Physical activity: a great ally in the fight against cancer

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I am an active person. I have been practicing sports since I was a child. I always considered physical activities as an escape, a way to manage difficult events, to keep my moral up and to free my mind… at least for a while.  Ironically, the months preceding my diagnostic were those during which I felt the best in my life. I was training, running every day, and was hiking frequently.

Suddenly, cancer changed my life completely, and medical appointments rapidly replaced my daily routines. As we know, a cancer diagnostic is terribly scary, whatever the stage, grade or type it is. Once the initial shock passed, I started to ask questions to my doctors and understood that, in order to survive this struggle, I had to continue to exercise.  Hence, I slowly started to practice my favorite sports again (although I stopped running and started yoga instead). Just as I thought that cancer would bring me down to a state of weakness that would prevent me from doing anything physical, I realized that it was not always the case, as long as I respected my own limits.

At the beginning, as medical appointments started to line-up, I was living in a permanent state of anxiety. The fear and the wait for results were haunting me; I couldn’t sleep, I was depressed and I could hardly eat. I needed to vent and to evacuate my stress. To get back on my feet, I not only relied on my loved ones’ support, but I also started to be active again. After all, I was still in a fairly good physical shape… My training sessions helped me to momentarily forget my situation, to sleep and to keep my spirit up. And, little by little, I realized that, on active days, I was able to eat and to sleep, without any medication!

Physical activity: a great ally in the fight against cancer

Surgeries and cancer treatments often cause social withdrawal (that happened to me) and force us to leave school or stop working. Naturally, just after a surgery and during the treatments, it became difficult for me to stay active, but, by respecting my own limits, by following my doctors recommendations and by slightly changing my routine, I was able to do it. In between medical appointments, I succeeded to reintegrate some physical activities to my schedule and regained a social life that was so important for my moral.

Unfortunately, breast cancer also affects our womanhood and our physical image. It may sometimes be hard to feel beautiful following invasive medical treatments. Hair loss, weight gain, scars, burns… are all secondary effects with which we have to cope. Sports helped me regain a bit of control on my appearance, accept and like my new body. Furthermore, yoga gave me the opportunity to get in touch with women living experiences similar to mine and to exchange with them.

Physical activity: a great ally in the fight against cancer

Practicing sports helped me from the day I suspected the presence of cancer, and it continues to do so, now that I am in remission. Today, the fear of a relapse haunts my mind. Fortunately, staying active still contributes to manage my anxiety. It allows me to evaluate my physical fitness and to stay alert to any change. Getting hold of one aspect of my health reassures me.  I feel that I am doing something to keep cancer away from me!

Truly, physical activity, thanks to its many benefits, will have helped me to survive breast cancer. Sport has proved to be a precious ally to keep my morale up, to live with a disturbed body image, and to manage my stress, my lassitude and my fear of a relapse.

Never hesitate to be active, even during the difficult days. Your mind and body will thank you!

Mylène Bezeau-Gervais

Student, Master’s Degree in Counseling 

The Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation is proud to host guest editors on its website.