Fitness for Cancer Survivors

First of all, let me commend you if you have found your way to this page and you are either a survivor or someone currently going through treatment. My heart truly goes out to you and your family. I am a firm believer that it takes a team to get through treatment, no matter what it is, at least that was certainly the case for me.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2013 at the age of 33. You can read more about my journey here, but on this page, I am focusing more on getting back on track after treatment.

So here is my huge disclaimer...I am NOT a doctor. I am NOT a cancer professional. I only know what I have learned through my own journey. I can only talk to what has worked and what hasn't worked so far for me. I quickly learned that when it comes to cancer, it's extremely personal. Everyone is different. I just hope that by me sharing my story, and what has helped me get back to focusing on health and fitness can help someone else too. But before you jump in with two feet, talk to your doctor (if you haven't done so already). I know that when I started to look at Beachbody Coaches, I didn't find many that were cancer survivors. Or maybe I just couldn't find them. That's why I am sharing my story and can only hope to pay back what my coach has taught me.

My Story

The cliff notes version of my treatment is basically this: diagnosis in October 2013, double mastectomy in November 2013, sixteen rounds of chemotherapy (AC and Taxol) from January 2014 through June 2014. 

I weighed 143 lbs at diagnosis, and dropped down to 135 lbs during AC because of feeling so sick for those 8 weeks. I had a hard time with AC and it would pretty much wipe me out for a week, then I would bounce back for a week, then I'd be back in bed for a week, etc. When I started my weekly Taxol though, I quickly found that I was having an allergic reaction so I ended up getting a double dose of steroids for each of the twelve treatments. At the end of treatment, I weighed over 155 lbs, gaining 20 lbs from my AC weight. Coupled with all of the emotions you are already going through after treatment, dealing with hair loss and everything that comes with getting diagnosed, all topped off with feeling bad about myself because I was now overweight, bloated and it wasn't just coming right off since I stopped treatment, I was in a dark place in my life.

If you are like me, coming out of treatment felt very much like getting dropped of a cliff. Despite the recommendations from my doctor to exercise during treatment, most days I just tried to keep my head above water with life (and out of the toilet during AC). I just had to focus on getting through the day, let alone trying to better myself. Right or wrong, that's what I did. I did what I had to do to get through it. For me, that meant slowing down my activity. Between the stress, depression, fatigue and feeling sick, I became less active. So after treatment, it was all too easy for me to continue down that path, until the 4th of July, 2014. I decided that enough was enough.

My Focus After Treatment

After I dug myself out of the hole I was in after the 4th of July, I made a choice to do something about how I was feeling. The weight wasn't going to come off by itself, so it was time that I got myself rev'd back up. But honestly, I didn't have any idea on where to start. Remember that cliff? Yup, I was still hanging on the side. 

I had been following my soon-to-be Beachbody Coach online for a while at this point. We met once about four years prior when Emma was only a couple months old in a photography get together. I had seen her transformation, and also saw how much she was helping others. So that was my first step. I contacted her and within a few days, both Wes and I were convinced this was for us.

After describing to my coach what I struggled with, what I had been through, and what my challenges were (things like limited range of motion in my arms after surgery, still struggling with muscle fatigue from chemo, and just overall losing most of my strength and energy) she recommended that I join one of her groups and try out PiYo. So that's exactly what I did. I quickly found that being a cancer survivor and a newly post-treatment survivor came with a few extra "perks" that maybe not everyone had. I admit that I started out with too much too fast. I pretty drastically changed my diet at the same time that I started exercising and was surprised to see that I actually GAINED weight during the first two weeks. I know. Way to kick a girl while she is down. I got EXTREMELY frustrated because how can you start exercising six days a week and eating a thousand times better and start gaining weight? Well, this was one of those post-treatment perks that I quickly found only I was struggling with in the challenge group. After a few phone calls to my doctor, I learned that because chemo had pretty much destroyed all the good bacteria in my digestive track, I needed to start much slower then most, to get my body used to the higher protein and fiber and fruits and veggies. I also originally had to back off on the Shakeology as much I didn't want to. I'm being completely honest here when I say that because I seriously LOVED the chocolate shake everyday and immediately noticed a HUGE increase in my energy level. So I didn't want to back off, but it was the right thing to do for me. So I took a week off of drinking Shakeology, then started again VERY SLOWLY, with a half scoop every couple of days. I then eventually built back up to a half scoop a day, then after a week or so, I was back up to a full shake a day. I also found that the Vegan Shakeology formula was much easier on my system then the regular. It was little things like that, where I wish I knew someone who had been through it, that I could talk to and help guide me through it. It would have saved me weeks of frustrations, some more tears and maybe even a few F-bombs. :) That's what I hope to do for you through my blog. 

My First Fitness Program

PiYo ended up being the perfect program for me. It was low impact, but tough enough that I started to see results right away. And not just dropping of pounds. The number on the scale actually took a little while to start moving. But I was getting my strength back, and it was coming back quicker then I expected. My range of motion was seriously improving in my arms. All without jumping, or lifting weights or straining my joints. You know how I really noticed how I was improving. It was because picking up my kids was getting a lot easier. That was huge for me. It immediately brought me back to the feeling I had when I got to pick up my son for the first time after surgery. THAT'S the progress I measured myself by. NOT the number on the scale.

As I started coming more and more out of the chemo fog though, the numbers started dropping. I dropped 10 lbs within the first 30 days and the improvement in my strength, flexibility and energy was amazing. I admit though that I was totally nervous about even starting. I probably looked like a triangle when they said to hold a straight line, but every single day I noticed an improvement. 

Oh, and it was quick! With most of the workouts being 25 minutes long, I couldn't use the excuse of "I don't have time anymore". I made a firm and conscious choice to start focusing on getting myself back to health and that's what I did. 

So if that sounds similar to your story, I highly recommend giving PiYo a try if you are looking for a fitness program as a cancer survivor. It's a great place to start. And if
you need help on where to get started, sign up with me as your free coach.


After just a few weeks of PiYo, I was able to incorporate a few of my husband's T25 exercises into the mix!

Oh and check this out... after just a few weeks into my journey, THE HOT FLASHES WERE GONE!! I don't know if you struggled with the same thing that I did, but on a normal day, I would have anywhere from 15 - 20 SERIOUS hot flashes. Before I was even finished half of my first challenge, I was down to pretty much only ONE minor hot flash a day. That ALONE was enough motivation for me to keep going. Spontaneous combustion every 45 minutes was NOT something I was too fond of. :)

Since then, I have completed several other programs and am now in better shape then I was before diagnosis. I've lost over 20 lbs and 12 inches (and that number just keeps growing). 

After just four months of learning to focus on my health, I had met every single one of my fitness goals that I set for myself. The day I realized that was quite overwhelming because it was almost exactly a year from diagnosis. But I'm not stopping there....that just meant it was time for new goals. :)

We Have A Different Mindset

No doubt about it. You can't go through cancer treatment without coming out of it with a different mindset. It changes you. Personally, I think about my diagnosis more of a blessing. It woke me up. It made me focus more on what is truly important in life. Whatever you do, don't get discouraged. We all have to start somewhere. You didn't make it through everything that you have been through, just to end up on the couch.

But you know what, it's much easier to say that then to just get up and get started on a new fitness program as a cancer survivor. The symptoms and side effects of treatment don't go away the day you stop. It takes months. It's frustrating. If you need help on where to get started, from someone who has been through it, sign up with me as your free coach. We can navigate our new paths together.

You can order PiYo here: Time to Get Started! 

Unfortunately, the there just may be some things that others don't understand. Like the hot flashes, the digestive trouble, the lack of strength, or getting through that scar tissue. What should you do differently as a cancer survivor? How does that effect being on one of the meal plans? Or Shakeology? Try to be patient with yourself. Look for the positive things that you can control, such as eating a healthy diet. Try to focus on the fact that treatment is over, and you will no doubt get stronger with time.  

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