Earlier this year I was training for Ironman Australia when unremitting back pain and an array of other symptoms made me visit a Dr. I was diagnosed with diffuse large B cell lymphoma with a large mesenteric mass 41cm x 15cm x 8cm. I have been very active for as long as I can remember and did my first triathlon in 1995 and first marathon at 18 years of age.
In the weeks to follow I learned that I was to need intensive chemotherapy every fortnight for 3 months then some additional antibody therapy thereafter. Cancer and cancer treatment can make you feel fragile and reduces your confidence.
After coming to terms with the fatigue and weakness during treatment, I noticed that exercise was something that really improved my confidence. Starting out with short walks and gradually doing more each day or week and resistance training twice a week helped me stay in a healthy frame of mind while enduring the treatment.
I kept it low-tech with my approach to returning to exercise after chemotherapy, the frequency, intensity, time and type of exercise were all modified substantially compared with Ironman training and admittedly it felt counterintuitive to be exercising at all feeling the way I did. I have started wearing the Garmin again recently and wish I had waited a little longer for the reality check.
Just two months after completing treatment I am back cycling for an hour, walking and jogging for an hour, swimming and resistance training once or twice a week. A simple exercise diary helped to track the progress and set a goal for the next day or week.
Early into my treatment I couldn’t fathom doing what I am doing now and I am really glad to have been physically active for at least part of the time I had chemotherapy. I learned too that some of the generic information handed to patients may not always be relevant for some people and it was safe to make a start swimming sooner than expected.