my last Herceptin treatment, and a few months post-op of my reconstruction surgery, so my body has had a bit more time to recoup than someone who may have just finished treatments yesterday, so I am able to do a bit more than someone who may have just finished treatment a few days ago. Regardless of the stage you are at it is still very important to listen to your body, and rest when you know you need to, but at the same time don’t be afraid to challenge yourself as that’s the only way you will heal. Take that walk out to the mailbox, or climb that flight of stairs. Sure it may seem difficult at first, but with time these difficult tasks will start to become easier, proof that your body is slowly regaining the strength it had prior to your diagnosis.
Just remember that healing after cancer will take time. Your body did not get this way overnight, so your path to health will be a long journey as well. Just be patient, and with time, life will return to normal, making your Cancer treatment a distant memory.
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