Hanging on to Fitness and a Few Strands of Hair Through Breast Cancer Treatment

I am a Medical Oncologist, a wife, a mother of 4, runner of 12 marathons training to run my 13th with a goal to qualify for Boston when the diagnosis of breast cancer caused a significant detour in my well-planned life. When I asked for guidance on how to continue to stay fit while receiving treatment, I received blank stares and found little data. While I never intended to be in this experiment, I find myself now generating my own data about fitness through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. I am writing this in hopes to help others who find themselves in this same situation.


The Starting-Line for Chemotherapy

Tomorrow I start chemotherapy. I am not feeling the same excitement and enthusiasm as I did the day before surgery. I spoke to a friend who had this same diagnosis and treatment about 10 years ago, and she said she had a similar feeling and felt this was due to the fact that she knew she would be asleep during surgery. For me, the “going to sleep” was the thing about the surgery that worried me the most. So that is it; I am afraid of drugs. I avoid medications if I can. I don’t like the side effects of Advil. I have pretty much stopped eating packaged foods because I worry about preservatives and what they may do to my body. As far as chemotherapy, this is the part of this breast cancer treatment journey that I know the most about. I know too much. I know about the things that will definitely happen, the things that will probably happen and even the things that are very rare but devastating if they happen. But I don’t know specifically how I will feel. So far with the exception of pain after surgery and now pain after having my porta-cath placed, I have had no symptoms. I don’t feel like a patient. I also know that there are so many reasons that I will tolerate chemo really well. I am young, or at least I think I am, and I am really healthy. My good friend Natalie put this chemo thing in a way that I could relate. Here is what she said:

Hi Si🌟Chemo sounds like a motherfucker, but 8 treatments seems very doable. Each treatment is worth 3.275 marathon miles. About a 5k per infusion. So...

1st treatment: 5k

(3.275 mi)

2nd treatment: 10K

(6.55 mi)

3rd treatment: 10 mile

(9.825 mi)

4th treatment: half

(13.1 mi - exactly!)

5th treatment: sweet 16 (16.375 - only 10 miles to go!)

6th treatment: bustin’ through the “wall!”

(19.65 mi)

7th treatment: 5k to go! (22.925 mi)

8th treatment: Marathon!

(26.2 mi exactly baby!) Cross that finish line! Ring that bell! Get that medal!!🥇🏆🏅

Given this, I really should not be afraid of this chemo, but those little remaining breast cancer cells should be shaking in their little boots right now. KTMF! Oh, and Jay reminded me that my New Year’s resolution this year was to “face fears”. So this is happening! Next year I am going to resolve to eat more blueberries!

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