Cancer

The Healing Power Of Exercise

There’s a healing power to exercise. I never fully understood this until I experienced it.

Exercise helped me get my body back after a cancer diagnosis, and make peace with what I had been through. At age 42, I never expected to hear those terrifying words, “You have breast cancer.”

They came out of nowhere, and caused me to hit the pause button on my life. My treatment plan consisted of a double mastectomy with reconstruction, 8 rounds of chemo and 33 radiation treatments. Toss in a hysterectomy and my body had been through a lot. Exercise wasn’t on my daily “to do list.”

I’ve always been active and exercise has always be in my life.

Until cancer.

Running, power yoga, swimming, P90X, you name it, I’ve done it. But, during my super fun journey with cancer, I was too tired to do much of anything. Just getting through the day, often took every bit of energy I had. Burning calories didn’t seem very important.

There’s a healing power to exercise.

When I was finally done with all of my treatments, I wanted to get my body back. Truth be told, my body had changed a lot. I wasn’t as fit as I had been and instead of looking buff I had scars. I felt insecure about my body and knew I needed to start exercising again. For the first time in my life, I was out of shape and needed to “take it slowly.”

My body wasn’t the only thing that needed work, my mind did also. Cancer hadn’t just changed the way I looked, mentally I was a mess. I was scared. The fear I felt ran deep and I carried it around like my shadow.

I needed to find a way to make peace with what I had been through and reclaim the body I almost didn’t recognize.

At first, I was too tired to do much of anything in the form of exercise, except for walking. I started slowly, getting out there each day. Every week, I would go a little farther. As I built up my energy, I was able to walk longer and faster. I started paying attention to what was around me: the birds, changes in nature and the beautiful scenery all around me. With each step, I pushed myself forward, telling myself I could do it. It wasn’t about burning calories, it was about reclaiming my life.

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As the season changed, so did I.

I worked out a lot on those long walks. About life, the fact that I had once had cancer inside of me, my fear of it coming back. Mostly, I made peace with my body, forgave it for letting me down and grew stronger with each step. I learned to appreciate my body for what it had been through and felt gratitude for being able to exercise again.

I went back to my yoga mat.

At first, I couldn’t hold the poses I had once loved. My arms would shake and I would fall. But, over time, it all came back. I found the flow I had once loved, focused on my breath, and was able to hold the poses. Yoga calmed my mind, reminded me I was strong and felt empowering.

Between the walking and yoga, I found my way back home, to myself. I built my body back, one step at a time, one pose at a time. I noticed positive changes in my body physically. But, as my body changed, so did my mind. I felt strong again, the fear of cancer decreased and I started trusting I would be OK. I built myself up, cheered my self on, and embraced what I had been through.

Walking and yoga gave me the strength I needed to move beyond one of the most difficult times in my life.

There’s a healing power to exercise, and I’m blessed to have found it.

It’s been over 3.5 years now, since my journey with cancer, and most days, I’m still out there walking or spending time on my yoga mat. It’s part of me now. It feeds my soul and my spirit and I can’t imagine my life without it.

Find meaning each day,

Dara