Some women commit to exercise after they’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. I am not one of those women. I know two women who became serious runners—serious, as in marathons. While I applaud them, I will never join their ranks.
I’ve been an off and on exerciser most of my life. I went from the joys of riding bike and running and jumping rope as a kid, to riding our bikes around the college town where my husband and I spent our 20s, to—nothing, pretty much, with the exception of a brief fling with Jazzercise in my 30s. In our 40s, my husband and I noticed our weight creeping up and went on a diet. About a year after we each lost about 30 pounds, we decided our sedentary lifestyle wasn’t doing us any favors. We started going for walks at a nearby lake, and eventually bought the tandem bike we had dreamed of for years.
So while I wasn’t in the worst shape when I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer at 52, I wasn’t in the best shape either. I recovered from my mastectomy and reconstructive surgery fairly quickly and went back to my “routine.” I would exercise two or three times a week at best (weights and aerobics of one kind or another), then skip a week (or two). And that’s how it went until my blood sugar crept up six points in three months. I had gotten up to 110 and normal is under 100. It was serious enough that my doctor told me to come back in three months for the diabetes test that measures your blood sugar over several months.
For some reason, that was the wake-up call that cancer was not. I think that’s because you can actually do something about diabetes. Exercise is the closest thing we have to a magic bullet, and recent studies have shown its benefits for several types of cancers as well.
So I decided I had to reframe the way I look at exercise, particularly the indoor equipment you have to use in winter climates like where I live. My biggest enemy is boredom. Whether I’m listening to music or watching TV, I have to spend the first 10 minutes on the elliptical convincing myself not to quit. I started telling myself the elliptical was my insurance against daily finger pokes and insulin shots. When I looked at the elliptical in that light, it suddenly looked pretty attractive.
I also learned I could prop my iPad on the elliptical and read while working out. This has made a huge difference for me. I’m one of those people whose biggest fear is being trapped in a waiting room or airport with nothing to read. Instead of waiting to get to the end of 30 minutes, the half-hour just flies by. I’m not burning as many calories during each session, but I’m averaging four times a week instead of twice a week. After about a month of this stepped-up activity, I lost five pounds and my blood sugar dropped six points. (And my diabetes test showed I do not have it.)
This is what worked for me. You have to find whatever will motivate you. But I hope you can find something, because you’re worth it.
About Guest Blogger Jackie Fox:
Jackie Fox is a breast cancer survivor and author of the book “From Zero to Mastectomy: What I Learned and You Need to Know About Stage 0 Breast Cancer.” Library Journal named her book a Best Consumer Health Book in 2010. She lives in Nebraska with her husband Bruce. She blogs at Dispatch from Second Base and you can follow her on Twitter at @jackiefox12.