Who needs Lance Armstrong when we have so many heroes?
Last week I wrote about Suresh. He was thrilled when he came to see me and said, “I always wanted to do the half-marathon before the disease hit me and now after the treatment I will run the half-marathon”. He completed the half-marathon without a hitch and to me he is one of the real heroes!
During his treatment, I found him reading Lance Armstrong’s book Its not about the bike: my journey back to life. Incidentally Lance Armstrong also had the similar disease. I felt so terrible that Lance let down so many people who looked up to him as a motivation during their fight against cancer. I think that was definitely criminal. Unfortunately sports heroes letting down their fans is happening now. But patients feel so let down when their role model is a fraud.
Yuvraj had a similar problem and wrote about his success story. He is currently hero-worshipped by all. Rightly so and he too read the Armstrong’s book. There are many Heroes amongst us – just ordinary people with extraordinary courage. Many like Suresh who believe that they can kick the disease and continue to exercise and be physically fit.
Let me tell you that physical fitness is one of the most important needs for effective treatment. It is clear that a strong body can resist and fight the disease and also tolerate drugs that are necessary. For all those who are on treatment or off treatment, do not forget to exercise. That is your biggest single weapon against the big C.
When do you start exercising?
If you are a fitness enthusiast like Suresh- DON’T stop. Keep exercise to at least 20-30 min of walk even during chemotherapy. Even aerobics with less intensity are fine. It relieves your stress and take your mind away from thinking about side effects.
What if you have not exercised regularly?
Its advisable to start walking at least 10 min three times a day. Yoga and meditation would help and I definitely encourage you to “keep fit”.
What about yoga?
It has been shown in many studies that yoga reduces the anxiety. Let me tell you that it is the anxiety about therapy that is worse than therapy. I have seen less literate patients take therapy without blinking.
I am attaching (below) the NCCN guidelines for exercise during treatment, which are useful.
Exercise, Exercise and Exercise and reduce your weight. This is particularly true for breast cancer where excessive fat can predispose.
Exercise reduces the cancer risk. More about it next time.
Dr Jagannath is presently Chairman, Department of Surgical Oncology, Lilavati Hospital and Research Centre, and Professor of Gastrointestinal Oncology, Asian Institute of Oncology, S.L. Raheja Hospital, Mumbai from 2002. You can follow his blog here.
Image: Lance Armstrong
Photographs: Mike Hutchings/Reuters