jenny's belly

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Really? Moderate Intensity Exercise?

An open response to the following article:,2933,593874,00.html

Dear Ms. Schmitz,

I know you are not a cancer survivor, and yet I still appreciate your concern. "[Moderate intensity Exercise] during and after treatment is safe and beneficial for these patients, even those undergoing complex procedures such as stem cell transplants." Unfortunately, your message is a bit misguided. Above all, doctors should tell cancer patients to listen to their bodies.

During treatment, there is a prevailing internal voice ("do the best you can") which begins when you wake up and ends only when you fall asleep. This applies to everything from eating, a flight of stairs, and brushing your teeth. Do the best you can. Try to walk. Eat and drink. Read. Smile. Remain positive. If you can do all these easily, take the next steps. Try to do your job. Take care of your family. Complete your regular routine.

Cancer patients want to maintain their "old" lives, unchanged. It's impossible, of course, but it's the goal. Anyone with the energy to exercise will get up and move. There is no cancer patient sitting on a couch, eating cookies, reading a book, and loving the relaxation. DOES NOT EXIST.

"Cancer patients and survivors should strive to get the same 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise that is recommended for the general public..."

To add the pressure of an organized exercise routine during treatment is, in a word, insane. After treatment, absolutely. The brain starts firing again as the poison exits. You can feel your body want to move again. There are physical therapists specializing in this area, in fact. The movement--still under the "do the best you can" mantra--can only do you good. And when you feel you can't do anymore, you rest your body until it can move again. Essentially, baby steps toward restoring your normal self.

At least the panel has it almost right: "[Doctors should take] into account [the patient's] general fitness level, specific diagnosis and factors about their disease that might influence exercise safety." Sadly, dear panel, it doesn't come down to exercise safety. Few will pull a muscle. They're going to collapse from exhaustion due to pushing themselves too hard.

I went to treatments, appointments, and consultations. I took my medications, listened to my militant nutritionists and followed every bit of advice I was given to the best of my ability. I did all I could to avoid hospitalization and keep my blood levels high enough to continue treatments. Moderate exercise was not on the radar. Even my hair hurt.

I appreciate your advice to doctors, Ms. Schmitz, but please recognize patients should be told they can exercise moderately if they feel they are able. Basically, do the best you can.

Jenny's Belly

(PS You're missing a "d" in your last name)