'Exercise Helped Me Beat Breast Cancer'

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Editor’s Note: When our staff recently reviewed some recent exercise guidelines for people with cancer, Beth, a SparkPeople employee and cancer survivor (pictured with her family, left), felt compelled to share her own story with our readers. This is what she wrote.

We all have certain dates that stick in our mind for reasons good or bad. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Holidays. Deaths. The day you got your job. The day you lost it.

Like many Americans, September 11 is one of those days for me—but for more reasons than one.

On September 11, 1993, I married my wonderful husband (now married 17 years strong).

On September 11, 2001, the world watched in horror as suicide terrorists attacked the United States.

And on September 11, 2007, I learned I had breast cancer.

As most 40-year-old women do, I had my first mammogram a few weeks prior. I thought nothing of the call I received from the doctor’s office shortly after my appointment. I called them back while driving to work, thinking it was a routine call. I wasn’t even thinking about what they might say; I was considering my to-do list for the day—work deadlines, getting my daughter to soccer practice, shopping for an upcoming party. Never did I think that I would have bigger things to worry about in the days and months to come.

The nurse asked if I was driving and I replied, “Yes." She asked that I pull off the road. Then she shared the life-changing news that I needed to come back for a follow up reading. That was the moment I knew that I had some form of breast cancer.

A typical type "A" personality, I approached the news as I did any other problem: Get the details, develop a plan and work the plan. Unfortunately, I learned that treating cancer is not quite the same as tackling your to-do list at home, school or work. Throughout my diagnosis and treatment plan, I quickly learned that much of my next year would be in the hands of other, much more capable folks. However, they were not my hands and I was not completely in control the way I liked to be in other areas of my life, and that left me with added anxiety and concern.

I knew that I needed something to help me through this challenging journey, so I turned to exercise. Throughout my life, working out had always been an outlet for me, both physically and mentally. I found myself increasing my exercise, always making sure to fit in at least 30 minutes each morning before my family got up. It gave me time to focus on me and it gave me the energy I needed to tackle the everyday activities coupled with various doctor appointments. It helped me deal with the added anxiety that this disease weighs down upon a person.

Having two very active daughters, it was extremely important to me that I maintain energy, inner and outer strength, and a positive outlook while taking on the disease. Exercise was the answer! I found that I not only refueled my body physically, but with each workout, I recharged my mental outlook on how I was taking on my cancer!

My family, especially my daughters, saw how important this was to me, and a week after my first surgery, my daughters asked if we could participate in the upcoming “Making Strides" breast cancer walk. Morgan, my eldest daughter said, “I know how great you feel after you exercise—just think how great you will feel once we complete a walk that fights that nasty disease you had." So instead of resting that day, we all got up early that morning and walked with thousands of other survivors and family members! It was by far one of the best days of my life!

Beth with her daughter, far left, at the family's second annual Making Strides walk.

In an effort to help others who are going through the same battle, I started counseling other women who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after my own treatment was completed. My first piece of advice always talks about the importance of exercise. “If you are an active person, that is great. Keep it up and don’t let the appointments and treatments keep you from your daily workouts! You need exercise now more than ever," I tell them. “And if you are not active, it is time you start some sort of workout routine. You will find so much strength in giving back to yourself!"

Now, almost three years later and still cancer-free, I find myself continuing to fight the fight with exercise and healthy living. I continue to work out every day in some way and know that it really makes me a happier and healthier person! And, in the back of my mind, I know that it is helping me fight a disease I don’t ever want to come back!

Has exercise helped you through a health crisis or other difficult time in your life?