Changing My Exercise Habits With Metastatic Breast Cancer

I was a long-distance runner before my stage 4 cancer diagnosis in October 2020. I completed 4 marathons, 19 half marathons, among different race types and mileage.

Following my diagnosis, I ran 2 more half marathons before hanging up my running shoes at the end of 2021. Between the side effects of taking Arimidex® and plantar fasciitis, I have had to accept that I am no longer a runner.

Accepting new limitations after diagnosis

For nearly 8 years, my life revolved around running - either training for a race or traveling to different states and cities to run a race. Running helped me deal with the anxiety and fear of recurrence after my stage 1 diagnosis in 2010.

In the back of my mind, I always knew that a stage 4 diagnosis would happen to me, just like my mother. After finishing the 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon, I told a friend, "This race was my white whale. If my cancer comes back, I finished this race."

Benefits of exercise for people with metastatic breast cancer

Following my stage 4 diagnosis, I have tried pivoting to other ways to continue exercising despite new physical challenges.

Among those with metastatic breast cancer, exercising can help you maintain daily activities such as shopping, walking, and driving. Exercise may also ease treatment-related side effects like nausea, fatigue, and pain.1

Sign me up.

Trying new ways to exercise

Initially, I turned to long-distance hiking and even completed 2 25K trail races. However, due to persistent back pain after each hike, I had to stop going on these long hikes with my friends.

I am sad that I cannot keep up with my friends on the trails, but I try to remember that I am not who I was before my diagnosis. I have stage 4 breast cancer and need to be kind to myself.

Seeking more support in physical activity efforts

After getting my oncologist's blessing and a physical therapy assessment, I enrolled in a local gym and sought a fitness trainer. Since my hysterectomy and taking Arimidex®, I have gained almost 40 pounds in the last 3 years.

When I work out with the trainer, we focus on weight lifting. Research suggests that cancer treatment can cause body weight and muscle mass loss, known as cachexia.2

This potential risk of losing muscle mass makes resistance training, an exercise that uses weights or resistance to build muscles and strength, important to me.

When my exercise gets interrupted

A recent bout with bronchitis forced me to pause the exercise streak I had accomplished. Currently, I am doing my best to get back into the groove, but it is difficult and frustrating. I made so much progress, and once again, I have to start over again. It feels like I take 1 step forward and 3 steps back.

Regardless, I will not stop trying my best to keep moving forward, especially since my cancer is stable and still only in my sternum. I cannot control my cancer, but I can control what I do every day.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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