Jo Taylor, Service User Representative on GM Cancer Breast Pathway Board
I had always exercised from my 20s & 30s going from gym to aerobics classes to then starting running. I didn’t particularly enjoy it but enjoyed being with other people to do it and also the fitness and weight control that it gave me.
When I was diagnosed with primary breast cancer I stopped exercise for a year before returning back to jogging. When I eventually did it was a shock how unfit I had become and with a mastectomy, breast reconstruction, chemo, radiotherapy and on tamoxifen I felt like an old person! So I started slow and gained momentum in building up the miles. A couple of years later I was tackling further than before and wouldn’t be shocked at running 8 miles 3 or 4 times a week!
I still didn’t really enjoy it but motivated myself with dragging friends out with me who also wanted to get fit.
When I was re diagnosed with secondary breast cancer 5 years ago I decided I would continue what I started, in fact I rather upped my exercise. I tackled a 62 mile bike ride raising money for The Christie with a team of 23 other friends (I completed 3 other Manchester to Blackpool bike rides over the following 3 years) I was also doing cross fit and yoga. It was a great mix of exercises strength and cardio.
I didn’t need to be told the benefits that exercise gave me to combat many issues like fatigue, insomnia, PTSD, depression, menopausal symptoms, aches and pains, even chemo brain and the side effects you can get on continuous treatment.
When I created my exercise retreat for breast cancer patients, I wanted them to get motivated to take up exercise to benefit the way I do. And that has been what’s happened. I specifically have Nordic walking and yoga included in the programme because of the research for breast cancer patients that has been published over the last 3 years. I knew that this worked.
Additionally the benefit for primary patients is to reduce their risk of secondary cancer. What more of a motivation do you need than that?
Remember this is reducing the risk, not prevention. Still, it is a worthwhile thing to do and get you to feel in control of one aspect of being diagnosed with cancer and being on this conveyor belt of treatment, surgery and appointments.
Secondary breast cancer patients continue to benefit with reducing their symptoms of side effects of ongoing treatments and that what helps me.
Please KEEP exercising. Make it part of your regular daily life, swap and adapt things you do to fit it in and it will become second nature. The more you do this then the easier this gets so that you don’t feel that it’s a chore and you will also have FUN. Keep your focus on the reason why you are doing it and rally family or friends to also exercise with you. You can all motivate each other. Tell them this is what they can do to help you in recovery or dealing with incurable cancer.
So don’t wait for a cancer diagnosis.
Start today. Go find your thing!
Exercise is medicine.
Please speak to your breast care team for more information and guidance about exercising.
Jo Taylor is 50 and was diagnosed in 2007 with Grade 2 HER2+ primary breast cancer at 38 whilst on maternity leave (with a 5 month old and a 2 ½ years old). 7 years later she was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer which had spread to her lymph nodes and sternum, her children are now 13 and 15.
Jo runs a website for breast cancer www.abcdiagnosis.co.uk which includes a blog; she is a patient advocate, a user involvement representative for MacMillan and GM Cancer and runs exercise retreats for breast cancer patients. She also is the founder of METUPUK www.metupuk.org.uk a patient advocacy group which aims to promote metastatic (secondary) breast cancer as a chronic illness and support patients living with MBC to gain access to the best medicines to prolong and improve quality of life working to their objectives and strategy.
Jo also created the SBC infographic to raise awareness about red flag symptoms of secondary breast cancer that has been adopted by NHS England and shared through the cancer alliances – a patient story book OUT SOON will be available FREE in clinics across the UK