Everyone needs to know that they are cared about. It is one of the basic human needs. We need food, water and to be cared about. And at no other time is it as important to know this, than when diagnosed with cancer and making …
In this article, Cancer Support UK tell us about how their support groups can help someone who has finished cancer treatment and is struggling to navigate post-cancer life. At Cancer Support UK, we understand that it’s perfectly normal to be left with anxiety and concerns …
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘movement is medicine’, but can it really help those preparing, going through or recovering from breast cancer treatment?
Over the coming weeks, Sarah Newman, Cancer & Exercise Specialist and Breast Cancer Rehab Coach, will be discussing how to overcome and improve some of the challenges faced by those who have been through a breast cancer.
An introduction to exercising after a breast cancer diagnosis
As you may have experienced first-hand, treatment for breast cancer can conjure up a number of physical and mental side effects that may sound familiar:
- Limited shoulder mobility after surgery.
- Weight management through hormone treatment.
- Lymphoedema and the associated limitations and fears.
- Joint aches and pains limiting movement from ongoing treatments.
- Fatigue, hot flushes, disturbed sleep brought on by medically induced menopause.
- But also mental challenges like loss of body confidence, anxiety, low mood and lack of motivation.
The list seems endless. Can you relate to any of these?
There is a solution, and it is in your control
You’ll be pleased to hear that there is a solution in helping reduce a number these challenges. It’s a new drug that’s completely free and has very few negative side effects. It can help you sleep better, move better, manages your stress, lowers your blood pressure, and helps you keep your weight under control. It improves your heart and lung function and can raise your energy levels. Have you guessed it yet – EXERCISE!
Now this may sound counter intuitive (or too good to be true), and perhaps extremely challenging. ‘How can I exercise when I feel rubbish’ – I hear you cry. But genuinely, extensive research has shown that exercising gently and regularly during and after cancer treatment is safe, feasible and beneficial.1 Regardless of what cancer you have and the care plan you’re given, keeping physically active may have a positive effect on aspects of your physical and mental wellbeing including:1
- Improving overall physical functioning
- Reducing fatigue levels
- Improving or maintaining muscle strength
- Improving or maintaining bone health
- Controlling anxiety
- Raising self-esteem
- Reducing chances of cancer recurrence
Research aside, let me confirm I have not only seen these benefits in my own personal cancer journey but also in the clients I have trained, before, during and after treatment.
Movement is medicine, but like any medicine we need the right type, at the right time and at the right dosage
So just to be clear, we’re not talking about running a marathon or spending hours in the gym, but a simple and gentle exercise programme will help manage many of the side effects mentioned above.
So, to start with, here are the basic ‘need to knows’:
- Gentle exercise is a daily non-negotiable. A 20 minute walk around the block is enough to lift your energy and forms the perfect exercise foundation.
- You MUST prioritise your self-care and make exercise part of this.
- Make exercise something you enjoy. Dancing, gardening, cycling, aerobics. Exercise is meant to be fun so make sure you enjoy it!
- To help keep your bones and joints strong, strength or resistance training need to be part of your plan. Simple exercises with just your body weight are enough to build or maintain joint and bone strength – more on this is later blogs.
- Work with a specialist cancer trainer to support you in understanding the best exercises to help create a plan that’s personal to you and your treatment.
- Anything is possible done in the right way and to suit you.
Look out for my next blog discussing the best upper body exercises for improved shoulder mobility, function and strength after treatment. If you have any questions in the meantime, get in touch!
A bit about Sarah
Sarah was treated for cervical cancer in pregnancy in 2018, and in 2019 launched her fitness business ‘Get Me Back’ (www.getmeback.uk). Seeing first hand the effects of exercise on her own recovery, Sarah wanted to do more to help others who were living with and beyond cancer. Those who had been active before their diagnosis but didn’t know where to go next when it came to exercising, or those who just wanted to get started.
So she started studying to become a Cancer and Exercise Rehabilitation Specialist – a Personal Fitness Trainer with a lot of extra knowledge about how cancer and treatment effects the body and impacts exercise.
Sarah has been working with clients face to face and virtually for more than two years now – some living with or beyond cancer, others who have family members affected by the disease – but she aims to not only give them good advice on how to keep active, but also a safe space to escape the world of cancer and regain a bit of control over their body and mind.
Since lockdown when life and work became very virtual, Sarah’s business has expanded to support those living with and beyond cancer across the UK and even further afield, online. So much so that in 2020 she launched a series of online recovery courses for those who have completed active treatment for breast or gynaecological cancers.
Sarah also runs a monthly online membership offering three weekly group classes, nutritional advice and monthly chats with guest speakers discussing all things wellbeing and cancer.
Sarah’s programmes aim to build participants back up in the safest and most effective ways following their cancer and treatment. But also aim to give members the confidence to re-join more mainstream exercise to continue their journey back to fitness.
Sarah has completed her CanRehab Level 4 Cancer & Exercise Rehabilitation qualification and is also a Breast Cancer Rehab Coach. She works virtually and face to face in the Surrey countryside. Those looking to participate in an exercise programme can be referred to Sarah by emailing
- ACSM: Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Patients and Survivors
By Barbara Wilson, Working with cancer Returning to work after cancer wasn’t something I gave a great deal of time or thought to during my treatment for breast cancer in 2005. When I was first diagnosed, I kept telling myself and others that I’d be …
By Katie Murray, Love of literacy One and a half years of breast cancer treatments have left me feeling like a broken house. Chemotherapy. Three surgeries. Radiotherapy. Hormone therapy. I am all smashed windows; a trail of litter and destruction running up to my door. …
By Annabel Mackie and Rachel Evans from FF4C Fighting fit for cancer
Exercise has been shown to provide powerful benefits for your physical health and emotional well-being when you have cancer. Engaging in exercise after diagnosis significantly lowers the risk of death from cancer and reduces the risk of cancer recurrence.
A large review published in 2017 looked at over 100 research studies investigating the impact of exercise on the prognosis and wellbeing of people with cancer. They found that greater levels of exercise after cancer is associated with a reduction in cancer related death by between 28 and 48% and may also reduce the risk of cancer recurrence by up to 35%.
Taking part in regular physical activity and exercise has also been shown to have a big impact on how you feel during treatment, with studies showing those who participate in regular exercise reporting increases in their energy levels, improving appetite and sleep and enhancing overall quality of life.
And it may not be a surprise to learn that exercising has also been found to have a big impact on your emotional well-being and coping when you have cancer, raising the levels of feel good chemicals in the bloodstream, lifting your mood and improving self-esteem. And these positive effects have been seen across a number of cancers; there is particularly strong evidence in breast, bowel, prostate and lung cancers.
How much exercise should I be doing?
The World Health Organisation has recently updated its guidance to bring their recommendations for those with cancer to be the same as the advice for all adults. Each week, we should accumulate at least 150 minutes (2 and a half hours) of moderate intensity activity (such as brisk walking or cycling); or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity (such as running).
It is also recommended that you should do two to three resistance exercise (e.g: lifting weights) sessions each week targeting the major muscle groups.
What type of exercise should I be doing?
Aerobic exercise and resistance exercise are critical to the health and well-being of cancer survivors. Aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, swimming and jogging exercise have been shown to provide specific benefits to our body which can impact on treatment side effects and improve fitness and energy levels. Here are some tips on how to boost your exercise routine:
👉🏻If you’re new to exercise, start with little and often and build gradually. When walking, do brief spells of faster walking and slow-paced walking. Start with a short interval of 10 seconds faster walking which makes you breathe more deeply. Then walk as long as you need to recover back to your normal breathing rate. Over time aim to increase your faster walking interval to 30 seconds. Repeat this 5 times and build it up over time.
🎯 Set a specific goal – having a target to work towards keeps you motivated and give you a great sense of achievement when you meet it.
❤️ Take the stairs when you can, stair climbs are a good form of aerobic training.
👌🏽 Buy a pedometer (step counter) and increase your number of steps daily. Most smart phones have this built in now 😊
💪🏽 Two or three sessions of resistance exercise training a week are recommended as part of your weekly exercise routine when you have a cancer diagnosis. If you’re not used to this sort of training, begin with light weight (1-2kg) and then build on that week by week.
🙌🏻 You will have periods where your energy levels are low so rest and recover when you need to. Equally when you have good days and weeks; the WHO guidelines are a minimum to follow; work with your body and do more if you feel able to.
When should I exercise?
Start by finding a time of day which works then create a consistent routine what fits with your lifestyle. Schedule it as part of your day so it becomes a habit. It doesn’t matter what time of day you choose, so long as it suits you. Ensuring you exercise regularly is the key.
You have a specific treatment or surgery
You may benefit from specific types of exercise to gradually restore your mobility and fitness after surgery, depending on what type of surgery you have had. Your doctor or health professional will be able to guide you as to the best time to start your exercise programme. Often you’ll be provided with an initial exercise programme when you leave hospital.
Remember for most people exercising with cancer is not only safe, but an important way to support your treatment. Take you time to build into it and listen to your body and you have all the tools to take control to get the benefits of movement and exercise to support your health and well-being.
Hopefully this has inspired you to get moving and active again. If you’re unsure where to start, get in touch with us at Fighting Fit for Cancer, we have a number of programmes that can help guide you back to movement designed specifically for cancer patients. Go on, get moving and tell us what you like doing tag us @https://www.instagram.com/ff4cancer/?hl=en
Annabel Mackie and Rachel Evans from FF4C Fighting fit for cancer
The information and content provided on this page is intended for information and educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice.
Hi. I’m Emma. Married to Darren and co-owner of two small humans, Toby (seven) and Chloe (two), and Beagle Arthur (nine). Lawyer by day- representing nurses, I’m now also an author by night – hopefully inspiring patients, after my unexpected journey with Breast Cancer. Buckle …
Surviving cancer is as much about catching it early and being positive about the outcome, as it is about the treatment. I am Carolann Bruce, and I am a breast cancer survivor, but only because I refused to take no for an answer.
A dream with two endings
When you hear the news, ‘You don’t have cancer. Go home and live your life,’ you’d think the relief would be overwhelming, but not for me. I had had a dream that foretold of breast cancer, and it depicted two endings. And I wanted survival.
I had been having scary dreams for a while, but this particular dream plainly and graphically showed me as a cancer patient. It was so real that I checked myself when I woke up, and I found a lump. I had a negative mammogram, and a consultant said the lump was nothing to worry about, but I insisted on further tests. He assured me that all was fine, but I refused to budge. I believed my dream.
Knowing my body and sticking to my guns
I’m glad stuck to my guns because the doctor was wrong. I had cancer. Most people would have accepted the diagnosis and gone away, only to find out the truth when it was too late, but I’m stubborn, I know my body, and I just knew my dream was true.
That was the start of a long and gruelling journey. I’m a qualified nurse, but even I didn’t know what to expect and, to be completely frank, the treatment took me to hell and back. I wrote my book to try to support and inspire other women facing the same as I did. It’s a candid insight with more than a smattering of humour because let’s face it, we’ve got to laugh to get through it.
Writing my book ‘The dream that saved my life’
I wanted to release my book in time for World Cancer Day on 4th February to help raise awareness of this awful disease’s impact. The book lays bare what a cancer diagnosis brings, but it’s also laugh out loud funny at times, too. The publisher says: ‘With one in two people now predicted to get cancer in their lifetime, The Dream That Saved My Life is, above all, inspiring and encouraging for anyone unfortunate enough to receive that chilling diagnosis.’ Thank you, Publisher, I’ll take that!
I think my book’s main message is that, as much as we trust and admire our doctors and nurses, you must listen to your body. Don’t take everything as gospel. Question your diagnosis and treatment, and discuss everything with your consultant as well as your family. Never forget – it is your life and your body. As graphic as it is in places, The Dream That Saved My Life’ is a book every woman should read.
The dream that saved my life is available from Amazon
Laura is a mindfulness meditation practitioner, leading group and one-to one sessions in both the private and voluntary sector. For more information, visit www.lauraashurst.co.uk A worrier from childhood I have always been a worrier. That natural ability that we all have to worry about things …
Emma Herring is a freelance writer, editor and communications consultant. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. A routine mammogram leads to a shock diagnosis My cancer was the birthday present you never want to receive. Having reached the age of 50 and celebrated …
Who we are
I’m Emma and I founded and now run The Osborne Trust, the only national charity that focuses all of our support on the children of a parent with cancer. The Trust was launched in 2014 after my own cancer diagnosis aged 36 years with 2 children then aged seven and four. We started from our own experience of how we dealt with the situation, what worked and what we found lacking in terms of family support.
What we do
The Trust provides children aged 18 years and under whose parent/s have cancer access to recreational activities during a parent/s treatment by funding up to 3 activities such as a cinema trip, play centre visit or a meal out. Activities are supervised by an adult family member or friend. The aim is to offer the parent/s some rest and the children some time away from all that cancer entails.
Ozzy the Elephant is our mascot, our lovely stuffed elephant. Calling our elephant Ozzy was a natural fit from our name. We provide an Ozzy in pink or grey to girls and boys referred to us at the Trust. Our aim is for Ozzy to offer some comfort to the children during this time.
Over time we have added more and more support packages, such as our emotional support packages via journals, a book or colouring and now the Little C Club flashcards to support a child’s emotional wellbeing.
As we are now in a pandemic, we adapted to best fit the families we support by introducing our at-home activities. We send out arts and crafts, board games, books and the like to the children seeing Mum/Dad go through cancer having to shield within the home due to their gruelling treatment regime.
Our aims are simple, we hope to increase their well-being, relieve the stress they face and support the children of a parent going through cancer.
How to get in touch
Via our referral process, parents who have cancer can apply for support by downloading a form off our website or request one to be posted to them. For more info head to www.theosbornetrust.com