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Exercise helped with side effects

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 Breast Cancer - Running, Swimming
Mette Baillie

On the 12th of May 2016, it was a lovely sunny day, it was my late dad's birthday. I had arranged to leave work early and run a long run in the sunshine alone to think of my dad. I did just that and I had the loveliest time, smiled to myself about the lovely memories my dad had given me. As I came home I had a shower and I discovered a lump in my breast, I was sure it had not been there before. Then, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

It was so much to take in, I really struggled and my head was going crazy with worry, what will happen?  Will I lose my breasts?  What treatment will I have? How am I going to run my business and pay my staff?  Endless questions and worries.

I dread a passive lifestyle more than cancer itself. I asked if it would be ok to swim during chemo and was met with surprise, and asked why I would be swimming as I would have hair loss to deal with, but I just said, I could just put my swim cap on and no one would know if I had hair or not.

I have always kept active and I continued to go out running during treatment. I had a 10 k women’s race booked only days after my diagnosis. I went along to the race on my own, I was thinking hard as I ran, and how it was how it was going to be to go through the cancer treatment, I would be on my own, the tired and achy and I would deal with that, people would beat the sideline handing me water and cheer on me, but the fighting of cancer had to be done by me in solitary.
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After my first dose of chemo, I went to the gym to go on the treadmill as I usually would, I started running and after just minute I felt my whole body was so so different with the drugs going around,  I had shortness of breath, I had joint and muscle pain stomach cramps.  I was so shocked, despite having read the whole list of side effects, it felt real and scary to feel it in my body. I really struggled to breathe,  I think looking back now it probably was my first panic attack.  I turned treadmill down and walked for a long bit, I had a word with myself and decided to just run slowly and that this was now my new normal.
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I continued to run or exercise nearly every day.  It was hard to deal with all the worry of cancer, the worry of dealing with my business while being ill and the side effects of the chemo. I was asked to take some months off work, but to me working was what I love and what I do.  I decided to just take one day at a time. It felt right, each day, I went to work and to the gym for a workout, swim or run afterwards. Each day I managed, I felt I had succeeded and accomplished a tiny victory. I really felt the side effects were bothering me less when getting some exercise, and sleep came much more naturally. I really struggled to sit down and relax, and it’s just not in my blood.
I remember being in the chemo ward and the nurse saying: “with what you are going through you don’t need to run, you deserve a whole tray of brownies” I was completely shocked and asked: “what should that help”?
When I got to my radiotherapy, I decided to run to each appointment for as long as I could. I came in for a session and was asked:  “how did you get here?” I said “I ran,” the radiographer said: “you can’t run to these appointments, the treatment will make you tired,”  I told them I was aware of that, and if I got tired I would sleep, but I would run for as ong as I could.
A couple of months after I finished the radiotherapy I went to the “after treatment appointment” where a nurse spoke in a soft voice saying: “now is the time when you should perhaps consider going back to work on a faced return, and start to do some light exercise such as walking or light gardening” I was busy training for my sprint triathlon a couple of weeks later.
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I didn’t recognise the level of side effects my fellow patients were suffering, and I didn’t recognise the depression and fear of returning back to “life” again following treatment.  Although I  understand that we are all different, I really think that my relative well being during 12 weeks of chemo (FEC) and then surgery then 9 weeks of (Paclitaxel) and then 5 weeks of radio, where I didn’t take any time off work and managed to train most days was due to all my training. @freja_fashion
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