If Possible, Keep Moving
Prior to being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, I commuted to work by bike every day. It was a ten-mile ride each way. Where I live is flat, so it wasn’t too difficult a commute. Half the ride was along the beach, so it was a great way to start and end the day. However, I noticed the ride was getting increasingly difficult. I wasn’t able to take deep breaths. At first, I just thought I was getting older and out of shape. Eventually, I was hospitalized for being dangerously anemic and soon after I was diagnosed with myeloma.
For the first year after being diagnosed, I tried to exercise at home. My doctor had put the fear into me about germs at the gym and my lowered immune system. I didn’t ride my bike at all. Walking my dog down the street took everything I had. Actually, just walking from the parking lot to my doctor’s office was a massive undertaking. After year one and as I felt better, I started to ride again. I set a goal of being able to ride to work again. I knew that if I could do that, that mentally I would gain confidence that I was going to survive my blood cancer. Eventually, I did ride to work again and I had a friend ride with me just in case something happened. After that, I continued to set goals for myself. These goals motivate me to stay in shape and stay mentally engaged in my health.
I have a myeloma friend who had his bike trainer brought to the hospital so he could ride while he was hospitalized following his stem cell transplant. He is a beast. There is a myeloma patient in his 70s who recently ran his 100th marathon since being diagnosed in 2003. While I’m not doing these things, I do find these sorts of stories inspirational.
Improving physical and mental health
Exercise helps to fight off depression, which can impact blood cancer patients. Exercise can also help fight some of the side effects of our treatment, such as fatigue and pain. Obviously, it is different for everybody. If you are starting an exercise program, check with your doctor to see what is ok. Also, be aware of your physical state, which may impact your ability to exercise. How are your blood counts? What is your blood pressure? Exercise with a friend. Make it fun. Weight-bearing exercises can strengthen your bones but also be careful to not do anything that might negatively stress your bones. Yoga is a great exercise for mind and body.
In some cities, Livestrong partners with facilities such as the YMCA to host exercise programs for cancer patients. The Cancer Support Community has facilities in various cities and they offer exercise programs at no cost to cancer patients. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has Team in Training events across the country if you are interested in combining exercise with fundraising.
I’m aware that not everyone is able to exercise when fighting their cancer, but any effort is huge. And if you need to rest, you should rest.
Have you met another blood cancer patient?