Livestrong: Exercise after DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction
Yesterday I began my Journey with the Livestrong program as a breast cancer survivor and to increase exercise after DIEP flap breast reconstruction. I found out about the program when I switched oncologists in early April this year. My oncologist discussed my overall health. I expressed my concerns about being on an AI (aromatase inhibitor) and the side effects it can have including bone loss. I told her I wanted to remain strong and fit and do what I could to maintain or increase my bone density and overall strength.
She handed me a pamphlet and with a smile on her face expressed her support of the Livestrong program at the local YMCA. I called Annemarie, the Vice President of Corporate and Community Partnerships, at our local facility to get on the list to start the program. It took a couple of months of waiting before the next class started so the day I received the phone call from Annemarie saying they were ready to set me up for my initial visit I was excited.
I was handed a folder, a yellow Livestrong bracelet, and an explanation of the program. I filled out required paperwork. Annemarie was a positive and friendly woman who was obviously very enthusiastic about the benefits of the program for cancer patients and survivors. She explained to me there would be cancer patients of all types and at various stages of treatment and recovery.
The program would begin at the end of August. Classes are two times each week for an hour and a half. They will run for a six-week period until early November. Annemarie went on to explain that we would be grouped according to our abilities and placed with a personal trainer in small groups of 4. She told me how much community and friendships are built through the Livestrong program and that made me exceedingly more excited to begin. I know it will be inspirational to meet other participants.
I told her my personal goals for exercise after DIEP flap included strengthening my core to keep my back strong, maintaining flexibility and range of motion in my arms after having a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction, and to increase my endurance. I told her I wasn’t out to win or run any marathons any time soon but it was important to feel strong and fit for my daily living.
Annemarie told me that each trainer is specially trained to work with cancer patients and carefully assess their individual strengths, abilities, and goals for health. Not only will I attend the personal classes with other cancer survivors, I will have full access to the YMCA and all the programs it offers. I was happy to sign the paperwork and anxious to begin the program.
Continuing a Comeback as a Two-Time Survivor
When I think back to my original diagnosis that included two lumpectomies, eighteen weeks of FAC (fluorouracil, Adriamycin, and Cytoxan) chemotherapy, and six weeks of daily radiation the treatment took its toll on my physical and mental stamina.
Recovery from my second breast cancer diagnosis included four surgeries; a double mastectomy and three surgeries for breast reconstruction. Add to that the medication, aromatase inhibitor, that I am now on because I was estrogen receptor positive, there are days when I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle to not only stay strong but look and feel healthy. Cancer survivors seek that sense of normalcy and looking and feeling like they are healthy. There is nothing I want more and I am willing to do the work that these trained professionals have to offer.
We all lead busy lives. Since opening my Foundation, I find that there are days when I don’t do the best job of practicing the all-important work-life balance. I told Annemarie that having these scheduled classes and a place away from my office to participate with other survivors felt like “me time”. It gave me an opportunity to leave my desk and do something that focused on my well-being and honored my body after what it has been through from breast cancer and recovery from breast reconstruction surgery.
I am excited to be in the Livestrong program and continue and enhance exercise after my DIEP flap surgery. I will continue to document with photos and other blogs to share my experience and the benefits of the program.