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Is it possible to work out during Chemo?

HootieGirl's picture
HootieGirl
Posts: 85
Joined: Feb 2011

I'm 19 years old and was diagnosed with a malignant phyllodes tumor in my right breast back in September. It's basically a rare form of breast cancer that most of my doctors, even the sarcoma experts at the cancer institute at Harvard, had never heard of. I'm not sure if any of you have either? I'm about to enter my 5th month of chemo and the hardest part of all of this is not being able to excercise. Before being diagnosed, I was running several miles a day and training for a half marathon. Now I can't even get on the elliptical for more than 3 minutes without feeling like I'm going to pass out. I'm in the hospital for a week at a time receiving 24 hour chemotherapy infusions and then I have 3 weeks off before my next treatment. I would really love to work out during my time off. Do any of you have any suggestions about a work out routine that wouldn't be too strenuous, but would still satisfy my needs? Thanks!

-Kat

TraciInLA's picture
TraciInLA
Posts: 1855
Joined: Jul 2009

Welcome, Kat -

I just read your profile, and girl, you definitely have my admiration and respect for the determination and positive spirit you're bringing to this journey.

My oncologist lectured and lectured...and LECTURED me all through chemo about how even a little bit of regular exercise would help with my energy level -- your doctor is probably telling you the same thing. I stuck to 3 things: 1) short walks around my neighborhood (even if all I could do was walk slowly once around the block), 2) the treadmill (because I could easily take the speed and incline up or down quickly, if I felt like I was pushing too hard or felt a little more energetic that day), and 3) strength training with dumbbells.

For the weight training, I got the DVD "Shaping up with Weights for Dummies," from Amazon. I had never worked with weights before, so it's a VERY basic introduction. The best thing about weights is that I could just do the routine in my living room if I was too tired to leave the house -- even sitting in a chair, if I was too tired to stand up. Of course, I checked with my surgeon first about using weights, and you should too.

It's really important to keep up whatever exercise you can, but, with your intense chemo regimen, you're probably going to have to just lower your expectations right now -- you may not be able to run or do the elliptical, but any amount of light exercise will probably help you feel better.

Hope that helps?

Traci

Babysteps
Posts: 15
Joined: Jul 2010

I would ask your Doc but I work out mostly walking.There is a limit for everyone since you need your rest and reserve.I walk about a mile to 2 a day but there are days I just can't and I'm okay with that. My fear was confusing fatigue from lack of exercise with cancer fatigue.Don't even expect to do what you did before Chemo.That will take time. Please talk with your Doc to see what is safe.

aysemari's picture
aysemari
Posts: 1590
Joined: Dec 2009

Gosh I really hate to see you here (though I am sure you are really lovely).
Glad you found this board, I said it a hundred times and will say it again it
made all the difference in the world for me. You are so young, I wish you
wouldn't have to be here.

Like you I was very active, used to be a pilates instructor. As a pre-caution
I bought a nordic track, I knew once I am on chemo, I should avoid public
places with a low blood count. I did well with in the beginning. But like you
at around month 5 or 6, all I felt was utter exhaustion. I was triumphant
when I could get dressed AND get shower in. My energy level was way in
the cellar. And those were the hardest times for me. My outlet for stress
was taken away from. So I tried to hold on to it as much I as I could. I walked
some times it was just for 10 minutes but I did it. And did gentle yoga moves.
I think every little bit helps.

Your chemo sounds tough, 24 hours? No wonder you are exhausted. Take
good care of yourself. And I hope you will report back to us and let us
know how everything is going for you.

Hugs,
Ayse

Gabe N Abby Mom's picture
Gabe N Abby Mom
Posts: 2415
Joined: Sep 2010

Hi Kat,

I'm 48, not a runner, and my chemo wasn't as rigorous as yours. (I did 6 rounds of TAC, every 3 weeks.) Walking was the only form of exercise I could do while in chemo, and some days I couldn't manage that. What are your doctors suggesting for exercise?

Please come back often and let us know how you're doing.

Hugs,

Linda

Clementine_P's picture
Clementine_P
Posts: 379
Joined: Feb 2011

Hi Kat, I am so so sorry that you are going through this, but I can see from your post that you are one tough cookie. I didn't do the same rigorous workouts that I did before chemo, but I did work out regularly. My oncologist told me that getting my heart rate up with my diminished red blood cell count would not be very doable but he wanted me to exercise. So, instead, I took long walks (like 6-9 miles), walked on the treadmill on an incline, did some slow yoga classes, sit-ups, pilates, and weights. He was right, getting some exercise made me feel better, I just couldn't get my heart rate up high or I would feel like I was going to pass out or like each of my legs weighed 100 lbs.

Good luck to you!

Clementine

jessiesmom1's picture
jessiesmom1
Posts: 716
Joined: Jun 2010

Hi Kat/HootieGirl,

Every time I would see my oncologist (and there were an awful lot of visits) he would stress how important exercise was in the treatment of breast cancer. He said it was actually almost as important as chemo if you can believe that. I am now taking a class at the Y called Living Strong Living Well. It is specifically for cancer patients/survivors. It mission is to help those who have become deconditioned due to the disease and its treatment. There are 10 women and 5 men in the class. Perhaps you can see if your local Y offers this class.

By the way, what sorority do you belong to? I was in AGD (Alpha Gamma Delta). What a wonderful bunch of sisters you have. Go Greek!

Findingout
Posts: 132
Joined: Dec 2010

Hi Kat,
Welcome to the discussion board. You certainly sound like someone who has a lot to give, and a lot of spirit so not being able to exercise must be extra frustrating. Plus it helps our well being all around so not being able to work out during treatment is double frustrating. I agree, that you should ask your own doctor, to be safe.

For me, and I'm post-mastectomy but haven't started chemo yet, I go 3x week to the pool at the gym. I do certain strokes like back stroke and other innovative strokes that propel me up and down the lane. I hope to be able to continue to go during chemo, no matter how little I paddle around; just getting in the pool and treading a bit will be better than nothing. The exercise has been incredible for healing and improving my range of motion on my affected side (2 sentinel nodes removed). I also go for walks, I choose different parts of town, and of course the beach, since getting out is part of it.

Let us know how and what you do... and I wish you all the best in your demanding treatment regimen! Oh, and, aren't sisters awesome? Many of mine are here on this board.

hugs,
Lin

Miss Murphy's picture
Miss Murphy
Posts: 302
Joined: Feb 2010

Hi Kat!

I'm so very sorry you are here but glad that you found us. There are amazing women (and men) on this forum who can answer most any question. I didn't need chemo but I do understand your need to exercise. I had a masectomy and as soon as I got the OK from my surgeon I started walking at first and then back on the elliptical. Since I couldn't do my full work out at first, then I just told myself, whatever I could do that day was better than doing nothing. I also did the same with weights - light ones at first and then just gradually trying to build up. I found the best thing for me was getting back to my yoga classes. I do them twice a week and they help me physically, mentally and spiritually. I wish you all the best on your journey.

Hugs, Sally

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