My breast cancer did not require chemo or radiation after my mastectomy. I do not promote any exercise during or after chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Throwin’ in a word of caution here: follow the advice of your oncologist regarding any exercises to get your body back.
Be patient. While in the midst of chemo is not the time for cardio.
Okay, I gained weight (yeah, a lot) and I’d become weak as a kitten. I was very ready to reclaim my body! One year after my mastectomy, my doctors gave me the “go” for moderate exercise. Finally. And I don’t mean cardio, bicycling, or push ups. Push-ups or any hardcore burn moves were strictly off-limits. I’ve never been a fan of workout gurus (sorry, Jillian), whereas always relied on my outdoor chores, gardening, and running my dog to keep me in shape. But that ain’t cuttin’ it this time. Not in wintertime either. I’m a fairly rugged outdoorsy woman, so I had to come up with a different plan.
Always admired Fonda on film and her rebellious attitude. These exercises are fine when you’re healthy — but not after a mastectomy. It’s what not to do recovering from breast surgery.
I did try hers — wow. Not good. I’d turned into a 140 lb ‘n gaining weakling. Not fun. I persisted to regain my own “range of motion” trying on more videos with minimal movement. Very basic. I was determined to at least be able to wash my hair with both my left arm and right arm. I presumed strength would be like jumping back on the bike, easy-peasy. Wrong. I felt slothful, unhealthy and sore as hell.
I got into YouTube’s work out vids. I did some of those, trying on videos with minimal movement very slowly with the little strength I had then. But I’d turned into a 140 lb‘n gaining weakling. Not fun. I persisted (agonized) to regain my own “range of motion”. I was determined to at least be able to wash my hair not being restricted to using only my right arm. I presumed strength would be like jumping back on the bike, easy-peasy. Wrong. I felt fat. Useless. I began to understand my whole well-being depended on better exercise. I browsed YouTube for no impact stuff, you know easy-peasy YouTube’s.
I didn’t like any of them. The women demonstrating those moves were slimmer than I’ve been in a long while, a few years in fact. And videos for ‘seniors’ were horrible. I didn’t feel like a senior! Yet I could not boast of being in good shape any more. They weren’t the videos I wanted to watch, especially since I didn’t come close to having that slender body after my mastectomy. It wasn’t not knowing how to exercise, but the idea who really wants to be told how to get in gear by a young vivacious trainer with abs to die for, a gal who most likely did not have a clue about the struggles and soreness of a mastectomy. Was I being judgemental? Yes. I shook it off. Back to square one. I’d never shed tears to get out of a work out. At first, this agony had me tear up a moment. I had to rethink; have a positive attitude. Not that a woman trainer is not in-the-know or helpful. Not to feel self-conscious or intimidated by a fit, healthy trainer vid — I was in my own home. Private. Sometimes we can be our own worst critics. I told myself to get over it.
Okay, I finally typed in “exercise after a mastectomy” Yay!! These are what popped up and I tried those ‘easy-peasy’ moves I could start with. Real recovery moves for real women still in serious pain. Simple. A great starter: Post Mastectomy Exercises – Whole Exercise.
I tried these videos by Memorial Sloan Kettering for patients with a tissue expander. They didn’t strain or pull, I took it nice ‘n easy. I got into a short routine three days a week. My muscles were sore for a day afterward so I learned that factor was my max. I could feel my muscle flexibility returning and I pushed the muscles just a little to what’s called ‘range of motion’.
Vital to get back to normal; range of motion returned fairly quickly. That was only one problem, the other, it was winter and my house was damn cold. Oh not ice in the toilet bowl cold, but I posted this remark on FB to show my angst about my cold house.
|“It’s so cold you do exercise in sweats just to get warm! To hell with working out to be “healthy” or if sweats aren’t stylish!”|
Videos have to keep it real for real women. Especially healing from surgery. Using the smallest hand bars, I modified my workout (not really a workout as you know it) from pre-mastectomy, changed my clothes and adjusted my focus. I felt self conscious trying to do workouts above my energy level. I was out of breath. I was unsure what type of exercise would benefit me WITH NO STRENGTH AND NO ENERGY. I began rolling the big bar and sl-o-w-ly initiating the same moves of the videos published by medical personnel. YouTube videos suited for mastectomy patients helped me recuperate from being weak, overweight, low self-confidence, and miserably sore. I couldn’t even drive a vehicle yet. [click on this 55 sec. video after I’d gotten some mobility] Yeah, yeah it’s not spectacular.
Regimens are a pain in the ass for me being an impromptu woman. But I wanted my whole plan to be doctor approved. I was nervous that any exertion would tear my tender-ish muscles. I decided my technique had to rebuild my strength and endurance slowly. I was not ready for cardio. Not ready for any burn.
I had follow up appointments for blood work with Drs. Robine and Elia, asked both about exercise. All my doctors cautioned to start out slow. restoring motion first, then very small weight, NO cardio.
My light bulb moment: I took selfies of lifting weights and rubber bands and emailed those photos using the hand weights and a twenty-five pound weight bar to Dr. Korentager for his opinion. Just so happened, I had a follow up appointment that same week. Armed with a notebook full of questions and the photos, I discussed my exercise plan with Dr. ‘K’. He approved me to start out slowly — without the 25# bar — no surprise. He advised I lift the smallest weights and warned me to expect to be very sore after exercising. Then I felt reassured I was really on the right track.