Maybe An Apology Is Necessary (but not for everything)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the anonymous comment to my last post. Anonymous thinks I am completely insensitive to cancer patients and all they are going through by suggesting a little exercise might be good.

I am troubled that anyone could read my blog or the Life-Cise website and think that I am senselessly pushing people to exercise beyond their limits. I feel like I should apologize, or at least further explain.

By now there has been enough anecdotal evidence and rigorous research showing vast benefits from exercise throughout cancer treatments that I am so surprised to still encounter the attitude that cancer patients can’t do any exercise. (You can find information on recent research on the Life-Cise News page.) I run into this occasionally from doctors and even patient support professionals. I once had the director of patient support at a major cancer center in New York tell me, “You don’t understand, our ladies can’t possibly do that! They’re far too tired to exercise.” Given the weight of scientific evidence to the contrary, this attitude shocks me every time!

What is sometimes missing from discussions about exercise, and what I constantly strive to impart to people, is appropriateness. As I said in my last post, there is no one correct amount or type of exercise. What is appropriate for you is completely individual. And it is never constant. Your exercise routine should never be routine! It should always be changing to reflect the current state of your body.

There are times that getting out of a chair or walking to the mailbox is an appropriate fitness challenge. I know, I’ve been there – too many times. At those times, I tried not to think about it as a failure or that I was too weak to do anything. I tried to see it as what I could do. It might be a shock that I had gone from being a very fit person, climbing mountains and skiing, to someone struggling to stand. But I chose to look at it as simply my starting point. It was just my current state, and a place from which to build.

I have on occasion been accused of being Pollyanna-ish in my outlook. Maybe so. But I also think it’s a healthy way to look at it.

And I stand by my strong belief that exercise – whatever constitutes “exercise” for you at any given time –  is good for more than just your body. Every time you choose to take the stairs, or go for a run, or struggle to walk to the next room rather than just sit and say you can’t do anything, you are choosing health. You are making an active choice for something better than your current situation. You may not be where you want to be yet, but you are choosing to continue heading in that direction. And there is great power in that choice!

Fitness is about so much more than time on a treadmill or numbers on a scale. I strive in my writing and with my clients to stress that what matters is you as an individual. All cancer survivors are survivors in very individual ways. We experience cancer and our treatments (and their side effects) in our own way. So, too, should our fitness plans be individual. That’s one of the reasons I offer individual exercise DVDs, developed and shot for each person, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all workout. What someone else is doing doesn’t matter. Finding what is appropriate for you does matter.

If I have gotten away from that message of late with all my writing about goals and my own running adventures, I apologize. What I am doing has no bearing on what you can or should be doing – except maybe as a lesson in working toward a goal, or as a little inspiration. Whenever I give workshops, I stress that if people ever see me working out at the gym, they shouldn’t be scared or freak out. I work out at a pretty intense level, but I never expect anyone else to do that. I always work with them to find what is safe and appropriate for them.

So, if I have not been clear or have gotten off-message, I apologize. I will try to do better in the future. But I do not apologize for encouraging you to stay involved and accountable for your fitness and your health. To push yourself, to strive for more, to claim the power in making choices. I do not apologize for wishing you great strength. I do not apologize for wanting you to feel as good as possible for as long as possible.

Julie

This entry was posted in benefits of exercise, exercise and cancer, exercise and chemotherapy, Fitness for Survivors Workshop, Life-Cise, motivation. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Maybe An Apology Is Necessary (but not for everything)

  1. Cheryl says:

    Julie, although it has been some time since I have managed to leave a comment, I have in fact often read your posts.
    Today I simply wish to implore you to ignore the comment on your previous post made by anonymous; it comes from someone in a ‘dark’ place. Someone angry with their own prognosis maybe? The very fact that they refuse to be identified tells me all I need to know. Had the individual been following your blog over a period of time, I feel the comment would not have been made.
    I speak from my own experience. You have always gone out of your way to give information appropriate to fitness level and depending on where we are in treatment and condition. Personally, I have nothing but praise for you.
    I thank you for your continuing, support even though there is no further treatment, or fitness programme, that will make a difference to my life expectancy.
    Love and gratitude Chez xo

  2. Luann says:

    Julie,

    I am here today almost three years out of my ordeal and you are spot on. The day I got home from the hospital from having a lumpectomy I pulled out Lesie Sansom’s cd on walking. I thought I am going to move this body, I am not going to let the cancer get me. A stronger body makes a stronger me. I could only shuffle back and forth for the a mile but I made it. Movement was an absolute key to my recovery.

    Don’t give up the message because you are spot on with moving the body! Thank you.

  3. Thank you both! I so appreciate your words. Cheryl, I know that things are difficult for you right now, so I especially appreciate that you take the time to stop by & give me some encouragement – thank you. And Luann, you are such a great example of just what I talk about – good for you!

  4. nancyspoint says:

    You do NOT need to apologize. You are extremely sensitive and on top of that, very encouraging to all people no matter where they are at in their fitness level. That’s why I read your blog!! Keep doing what you do. You are helping so many.

  5. Julie says:

    I hardly ever post but I do read and I agree that you should ignore the nay-sayer who likely feels guilty they aren’t doing what they know they should be doing to improve their physical and mental health prospects. This is a blog, not a paid diet/exercise program, so anyone that doesn’t like what you have to say can and should simply move along in my opinion. There is an expectation of personal accountability in life and those that choose not to have any…yikes.

    Exercise is critical to healthy body and mind ESPECIALLY for breast cancer survivors where research shows raising one’s heart rate for 30 min 6x/week reduces risk of recurrence by over 40%. We all make our choices and it’s up to us to modify a program to what we can handle based on our circumstances.

    Keep up the great blogging, Julie! 🙂

  6. gillian says:

    This must have been a difficult post to write.
    You say that some doctors don’t understand. Well from what I can gather my initial ban on exercise was not universal – much later the doctor explained why in my case it was particularly necessary that I be careful of my heart (eg had cholesterol problems caused from previous thyroid problem, all the treatment on the left hand side of my body etc….)but at the same time must add that he doesn’t seem to encourage exercise – or anything else for that matter. Not sure he thinks anything helps prevent the cancer recurring, or maybe I just keep asking re exercise levels that he doesn’t need to initiate the discussion. Don’t torture yourself re Anonymous’s comment. You are not insensitive. And I never expect to exercise on your level but that doesn’t stop me from reading of your achievements with awe and admiration.

  7. Thanks, Julie & Gillian.
    Gillian, there are definitely specific reasons for doctors to limit or recommend against any exercise. People need to listen to their docs about the specifics of their case. Your situation is one of those. I am always so impressed at how you’ve worked to come back after that. Way too many people just get in the habit of not exercising. But you’ve followed your doctor’s orders, and continued pushing and progressing in a safe manner.

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