June 2nd was National Cancer Survivors Day. Below is what my good friend/physical therapist, Sandy Marden-Lokken, PT, Ed. D.
wrote about her experience as a cancer survivor and her perspective on the importance of exercise. She has been an inspiration for me. Her cancer survival inspired and motivated me to train and complete my first triathlon in 2010. The photo you see here is a picture of us after crossing the finish line. Sandy is on the left and I am on the right.
I asked her to write something as a guest blogger for my regular blog and, while it’s after the actual day itself, I truly believe that every day is a celebration for those who have survived cancer. I hope you enjoy her heartfelt and informative piece that she wrote for me. Here is her story…
Beating Cancer – How Exercise Was So Important To My Victory
Being diagnosed with cancer doesn’t have to significantly interrupt an individual’s routines. Yes, it’s a life changing event but it doesn’t have to define one’s life. I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2005. Exercise has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I didn’t want to have chemotherapy significantly disrupt what I enjoyed doing and it didn’t; however, I learned a lot through my experience.
The first thing I learned was patience. I needed to know how the chemotherapy would affect me physically and then adapt my exercise schedule around the chemo schedule. I learned I couldn’t exercise the day of chemo and had to do light exercise (walking) the day after chemo. Then, I could ease into my regular routine the next two days. I was lucky enough to have chemo every three weeks so my body was able to adjust. Yes, I found if I pushed exercise too fast or too hard, I paid the price. But, once learned, I adjusted. I also had good friends that had tips to deal with the side effects of the chemo drugs. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t have exercised at all. It made me feel normal for most of the days. I opted not to wear a wig when I lost my hair which made exercise a bit easier. My fashion choice was which color bandana I would wear.
As a physical therapist, movement is important to me. It was especially important during the chemotherapy. Everyone needs to determine what works for them but the take home message I have for all is to find what works at whatever level. Be patient with yourself as you determine what works. Finally, be flexible: even though I received the same chemo every time, the after effects weren’t always the same. Enjoy life!!
Sandy Marden-Lokken, PT, Ed. D.
Realizing how much strength Sandy took from her ability to continue to exercise made me realize how important of a factor exercising is to healing. I always knew that exercise was important to healing from things like injuries and surgeries; however, I never really thought about the affect it has on healing and conquering cancer until Sandy made me realize how it important it was for her. It was, as many say, an “aha” moment for me that I felt the need to share with others.
Why Is Exercise So Important in Cancer Survivorship?
It is a well known fact that exercise or physical activity releases endorphins in the brain. These endorphins are like a mental “high” and actually make a person feel better. Physical activity is a critical component of energy balance. Energy balance is a term that researchers use to describe how various things such as diet, weight, and physical activity influence a person’s overall health. So it is of no surprise that while battling and recovering from cancer these endorphins play a vital role.
Some roles that exercise plays in reducing cancer risk, fighting cancer successfully, and living a healthy lifestyle as a survivor include:
- Weight Control – it is important to maintain a healthy weight
- Promotes a positive mentality and upbeat outlook
- Helps maintain strong and healthy muscles, bones, and joints
- Reduces fatigue
- Possibly increasing survival rates
Something I found incredibly interesting is that one study found that a home-based physical activity program (*such as the at-home PT that Live Your Life Physical Therapy provides) had a beneficial effect on the fitness and psychological well-being of previously sedentary women who had completed treatment for early-stage through stage II breast cancer. While the research didn’t express why being at home for the exercise was so important, I feel that this emphasizes the importance of healing at home and reiterates why so many of our clients recover quickly from other major health traumas they experience.
If you or somebody you love is battling cancer, please give our office a call to see how physical therapy can be beneficial to your recovery. With more and more studies being done and confirming the importance of physical activity during recovery, Live Your Life Physical Therapy is here to help. Let us come to you and get you active and moving!
Dedicated to Keeping You Healthy & Healing,
Dr. Eva Norman
President & Founder
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Live Your Live Physical Therapy, LLC
 National Cancer Institute at The National Institutes of Health – Physical Activity and Cancer Fact Sheet
 According to the NCI, numerous studies have come to the conclusion that physical activity actually increases survival rates; however these studies must be done on various types of cancer and each type of cancer has different results at this point in time. Studies thus far have all concluded that exercise does promote increased survival rates.
 Pinto BM, Frierson GM, Rabin C, Trunzo JJ, Marcus BH. Home-based physical activity intervention for breast cancer patients.
Journal of Clinical Oncology 2005; 23(15): 3577–3587