I’ve really been focused on moving my body to stay active during chemo treatments. I believe being active helped manage side effects, and in fact keep most at bay.
While I definitely was not able to maintain my regular workout routine and all of my activities (there are many restrictions related to cold cap therapy to save my hair), I still committed to being active during chemo. Since this is my second encounter with chemo (bone cancer at 21), I knew that being active can help combat side effects. I’m thrilled I wasn’t nauseous from the drugs.
One major benefit I noticed is the lack of bone pain following the Neulasta medication injector given post-chemo infusion. The medication helps spur white blood cells to produce at a super fast pace to help combat the chemo killing your good cells, thus causing low immune system, which can of course wreak havoc on your ability to fight illness and germs. This fast-paced production of white blood cells can cause really bad bone and muscle pain.
Interestingly the recommended help to the bone pain is Claritin. After my first treatment, I did start Claritin a few days later, but still had some significant bone aches for about two days. It was a lot of discomfort even sitting. After that experience, I started reading tips that being active helped combat the bone discomfort. After my last three treatments, I decided to start the Claritin immediately the next day and committed to being active every day. From riding on my bike trainer to walking the mall during rainstorms to pacing my driveway for 10-15 minutes, I moved. Even the days that I was so exhausted I wanted to simply lay on my couch and wallow in self-pity from cancer and chemo, I moved. Sometimes slow as a turtle. Guess what? No bone pain with the last three treatments! Despite being tired and my muscles a little achy, overall I feel good.
So if I can move daily during chemo, what’s your excuse?
Here are a few tips to help you keep your body moving:
Stop using lack of time as an excuse. Seriously we all have five minutes in a day to move, especially when you’re probably already moving! There are many easy options to add some exercise. Sometimes it’s as simple as parking further away from your destination. Take the longer route to your destination aisle in Target. Walk around the block while you’re waiting for the washer cycle to finish. March in place while talking on the phone or watching television.
Phone a friend or neighbor to join you. While I enjoy working out solo, there are many times that having someone with me is extra motivation, and simply more fun! It’s part of the reason I love my weekly Zumba classes – I love the dancing exercise but quite frankly, seeing my friends at class is much of my motivation to fit it into my schedule. Being with someone else can help you commit to doing an activity, motivate you and even distract. There are many times that I’ll be on a hike or bike ride with a friend and, before we know it, miles have gone by while we’re talking.
Find out what you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be the gym. Confession – even I am not a big gym fan. I get bored, I get distracted by people watching, I get annoyed at sharing equipment with serious weight lifters. While I still go to the gym for focused weight training workouts, I save my cardio for activities that I love. You all know I’m obsessed with biking and hiking. Great cardio workouts, and my muscles get some nice toning. Yoga, Zumba, heck even Wii Dance Party makes me sweat. My point is that exercise and moving your body doesn’t have to be ‘traditional’ exercise. Find something that you enjoy and you’re much more likely to stick with it.
Start small with goals. Nothing is more self-defeating than setting a huge goal and seeing it loom in front of you. That’s often enough to paralyze someone not to get started. I find it easier to break down my goals into achievable pieces. Last summer when I was training to bike across Iowa with Team LIVESTRONG, I didn’t start with a 50-mile ride. Nope I set a goal of….five miles. That’s it. When I hit five, I was excited. And bumped it to 10 miles. And so on. Now that I finished chemo and my body is exhausted, I’v had to reset many of my exercise goals. I recognized the other day that I can’t jump back into my pre-chemo weights so, rather than get frustrated (ok, I did get frustrated at first, but had a reality check), I focused on what was comfortable and set my goal for above that. Small steps create giant strides.
Get started and be creative! Do what you need to do to motivate yourself. Get creative and remember the small stuff adds up. I sometimes set weights in front of my television and will do reps while enjoying a show. I also walk to my mailbox (across the street), and since the basement steps are the only ones in my house, I will take one item down at a time so I run up/down a few extra times. Sometimes these so small but it all adds up to a good outcome.
So here you go. Get moving. Remember progress not perfection. And you have to start somewhere to get started. What motivates you to move ?