Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - 13

easy to write off the issues as symptoms of my circumstance. I
would tell myself things like, "Oh, I'm still getting acclimated
to the heat and humidity down here," or "I must have bumped
myself at the gym yesterday or something."
I disregarded the warning signs because there was no
way these issues could be anything serious. In my mind, I
was young, healthy and fit. My entire reality came crashing
down in an instant one fateful day the following autumn.
After spending eight hours in the ER with a swollen chin,
I heard the three words no one ever wants to hear - "You
have cancer." More specifically, I was diagnosed with Chronic
Myeloid Leukemia (CML). Luckily, my treatment initially
consisted of targeted therapy instead of traditional chemo.
However, I soon realized that this treatment came with side
effects of its own.
The next six months were a blur. Life revolved around taking
pills and weekly doctor visits. I tried maintaining a sense of
normalcy, but it was not easy. While I did continue to stay active, the intensity and frequency of my workouts declined significantly. My energy was
gone. My joints ached. Nausea was a daily
battle. I persisted though, because I just felt
better after getting in some sort of physical
activity. Being active during this period
positively impacted not only my physical
health, but my mental health as well. Many
early mornings were spent walking alone
while giving myself pep talks along the
way. I found a reason to be grateful during
this time. That reason, which I told myself
constantly, was, "at least you don't have to
do real chemo." This mantra quickly lost
its truth during my seven month check up.
Memorial Day Weekend is supposed to
be a time of celebration. My 2012 Memorial
Day Weekend was everything but that. The latest lab results
showed the targeted therapy was no longer working, and I
had to start a chemo regimen immediately to prepare for a
stem cell transplant. While everyone was out partying and
enjoying barbecue, I was in the hospital preparing to start
chemo. Distraught yet determined, I decided to not face this
new reality laying down.
With a blessing from my doctor, I spent each of those first
four nights in the hospital walking the halls as the life saving
poison began coursing through my veins. The following seven
rounds of chemo were pretty much all the same - as soon as
the chemo started flowing, I was up walking the halls. There
was no way I was going to let the chemo transform me into
a shell of myself. And, it didn't. My doctors were constantly
amazed at how well I was handling the Hyper-CVAD regimen.
My pain level was under control, my energy levels were up,
and I was eating like a champ. I didn't realize at the time, but
existing evidence strongly suggests that exercise is not only
safe and feasible during cancer treatment, but that it can also
improve physical functioning, fatigue and multiple aspects
of quality of life.(1) I experienced all of this and much more.

Another important unintended positive side effect of my
physical activity during treatment was my happiness - it
f lourished. One morning as my docs were making their
rounds, one asked, "How are you always smiling and happy all
the time?" It was a great question, and one I spent numerous
hours contemplating as I walked those hallowed hospital halls.
For me, the answer was simple. My reaction to the situation
would not change the fact that the situation was happening.
So, whether I lay in bed all day depressed and hating life, or
put a giant smile on my face and walked around as if everything was fine, I would still be a cancer patient preparing for
a stem cell transplant. This situation was a necessary step I
had to take in order to have a second chance at life. When I
thought about it in those terms, I could not help but put the
biggest smile on my face.
As the final round of chemo wrapped and I headed down to
MD Anderson for the transplant, I was ready to take on the
world. MD Anderson was truly a special place to have a stem
cell transplant. Not only were the doctors
phenomenal, but they had two floors dedicated to stem cell transplant recipients. And,
they encouraged physical activity. Upon admittance, I was told how many laps around
the wing was equivalent a mile, there were
stationary bikes in the hallways to ride, and
we even had hour long group exercise classes
three times a week. In what is normally considered an isolating experience, the teams
at MD Anderson transformed the stem cell
transplant process into more of a social one
through the use of physical activity. They
clearly know what they're doing - research
shows a positive relationship between social
support and physical activity participation
in cancer survivors.(2)
For me, the group exercise classes were awesome because
they allowed me to hang out with my new transplant buddies
while being active. The classes also set the guidelines for my
continued participation in physical activity once the transplant process was complete. Through participation in these
classes, I realized I was not as fragile as I thought, and I could
do things like chair squats and resistance band exercises in
addition to walking and riding the stationary bike to stay active. In the world of survivorship, this is extremely important.
Many studies have demonstrated that physical activity after
cancer diagnosis is associated with a reduced risk of cancer
recurrence and improved overall mortality.(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)(10)
I'm a firm believer that my physical activity during treatment
has allowed me to live a happier, healthier life. Throughout my
treatment, one thing I realized was that I could positively affect
things like my mood, pain levels, mental fitness, and fatigue
just by staying physically active. This is an important lesson
that I continually apply to my daily life. No matter how bad
things seem, I know that if I just keep moving, it will get better.

References
1 Schmitz KH, Courneya
KS, Matthews C, et
al; American College
of Sports Medicine.
American College
of Sports Medicine
roundtable on exercise
guidelines for cancer
survivors. Med Sci
Sports Exerc. 2010;
42:1409-1426
2 Barber FD. Social
support and physical
activity engagement by
cancer survivors. Clin
J Oncol Nurs. 2012;
16(3):E84-98.
3 Ibrahim EM, Al-Homaidh
A. Physical activity and
survival after breast
cancer diagnosis: metaanalysis of published
studies. Med Oncol.
2011; 28: 753-765.
4 Moorman PG, Jones
LW, Akushevich
L,Schildkraut JM.
Recreational physical
activity and ovarian
cancer risk and survival.
Ann Epidemiol. 2011;
21: 178-187.
5 Kenfield SA, Stampfer
MJ, Giovannucci E,
Chan JM. Physical
activity and survival
after prostate cancer
diagnosis in the health
professionals follow-up
study. J Clin Oncol.2011;
29: 726-732.
6 Holmes MD, Chen WY,
Feskanich D,Kroenke
CH, Colditz GA. Physical
activity and survival
after breast cancer
diagnosis. JAMA.2005;
293: 2479-2486.
7 Meyerhardt JA,
Giovannucci EL, Ogino
S, et al. Physical activity
and male colorectal
cancer survival. Arch
Intern Med. 2009;
169:2102-2108.
8 Meyerhardt JA,
Heseltine D,Niedzwiecki
D, et al. Impact of
physical activity on
cancer recurrence and
survival in patients with
stage III colon cancer:
findings from CALGB
89803. J Clin Oncol.
2006; 24:3535-3541.
9 Meyerhardt JA,
Giovannucci EL,Holmes
MD, et al. Physical
activity and survival
after colorectal cancer
diagnosis. J Clin Oncol.
2006; 24: 3527-3534.
10 Haydon AM, Macinnis
RJ, English DR,Giles
GG. Effect of physical
activity and body size on
survival after diagnosis
with colorectal cancer.
Gut. 2006; 55: 62-67.

➥ BY JAY C A RT E R , SU RV I VOR

ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
SEPTEMBER 2019

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Elephants And Tea - September 2019

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Contents
Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - Cover1
Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - Cover2
Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - 1
Elephants And Tea - September 2019 - Contents
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