FAQs on Cancer

Q: "I have recently been diagnosed with leukemia and am undergoing chemotherapy. I feel so fatigued. Getting out of bed to get some water is a chore! But my body feels stiff in bed. Are there any exercises I can do while lying in bed when I’m feeling up to it?"

A: Not only the mental exhaustion and the physical fatigue of going through any cancer treatment can be overwhelming, but to feel so lousy that the thought of exercise seems like impossibility. Just moving your legs and arms will help maintain some physical function help with your well being. Walking when possible, down the hall or around your table can make a difference.

Q: "I am recovering from breast surgery and I am prone to lymphedema. Are there any exercises I should stay away from?"

A: Some exercise is good for your arm that can be affected by lymphedema (swelling of the arm because of lymph node removal), it can facilitate in lymphatic drainage and keeping your arm stronger while maintaining range of motion, which can become limiting. Pumping your hands or lifting your arm whenever possible can also facilitate drainage.

Q: "I am recovering from breast reconstruction surgery; I had a tram flap procedure. I want to work on my abdominal areas, but am now prone to hernia. What can I do?"

A: Since the reconstruction surgery uses part of your abdominal muscle to reconstruct the breast, standard sit-ups (lifting your head and upper back off the floor for sit-ups) can be difficult for a few months post surgery, I recommend pelvic tilts, isometric abdominal exercises that contract the muscle but there is no movement, so slowly bring the muscle strength back.

Q: What do people need to do to rehabilitate their bodies physically (exercise, nutrition, etc.)?

A: Whatever can contribute to quality of life during one’s treatment and recovery is essential. People are looking for ways to combat the side effects of treatment and help maintain some sort of normalcy during this very erratic and intrusive time of life. Being diagnosed with cancer and going thru the multitude of doctor visits, testing, decision making and treatments is overwhelming. From a physical point of view, your body is fighting a foreign invader, cancer. In some cases, you don’t feel so well, or something is off that brings you to the doctor in the first place. Then a cancer diagnosis can stop you in your tracks. Usually, movement or exercise programs help mitigate any acute or chronic side effects and symptoms of one’s cancer treatment. Chemotherapy can play havoc on just about every system of the body. There can be cardiac issues, neurological, gastro-intestinal and other systems of the body that can be affected. Various types of exercise can help.

Q: How do needs change from non-cancer person to a survivor?

A: “Survivor” can be defined now as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer. The distinguishing point is to define the activity when in ‘active treatment’ and  when ‘not in active treatment. The ability to perform exercise is diminished during treatment, and the bodys' physiological responces may be different as compared to those not going through treatment. However, there are modifications all along the way to help cope with these changes. One should know their “numbers” – from the blood the blood tests, and make any adjustments necessary to accommodate these numbers and overall energy that day.

Q: I want to be an active participant during my treatment, who should I work with and how do I find them?

A: Cancer is considered a chronic disease. One is always monitored closely from diagnosis onward. Follow-Up is a natural occurrence. We encourage you to find a physical activity specialist to work with since a cancer patient’s response to exercise is different than to those who are not dealing with cancer. This person does not have to be a Physical Therapist. Now the Amercian College of Sports Medicine along with the American Cancer Society have a specialist certification for those who want to work with this population. You can find them through their respective websites. Lisa Hoffman, M.A. of Solo Fitness & Wellness, is certified as one of these specialists and has been focusing in this area for over 20 years. There was no “certification” to take when she started working with cancer patients. It was her job to find out as much as she could about the type of cancer her clients had and their treatment protocol. She then worked around each and every issue that came up in order to maintain a level of function for her clients to thive during this time.