'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?

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Thank you for sharing.
Exercise has become my best stress reducor. This important because I am one of those with certain disorders that are exacerbated by stress.
It is such an important part of our total well-being. Keep moving!
Best wishes. Report
Thank you for sharing this with us - very inspirational and motivating. Thank you :-) Report
Thank you for sharing your story. One of my main motivators right now is hopeful prevention of the cancer that seems to be running rampant in my family. For me, it's not so much a question of WILL I get cancer, but WHEN will I get it. Being Type A myself, well, I'm going to do what I can NOW to stave off that nasty disease for as long as I can. Report
I am having a similar experience with exercise helping me deal with a very stressful situation. I am job-hunting after being out of work for almost two years and having no unemployment benefits. The pressure I am feeling is so intense that I'm waking up every morning with my stomach already in knots thinking about the financial strain and the depressing, demoralizing tasks I need to do that are job-hunting. What's keeping me from having a complete breakdown is my daily exercise; after I do it I am so much calmer! I really feel like I'm addicted, in a positive way! Report
Great inspiration! Report
What a nice story. Report
I love what you said " You will find so much strength in giving back to yourself!"

Thanks for posting your inner thoughts and how you made exercise work for you

Thanks Beth for this blog. It should be thought provoking for everyone. It does
not matter your age, keep an eye on your health, and take care of yourself with
eating healthy/clean food, and exercising in some way.
Even for those without cancer, joining a walk supports someone who does.
You have great children and family. Report
Thank You for sharing your story and being an inspiration. If I should ever get that call after my annual testing I am going to keep this story in my heart and have a plan of action. I find that exercising does help not only my body but mind, and its good knowing it will help me deal with such an issue. I too, am a type A personality. When I developed elipepsy as a teenager I turned to exercise to help with my lack of life's plan control. I took it to an extreme though, and end up with Anorexia. I've come to learn the balance needed with healthy habits and am forever grateful to SparkPeople for helping me relearn the proper path. Report
Great blog thanks for sharing you story. Exercise has helpes me out when things in my life gets stressful. Report
Lovely story and very inspirational. Report
Thank you for sharing your very inspirational story about the power of exercise. Report
What an inspiration you are! God bless yoU! Report
Great article! Report
Amazing inspirational story and motivator. Thank you so much for sharing. Report
No doubt age makes a difference. I was 65 when diagnosed. Had been on active exercise program for years, walking many 5K's yearly. Kept up workouts 'til chemo made me so weak it was almost more than I could do to get myself from the bed to the bathroom. Huge milestone after chemo was when I could do a Leslie Sansone 1 mile walk all the way through.

Two years later I'm still working to get back to my pre-diagnosis level. It's not a breezy-easy deal & I'm very discouraged at times, but I keep plugging away in spurts, never giving up. April of this year I walked my first 10K in 1 hour, 47 minutes. For me, this was huge.

Point is, whatever your level, exercise can be made an important part of recovery. Go ahead, be discouraged, feel like crap. You can come back without being heroic. Report
Great blog! I was first diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2003; I wasn't a member of Spark then, and I regret that I didn't at least try to exercise after recovering from my surgery, maybe it would have made chemo and radiation easier.
My cancer returned in 2007, now it is stage 4 with bone mets, and I am going through chemo again. I am not able to exercise everyday, but I try as often as I can. I don't know how much it is helping my physically, but it does help improve my attitude mentally. Report
You are an inspiration. You have also reminded me that I need to make a mammogram appt. Report
Thanks for sharing your story. God Bless You. Report
First of all thank you for this wonderful blog and sharing how you overcame. As to your question re: exercise, yes, exercise has helped me in many areas: 1) weight loss, 2) increased energy 3) decreased Blood pressure 4) Overcoming much neuropathy pain 5) Last but not least having people tell me how good and healthy I am looking. Report
Bless you. What a great and inspiring blog! Report
Beth, you are an inspiration, not only to those who are fighting cancer or other illnesses, but also to those who are well. If someone such as yourself can stay motivated to move and exercise, we all should be able to! Thanks for the push I needed! Report
My 26 yos, Nathan, had Testicular cancer last year & had surgery followed with four rounds of Chemotherapy, as he had 3 types of Cancer cells and one was an aggressive Cancer. Thankfully he has had "clean" tests and will have Cat Scans again on August 18th. He continues to do "JUDO" and teach the younger children's class. You did amazing to think about exercise during your treatment, as we saw many sick women during his weeks of therapy and most of them didn't have the energy to think about exercise. Report
Thanks for sharing your story, what an inspiration. Report
All I have to say is WOW! Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.... Report
Exercise and a nutritionist helped my friend through breast cancer. They were the two things she could do make her feel actively involved in her treatment. I'm sure the endorphins helped her mood through that rough year. She kept exercising and eating healthy since. This August she will be cancer free for five years. Report
I enjoyed your story because in September 17, 2007 I was daignosed with a lump in stage one. I had surgery and exercise kept my moods and mind even keel. Report
I enjoyed your story because in September 17, 2007 I was diagnosed with a lump in stage one. I had surgery and exercise kept my moods and mind even keel. Report
What a beautiful story. It was moving, inspirational, and so very uplifting. Best wishes for continuing good reports, Beth! Thank you so much for sharing your challenge and victory with us. Report
You inspire many with your words. Thank you so much. Report
Yes, exercise helped me get through the worst days of my life. Gave me increased self-esteem, purpose, commitment, discipline. Those little endorphins are wonderful!! Report
Hi Beth,
Congratulations on beating cancer!! :0) Such a lovely story
x Report
Good story Beth. I can relate to it. Report
Great Story! My sister-in-law is dealing with Breast Cancer as well and this is her second round with it and she is some much in away like you always going, being positive and has a great outlook on beating it. Her two sons are also wanting to join her in the Susan G. Komen walk and raising money for it and they are dealing with it very good. It also helps that they get to go to a camp for kids that parents have or had Cancer. Camp Kesem and it gives them a chance to be kids. Report
This is great! I was told not to exercise because of heart issues but i joined the 10 minute aday exercise team and i am on the second week . i don't do anything but stretching exercises slow but i am moving! I bought a kitchen timer and set it for 60 minutes when i take my nap because i have been resting 2-3 hours a day to catch up for the rest of the day. The first day i wound it back up an extra half hour and i said i can't do this its defeating the purpose. So to make a long story short i use the timer to exercise 10 minutes and then to take my naps. After doing the team challenge for a week i get up usually 15 min early before the hours up on my own. Evedently moving around 10 min aday is helping my circulation. Thank you for your article i appreciate it! Report
My mom lost her battle to breast cancer 20 years ago. My daughter found out she had cancer when she was 29 and the best and only way I could control my stress level was to exercise. I went to the gym and got on the tread mill and ran till my legs couldn't run any more.
It helped me to sleep and carry on.
Thank you for sharing your wonderful story and your courage to beat back the beast. Report
You are an inspiration! May September 11th in the years to come be a day of celebration for your continued good health. Report
Great story! Hopefully your advice will touch many. Report
Thank you, Beth. I only just found out I have colon cancer 12 days ago, and I have been in a funk ever since. I'm going to hop on the bike this morning, and get myself ready for my surgery in a little over 2 weeks. Gotta get moving... I ain't dead yet. ;) Report
Beth, you rock! How lucky your girls are to have you as their mom and role-model. Report
Beth, Your story is so incredibly moving. I am proud to call you a co-worker and a friend. Your strength and joie de vivre are contagious! Thank you for sharing! Report
What a great story - you are an amazing wife, mother, daughter, sister, co-worker and friend!!! Thank you for sharing :) Report
Thanks Beth for Sharing. You have a beautiful story to share with others.. Report
emotionally uplifting and inspiring!
Thanks for sharing your personal journey.
Becky Report
Thanks for sharing your story, Beth! I admire your strength and determination to be a fighter!!! Report
Great article Beth! You are an inspiration to many. Report
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