Doing It For Me: Getting Fit After Cancer
I stumbled my way through every childhood sport I was forced to participate in. Swim team? I would hide under my towel, only to fall asleep and upset my coach. Soccer? Stomach pains. Basketball? Well, I’m 5-feet tall (OK, 4’11 and a half). Roller hockey? I was the only girl on my team, and much preferred flirting with the goalie to watching the puck.
But, despite my disdain for organized sports, I was always active. I spent evenings biking around, summers splashing around, and weekends shopping around (yes, mall walking does count as exercise in my book). But one of the last things you can do when diagnosed with cancer is remain active. As a sick 13-year-old I had to swap out the bike helmet for a wig and my bicycle for my bed. And it took me years to get back into any sort of fitness mindset, much less the physical shape I was in pre-cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation exhausted me. It was hard to get out of bed to fix something to eat, much less exercise. And the fatigue stuck around long after my cancer was gone. While I rebuilt my social and school life, I let my fitness slide.
Research shows that one of the best ways to prevent any cancer from returning is to exercise and eat a healthy diet. Yet, I spent my teen years obsessing about cancer, and fearing its return, rather than becoming proactive and taking charge of my health. Only recently have I started to focus on getting into my best physical shape. I now accept that I must take charge of what I can control—what I eat and how much exercise I get. So I joined a gym, bought a great workout video, and signed up for twice weekly Pilates classes.
I still need some motivational kicks in the butt; there are days when I skip my workout and mornings where I’d rather stay in my PJs watching one too many episodes of a teen drama I would never publicly admit to enjoying. But knowing that I’m empowered as I make the effort to become the healthiest, best me. Two years ago, I wouldn’t be able to hike with my crazy fit friends without flagging or sign up for events like HERA Foundation’s Climb4Life. Though I still might have some trouble keeping up, I now know that I can try these new and exciting things. As Climb4Life quickly approaches, I’m honored to participate as a cancer survivor who is finally taking back her life. And better yet, I’ll now feel even more confident in the cute Stonewear top I’ll be sporting at the event!
By Eve Hersh