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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.

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The Sunset Run

Today was the day of the Sunset Run, a 2.3 mile fun run that was created by 2 of Grace’s classmates 3 years ago as a middle school project where they were asked to “make the world a better place”. They have continued to host this run and raise money for the UVA Children’s Hospital for the last 3 years. I was so grateful on this day, just 3 days after my first chemotherapy, to participate in this event. This involved two laps around the neighborhood. I ran most of the way with my youngest son. The first loop felt really hard and I was running very slow compared to my pre-chemo self. I tried to keep my ego in check, but I’ll admit, I did want to at least keep up with my son. I felt better around the second loop. The most surprising thing to me was that at a pace that had previously been very easy for me and one where my average heart rate would be very low, on this run my maximum heart rate was 174! This was a heart rate that I would previously only see with very hard efforts. Could it be that the chemotherapy was already affecting my physiology? I assume that with the forced time off after surgery that I also have some deconditioning. I plan to continue to watch this. Maybe it would be a good idea for me to keep an eye on my heart rate as I run and use this as a guide.

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