Fighting Fit!

If you have been following my blog you might have noticed I’m a pretty active girl. Exercise is a HUGE part of my life and I also know it has been a HUGE part of my recovery both mentally and physically throughout my life fighting my disease.

I enjoy most exercise and never tire of the post workout adrenaline rush and the feeling of getting stronger (love a bit of DOMS)! Aerobics, weights, walking, running, step, cycling, yoga, most anything really!!

After finishing my maths degree i decided to train as an ETM instructor and went on to become a Les Mills Body Attack and Body Pump instructor. I loved the transition from participating in classes to teaching them. I enjoy encouraging others and sharing my passion for exercise.

Throughout all my treatment I have always maintained a level of activity in an aim not to lose my physical fitness and support my mental health too!! Even when an inpatient I would try and go for a walk each day, even if it was just around the ward or to the car park. A little bit of movement and a bit of fresh air makes you feel a world of difference. On other days when feeling better I would either sneak out to the gym or do my own workout in my room.

Physically I believe this has kept my muscles stronger, which means I don’t lose as much muscle mass and strength when going through treatment or infections. It has increased my lung capacity and hearts strength meaning I suffer much less when being severely anaemic. It has kept me mobile and able to get out of bed and walk!! Of course it also keeps your organs healthier, your weight in control, improved sleep, more energy, and all the other wonderful health benefits

Mentally doing exercise has given me a focus. Just getting up out of bed doing some exercises gives you something to do and makes you feel better. There is nothing like laying around in bed to make you feel more tired. Exercise helps me de-stress and reduce my anxiety.

Overall it has kept me sane and moving. Just thinking about this time when I was in hospital from September to February. IF I hadn’t kept active I am certain I would have been in a wheelchair.

My consultant is eager for me to share my fitness passion with other patients. So my idea is to start a YouTube Channel sharing my experience of exercise and cancer treatment and sharing workout ideas. I know that I have quite a unique relationship with exercise though. So I would like to find out about other peoples experiences first and know if this is something that would have helped you.

Did you exercise through chemo? – or do you wish you had?

What are the barriers to you exercising?Β 

Does exercise help you?

Did you exercise before treatment? – did treatment stop you?

And anything else you would like to share!!!



12 thoughts on “Fighting Fit!

  1. Sarah Reakes

    Hi Emma,

    I am a great believer in gentle exercise as a means of keeping fit and to de-stress. I think fast walking is one of the best exercises one can do as you are getting fresh air and the benefit of the activity itself. However, I have severe osteo arthritis of both knees which really has, and does limit my mobility. I have had this problem for nearly thirty years with it gradually getting worse but was deemed far too young to have had replacement joints before now. I was due to go in for my first knee operation when I was diagnosed that my MDS had transformed to AML and I needed a transplant. So this was put on hold and I am now facing the challenge of going forward to having these operations post-transplant. I also have an auto-immune inflammatory disorder where I have severe flare ups which lays me low with high levels of pain.

    In spite of this, I am very active in the home as far as running the home and carry out all the normal household chores but inevitably this usually involves a lot of standing (food preparation and cooking, loading of washing machine, ironing, etc) or sitting (home office work as we manage our own rental property) so not something that involves cardio and regular walking although I do try to go out at least once a week for a reasonable walk with our dogs but my husband does this daily task. I live in a house and have to use the stairs but this has become more challenging recently. I do finding that continual sitting and standing really makes my pain and immobility considerably worse, but I have reached a stage where physio-style exercises actually do more harm than good with me knees.

    During my treatment, I did try to take some gentle exercise whenever possible and when my disabling side effects didn’t prevent me from doing so, and I tried to use the exercise bike daily for short spells, when I was in isolation. Amazingly, the pain in my knees and my inflammatory condition improved considerably whilst I underwent my chemotherapy treatments, and I have since been told by my consultant that this was due to the fact that one of the chemotherapy drugs I was given has the positive side affect of being a wonderful anti-inflammatory. However, this has since worn off and I have now succumbed to the full intensity of the pain I had before.

    I have never been a fan of the gym erring on the side of sporting activities such as tennis, badminton, netball, swimming and sailing in my younger days. I think it was jumping off our sailing boat to tie up alongside moorings from quite a height, over a ten year period that made my knee problems worse. We went long term cruising, and living aboard a boat often involves more upper body activities than exercising the legs (hoisting & pulling in sails really does require a lot of arm, shoulder and back strength, as well as legs for stability), and I was very strong in this department but at the expense of being able to exercise my legs.

    The other problem with trying to exercise when you are feeling so physically wiped out with fatigue due to the treatment, is the sheer willpower to do so. It is very hard to rise above the feeling of nausea, being sick, experiencing extremely painful mouth ulcers and no saliva and so unable to eat, having the runs, being almost permanently connected to the pumps for treatment, and then set about doing some physical jerks. I really do get it that it isn’t healthy to stay in bed all day but my way of dealing with it was to try and keep to a regular routine of taking a shower, getting up and getting dressed, writing my blog, doing my knitting, etc. In my hospital I was also responsible for taking my own drugs each day (the nurse would come round and check that I had taken them, but it was down to me to make sure I did it) which I did find a real challenge when I was feeling particularly ill, so I really had to make sure that I was mentally fit enough to think for myself as my health depended on it. I think having a routine (involving daily activities) is every bit as important as doing energetic exercise as it stimulates the mind and keeps you motivated to a level that is sustainable and is more ‘normal’ to what life has been like at home.

    I do agree with you that a certain level of exercise is important for both physical and mental well being but often pre-existing physical problems can prevent a person embarking on it and this was certainly my problem. I do gentle stretching exercises every morning involving my arms and legs, to try and keep my muscles supple and toned, and to try and reduce the joint pain I’m in.

    Hope this helps.

    Sarah x


    1. Thank you for sharing Sarah. I’m so sorry you suffer so much with your knees.

      I totally agree that a routine is so so so important. I only didn’t shower on the days I was really really ill and couldn’t physically do it.

      I totally agree with you from the exercise point of view and it’s great you remain active. I might edit my blog to be clearer. By ‘workout’ i meant anything from doing 20 minutes of yoga stretches to do kettle bell swings in my room! I adapted it to the day and how I felt. These are the sort of workouts I will include in my blogs. As well as the physio recommended bed exercises! X


  2. devjon

    Hi Emma,
    A fascinating read, I was diagnosed with MDS in 2013 and am on “Watch and Wait” There was about 18 months of investigation before diagnosis and during that time I was being proactive in trying to get to the source of the problem. I’m a lifetime vegetarian and spent seven months on a gluten free, soya free Vegan diet to see if malabsorption might be the cause. It did make me feel a lot better in myself and the weight loss probably helped but I still felt knackered πŸ™‚
    You are spot on when you say that exercise can make a great deal of difference both physically and mentally. Just doing a little at a time without overdoing it will pay benefits, and accepting that some days its not going to happen but tommorow is another day will keep you positive.

    I’m a long term runner ( that’s what made me realise something was adrift initially ) and have been experimenting with different strategies. Alternating run/ walk during training has allowed me to build up my endurance so that looks promising.
    Thanks for the blog, it’s inspirational so keep them coming, but above all, keep on keeping on.


    1. Thank you! I am almost being forced to go vegan due to digestion issues (see latest post) so imagine it would make you feel masses better. Great to hear you are out there running, it won’t be long before your endurance improves, stick at it!! πŸ™‚ x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sean Bottomley

    This is inspirational for me! I’m going in later in the summer and the exercise thing is a big issue for me. I’m not as a time as a prior to my diagnosis as I was a very active road cyclist which obviously is a big no no with no platelets. I now get on my turbo trainer when I can and try to walk half hour a day. When I was in for ATG, I was totally room bond so fearful I’d be stuck again for the transplant. Thankfully the consultant said as long as I’m well and with someone, I’ll be able to go to the park next door.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah when I was at kings I went for a walk every day. I went by myself because I was stubborn and didn’t always have visitors before I was gonna be hooked up to the pump. I even went to brockwell Park over in Brixton a couple of times as it’s a more varied Park!

      On the days you can’t get out though there is still loads you can do in your room even if it is just stretching. I recommend a cheap yoga mat so you can do some core exercises and stretches on the floor.

      The more you keep your strength up the better I think. And I genuinely felt better after having done skmething, tired but better!


      P.s. Why can’t you do Road cycling? It’s a low impact sport so unlikely to cause bruises unless you fall off? Have to say I never listened to any of those rules, I just listened to my body. I still used to go running, gym, etc even when blood counts were low as I felt the psychological and physical benefits outweighed the risks. I was always careful though.


      1. Sean Bottomley

        I did for a while then the doctors went nuts. I would go after transfusions buthe one consultant told me I couldn’t do anything more than a very gentle short walk!
        I’ve got a week off coming up so I might go for a cycle on a cycle path. Soo miss it! I can understand the road thing though, as a cyclist, it isn’t always about you sadly


  4. Yeah I understand. Although, I feel your doctor is being a little bit OTT! I did a 10k run for Anthony Nolan the week before I had my transplant sith prof marshes knowledge. She even gave me some extra blood before hand. Ha ha! I am a bit of a rebel though. I would have done that 10k and the training with of without their agreement. Think I raised over Β£2k in the end.

    I reckon you would be fine just going for a gentle cycle. I think sanity is important and if we let these diseases take over every aspect of our lives we are likely to lose that!! Just listen to your body πŸ™‚ x


  5. Great blog Emma and really pleased that you are writing about the topic. I’ve been walking – even if it was at a snails pace to begin with – every time I could. Whist in hospital at first it wasn’t possible because I was in total isolation but when I was home I got out as much as I could.

    During my SCT I walked the corridors and when I got home I began with 10 minutes outdoors and am now up to 4 or 5 miles at a time. I’m also enjoying being back into the gym, on the bike, lifting some light weights etc.

    I think that there are so many thinks about being ill that can make your head spin, its fantastic to get some feel good factor from exercise if and when you are able.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was supposed to be in total isolation but I was stubborn! They are actually considering changing the way transplants are done where you stay at home or in a nearby hotel whilst having your treatment and you are only admitted when complications occur. The idea being to get people a bit more active and to eat better!

      Fantastic news that you are out and about walking now. Doesn’t the fresh air make you feel better!?!? x

      Liked by 1 person

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