Last updated: July 2023
As I attempted to stay in step and move my hips to the Latin beat, I remembered why running was always my exercise of choice. I never had much coordination and now, with multiple cancers, Zumba is a challenge. Fortunately, there was enough space between me and the other participants, so I didn’t run into anyone when they were going left, and I was going right. Despite my challenges, I had a great time and left the class feeling positive about myself.
So how did my ungraceful self wind up doing a cancer Zumba class at the local YMCA?
In 2016, oncologists diagnosed me with two cancers, almost exactly two months apart. First was a rare blood cancer called polycythemia vera, the second invasive ductal carcinoma or breast cancer. I underwent treatment for the breast cancer and started on medication for the polycythemia vera or PV.
A JAK2 gene mutation most frequently causes PV. The mutation signals the bone marrow to overproduce red blood cells. Blood clots, heart attack, and stroke become more likely because of thick blood.
Between the inflammation caused by the PV and residual neuropathy from the breast cancer chemo, running is no longer an option. I started walking, and that has kept me in decent cardiac shape.
Not a fan of the mirror
I felt sad when I looked in the mirror and saw my pathetic “bingo wings” arms and expanding waistline. Unfortunately, I’m fighting cancer treatments that can affect weight and muscle mass loss due to age. In addition, to keep my blood levels at a normal range, my iron levels are lower than normal by design. Since iron brings oxygen to muscle tissue, it’s negatively affecting my physique.
Time to do something
Instead of bemoaning my pitiful body, I got serious about doing some other physical activities to get back to where I’d like to be.
On my 61st birthday, I signed up to be a “Diva” and attended an orientation as part of the ThriveWell Cancer Foundation.
A mutual cancer survivor friend told me about this San Antonio organization several years ago and raved about all they offered. I had intended to join earlier in my cancer journey but just hadn’t gotten around to it.
ThriveWell provides community-based programs in Texas for cancer survivors to improve their health and wellness. They provide a plethora of exercise programs in many locations in the San Antonio area, including Zumba, aerobics, Pilates, line dancing and tai chi.
This organization not only provides exercise options, but nutrition counseling and classes. In addition, they offer programs called artful healing. Some of these include storytelling, poetry, painting and even jewelry making.
They also work with the community by sponsoring different cancer events throughout the year.
I jumped in feet first, starting with Zumba and then moved to other options offered. One thing I especially like about this organization, besides an activity outlet, is the sense of camaraderie I felt from the very first day. Although others might have different cancers, there is a bond that forms when you are with others facing the same issues.
I am so grateful for all the opportunities ThriveWell provides. Tomorrow’s it’s going to be aquatics or yoga. Wish me luck!
Has exercise helped you with your blood cancer symptoms?
What blood cancer were you diagnosed with?