Cancer and Physical Fitness

In honor of Cancer Survivor's Day, I thought a special blog post was in order. In July of 2013, I had someone very dear to me get diagnosed with cancer. It was the first time that I had experienced someone that close to be put into that situation. It was a tough road to get down but by God's grace, they got through it and were put into complete remission in September of that same year after receiving four chemotherapy treatments.

Unfortunately, changes come with cancer, whether you are currently diagnosed, are in remission, or are even a loved one of the patient.

What are some of these changes you might ask? 1. Depression and distress. Cancer is stressful. This is one of the most common side effects of cancer patients during treatments. Even their loved ones suffer through it. Such a diagnosis can lead to medical bills piling up and constant doctors appointments. Not not only that the patient starts to make physical changes such as hair loss, weight loss/gain, fatigue and many other factors. These things are enough to make someone very overwhelmed. However, seeing this as a sign of weakness is one of the worst things that you can do. 2. "Chemo-Brain." Chemo-brain is a term recently coined by doctors as a mental cloudiness or fog that most patients experience before, during and after cancer treatment. Patients have reported "spacing out," forgetting things that they would have easily recalled before like important dates and names, unable to multi-task when they used to be able to and being unorganized. 3. Anxiety, Fear and Depression. It's easy for someone to experience this upon a cancer diagnosis. I attended countless doctor visits with my loved one as they were going through the process but the ones that hit me the most were the ones when they had to sign off on documents that began with the sentence "in the case of death." I saw strength on their face, but deep down I knew it was probably scary think that at this point, anything could happen.

So, you might be wondering, how does physical fitness tie into all of this?

Regular exercise, in general, is great for all aspects of your body - your physical strength, your brain, and your psychological strength as well. Everything from a simple 30 minute walk around the block to an intense HIIT session at the gym can make you feel better and focus better.

So for someone who is diagnosed with cancer, physical fitness is something that is so important to incorporate into their life when it takes this drastic turn. All of the things listed above (fear, depression, anxiety, focus) can be kept in check by just getting up and doing something before, during and after treatments. Considering yoga is a great option, as yoga helps you to relax your body and brain, easing you of any negativity that will now be intruding in your life, whether you are a patient or a loved one who is supporting a patient.

Lastly, support is another important aspect in a cancer patients life. If you are in a place where you can be there for someone, be that person who can be there for them. If you are unable to be their with them through appointments, be that person who pushes them to stay active during the entire treatment process! Be their workout buddy. Trust me, they will thank you for it in the end.

When I was going through this process with my loved one, they would always make an effort to do at least a little something every day to stay active, even though they couldn't do much because of the PICC line in their arm. However, after treatments, they soon realized that staying active was one of the best things that helped them have a lot more focus and that helped to fight off slight depression that had began to form.

If you would like a little further information on chemo brain and a full list of common side effects that come with cancer diagnosis, visit the following websites below: cancer.org - "Emotional Side Effects of Cancer" cancer.org - "Chemo Brain"

If you are going through a situation like this as a patient or a loved one, I hope that I was able to provide you with some good insight on the coping process.

- Lauren