Monday, July 11, 2016

Walking During Chemotherapy

So back when I was in chemo, and for many years before diagnosis, I used to go for a daily walk. That was when I was healthier (I only had two cancers, not RA and fibro). When I was healthy, I would walk between 4-6 miles each day. Many friends didn't like walking with me because they claimed I walked too far and too fast. My husband would call my walks 'death marches'.

But I digress. During treatment, I walked every day I could. I mean on days I had surgery I didn't always feel up to walking. During chemo, often my walks were shorter because I felt like crap (a technical term). My biggest side effect during chemo was constant nausea and inability to be in the same room as scallions. I did have some neuropathy but not too bad and my finger nails and toe nails took a beating.

Now there is a new study (because we always need more research) that shows that breast cancer patients who go for daily walks during chemo had fewer neuropathy problems than those who did not walk.

"The study, involving more than 300 cancer patients, was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Investigators in the exercise study directly compared the neuropathic symptoms in non-exercisers to the pain among patients who took part in a specialized six-week walking routine with gentle, resistance-band training at home.

The exercisers reported significantly fewer symptoms of neuropathy – which includes shooting or burning pain, tingling, numbness, and sensitivity to cold – and the effects of exercise seemed to be most beneficial for older patients, said lead author Ian Kleckner, Ph.D., a biophysicist and research assistant professor in Wilmot's Cancer Control and Survivorship program."

So maybe I was on to something. The nurses and doctors all appreciated the fact I went for walks and encouraged me to keep walking. Currently oncologists and patients spend more time talking about walking during chemotherapy. A daily walk also provides the benefit of reducing the constipation that often accompanies chemo. 

"Kleckner, a longtime drug-free body builder and former college rugby player, said he's committed to understanding more deeply the benefits of exercise for cancer patients. "Exercise is like a sledgehammer because it affects so many biological and psycho-social pathways at the same time – brain circuitry, inflammation, our social interactions – whereas drugs usually have a specific target," he said. "Our next study is being designed to find out how exercise works, how the body reacts to exercise during cancer treatment, and how exercise affects the brain.""

So my advice is during chemo, go for a walk. In addition to helping with neuropathy, it can help reduce your stress. Actually I think my advice is as soon as you are diagnosed with breast cancer start going for a daily walk.

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