My experience with cancer as a personal trainer + my favourite fitness-during-treatment hacks

As a personal trainer, a breast cancer diagnosis not only put my career on hold – it also changed my relationship with fitness and my body forever. In the beginning it was hard to accept the fact that the strength I’ve built and all of the hard work and progress I’ve made up until that point would ultimately be undone and it would be taking a back seat in my life for the foreseeable future. I know, it wasn’t what was important – because surviving was all that mattered – but it was something I had to work hard to accept.

 

For me, exercise helped me feel normal. It gave me purpose, it gave me coping mechanisms and it gave me a personal sense of power and freedom. This was something that was important to me, and this was something that I needed even more now that I was going through something incredibly challenging, and life altering. Who was I? How would this change me? Can I get out of this alive, and still be who I’ve always been? What if exercise makes it worse? What if exercise makes it better?

 

During conversations with my oncology team, exercise was always a topic I brought up in appointments and following their advice was something I took very seriously. One piece of advice has particularly stuck in my mind, still to this day. It was my mantra for a long time, and it’s still something I focus on when I need it.

 

“The more physical activity you do, the faster you’ll feel stronger and more like yourself.”

 

This advice is what helped me through the tougher times, and helped me be determined to stay strong, especially after every major part of treatment. Walking during chemo was a big win for me – I even managed a couple light jogs here and there when I was having a really good day. During radiation, stretching and basic resistance training exercises were highly beneficial for my body, and my mind. And after every surgery I took the recommended amount of weeks off, and then got professional help through physiotherapy to make sure I recovered safely and properly before getting into anything too heavy.

 

Whenever I experienced setbacks that landed me back in the hospital or some kind of treatment – which happened more than a couple times for me – I would figure out something that worked, like walking. There are always options, they just may change a lot during the course of your cancer treatment. And you will feel like you again, just a new you, a stronger you, and more determined you.

 

(Featured image was an outdoor Bootcamp class I lead during my radiation treatments, July 2019)

 

Try this! 

 

5-10 minutes of full body stretching

 

15 minute walk at a brisk, but comfortable pace for your level

 

3 sets of the following exercises:

10 body weight squats

20 body weight alternating lunges

10 push ups (modified standing against a wall, or from knees on floor)

20 crunches or sit ups

 

5-10 more minutes of full body stretching

 

Find this blog post at https://waroncancer.com/experiencing-cancer-as-a-personal-trainer/

Find more information on the War On Cancer website, and don’t forget to check out the War On Cancer social app!

What do you mean I haven’t blogged in months?!

This is my first blog post in MONTHS. What took so long? I blame Cancer. I can do that, because you know, Cancer. I’ll use it when I can, it’s the least I can get from this whole ordeal, am I right? I dare you to challenge me… I had Cancer.

 

Key word right there, did you catch it? HAD. I HAD Cancer. I can proudly say this because after months and months, and all the treatments/tests/surgeries under the sun… I have confirmed that I no longer have any Cancer in my body. It is a pretty epic thing to feel, say out loud and explain.

 

What’s crazier is that it still doesn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel like this whole thing happened to me.

 

I am still having targeted hormone therapy, every three weeks until April 2020, and I still have another final reconstructive surgery ahead of me sometime in the winter next year. This is just to prevent a recurrence of the Cancer as much as we can. Overall, no more cancer.

 

Bam.

 

Moving the EFF on. But what exactly does that even mean? People always say ‘time to move on’, ‘now you can move on’, and ‘Yay it’s finally over for you’. Is it though? Will it ever feel over? Is it possible to move on? No. Definitely no. The people who truly know what I mean are the people who have also had Cancer themselves.

 

The Cancer is constantly on my mind. Like, literally almost every single thought that goes through mind is somehow connected to Cancer in some way. Maybe it’ll fade over time, but right now it is still very present. Here are some examples:

 

Thought -> Cancer version

 

I’m making Kingsley’s lunch for her first day of school -> I’m tired, probably because of the Cancer related medication I’m taking

 

Today is the first day of school! -> Today is the first day of school, I can’t believe this time last year I was about to find out I had Cancer.

 

Seeing all my school mom friends -> I wonder what they think about my hair, I wonder if they remember I’m the mom that got Cancer?

 

I’m going to Starbucks to write my first blog post in months -> I wonder if the people beside my think I had chemo because I have short hair. The barista smiled at me sympathetically, I wonder if it’s because she thinks I had Cancer. I’m drinking a black Americano, I wonder if my heart will palpitate because I had my Herceptin treatment last week and sometimes caffeine effects that. I’m writing about Cancer. I feel like all I talk about is Cancer…

 

And so on.

 

And so forth.

 

I think you get it.

 

Point is, I’m hoping that this fades with time, because my brain hurts. Literally and figuratively… Maybe it’s because I think ALL the time. What’s next, what do I do now? What is life after Cancer going to be?

 

I guess I’ll find out.

 

Happy Birthday to ME!

Happy Birthday to me! Happy birthday indeed… 34 is going to be an amazing year.

 

Why? Well, to start 34 will be the year I am finished with all this cancer stuff (for the most part), I will have beaten cancer and I will be what ‘they’ consider a ‘cancer survivor’.

 

CANCER SURVIVOR. Weird, it still hasn’t set in.

 

But, that’s pretty cool.

 

It’s also another year where I get to see my children continue to thrive into fantastic little mini humans. Everyday they surprise me, and everyday they get so much bigger and older! Time moves fast my friends, so fast.

 

34 is the year my business and career will really begin to blossom into what I’ve always envisioned. I’ve always seen myself on stage, speaking to large groups of people in the hopes I can inspire them to live healthier and more positive lives. It’s starting, and I know it’s just the  beginning.

 

Plus I’ll go back to work! I’m going to begin teaching bootcamp this summer, personal training, building my nutrition franchise – the whole nine yards. I can’t wait, and it’s going to be fun.

 

What else? Oh yes – fun. Fun in general. 34 is going to be a year filled with the best times with my friends, family, vacations, play dates, parties, events… you name it, I’m doing it and it’s going to be FUN! Life is meant to be fun.

 

Oh, and my hair has started to grow back… WIN.

 

Birthdays are something to celebrate because we are ultimately celebrating life itself. They’re a gift, and we need to appreciate them every single year. I’ve never been more aware of how much we need to appreciate them.

 

So, happy birthday to me!

Chemo hair I DO care

I can’t even believe this was my hair!  I’m finally finished with 5 months of chemo treatments and I’m honestly missing it more then ever.

It is absolutely one of the hardest parts of this whole journey. I don’t recognize myself, I don’t feel pretty, and I feel like I’m putting on a disguise every time I leave the house in a wig or head wrap.

What’s harder, is trying to be brave and ‘own it’ by going bald in pictures or in public. Let me tell you, it’s incredibly hard to put yourself out there to be looked at, because you can see people as they notice ‘oh, that woman has cancer’. It’s something I’ve always found really hard, although my level of ‘I don’t care’ has began to increase, with practice.

As positive as I am, I’m still constantly dealing with these little battles in my mind… and it isn’t easy.

I know it’s a temporary thing and I know it isn’t what’s important. I have all the support in the world and everyone is amazing because they always say the right things, at the right time. But damn I miss that hair!

Side note, yes I know my butt looks good.

Chemo & Herceptin sitting in a tree

Well friends, I have officially completely my 6th round of chemo and I couldn’t be more excited that this part of my journey is coming to an end.

 

I was originally supposed to do 8 treatments, over the course of 16 weeks – but due to the reaction I had to my 5th treatment, the medical team switched up the type of chemo which is administered every 3 weeks instead, and needs one less dose.

 

That’s right – one less treatment! I only have one more treatment. Did I mention that I only have one more treatment left? All of a sudden, it’s almost over.

 

Each treatment has presented a different experience in terms of side effects and challenges, but overall I still maintain that it’s been a relatively ok experience.

 

The main things I’m currently experiencing from my 6th round include body pain (the bone marrow in all of your bones actually ache constantly), nausea, chest pain, peeling fingertips and hands (you’ll notice in my picture that I am wearing large gloves – they’re actually an ice pack to help with this), more hair loss, headache, blurred vision and a general brain fogginess.

 

It only lasts a few days typically, so even though it sucks now and I’m in the thick of it – I know that it won’t be long before I start to feel better again. I’ll have almost a week where I feel stronger and get a chance to recover – and then I take on the last treatment!

 

No sweat, right? Right.

 

HERCEPTIN. This is the drug I’m going to be taking every 3 weeks, via IV in the chemo suite, for a year. I have just completed my 2nd treatment this week as well. The Herceptin is not considered a chemo drug, and doesn’t have the same kind of side effects – so as the year goes on it’ll just be a quick little thing I have to do and shouldn’t affect my day to day life in any way.

 

Herceptin is the drug I have to take due to my HER2 positive status, which makes my breast cancer a category 3 (most aggressive) cancer. Before Herceptin, this particular type of breast cancer was very scary – and now, it is considered the most treatable.

 

Therefore I am grateful for SCIENCE!

 

Chemo was definitely the worst part of my diagnosis. Hands down. It was the only thing I wanted to avoid, the only thing I was afraid of, and the only thing I didn’t ever think I’d ever have to do. So when it became my reality it was hard to swallow. Now that it is almost over, I have to say that it is the part of my story that will probably have the most impact on others going through hard times, so I’ll try to appreciate it for that. You know, looking at the bright side and all….

 

Final thought: 6 down, 1 to go. Bam.

 

Burpees for Boobies

Let’s take a moment to flashback to the whole burpee for boobies movement – do you guys remember that? Some of you might be learning about it for the first time, and let me tell you this is what started my cancer journey on the right foot. Who knew it was even possible to start a cancer journey on the right foot – I know – but it turns out you can.

 

The day after my bilateral mastectomy my girlfriend, and partner in crime – Ms. Jenn Brennan – came to me with an idea to put together a Facebook group where people could share their support all in one place. Since we both have a personal training and bootcamp business background, it only made sense to build some kind of fitness challenge around it.

 

Alas, Burpees for Boobies was created.

 

Now, truthfully at first I had a hard time with this whole concept. I know that people were trying to donate money to my family and I, and this is something that didn’t feel right to me. I felt like there were so many other people who needed it more, or that I didn’t deserve it, we’d be fine… it just overall all felt kind of icky. BUT, it was just a story I was creating in my own head and with lot’s of discussion I had to just let it happen – because if this situation was happening to anyone in my life I’d tell them to shut up and just let people do what they want to do!

 

Plus I was on a lot of painkillers… like a lot. So I didn’t have a whole lot of strong ground to stand on. In fact, this whole conversation isn’t something I remember – I was told a couple days later how it all came about when I started explaining it to people. Turns out I didn’t have the story right!

 

Anyways, where was I? Painkillers…. Oh yes. Thank goodness for painkillers.

 

I think I’m off topic.

 

THE CHALLENGE:

 

30 Burpees for 30 days. Post the video on the Facebook group. That’s it!

 

We chose burpees because they happen to be my favourite exercise. Seriously. When I was training to do my Spartan Races (obstacle course race) I had to really focus on burpees. For every obstacle you can’t complete you need to do 30 chest-to-ground burpees, and let me tell you – they add up! I was so terrified going into my first race that I’d be doing hundreds of burpees that I really focused on not dying from them. They got easier, I got better at them and this is when my personal fitness took a massive turn. My body had never been so fit, and I had never been able to do so much.

 

All because of burpees. So, that was the inspiration and the reason why we chose 30.

 

PLUS – this surgery meant I could no longer do burpees. I’d be able to do them one day again, after I’ve fully recovered from multiple surgeries over the course of a year or longer… but until then, it’s something I can’t do anymore.

 

One of the greatest parts of this group was that anyone could be a part of it. You could donate your time, energy, funds, message, support – whatever felt right to you. There was no pressure, just a whole lot of encouragement!

 

We had no idea what it would turn in to. I couldn’t believe all the people who were participating, posting vulnerable videos, trying burpees for the first time, sticking to it every single day, getting creative with locations, costumes, music and style! It was incredible. In a few days the group grew as big as 1700 people and hundreds of videos were being posted everyday.

 

I know, because I watched every single one. Literally.

 

I really wanted to watch every video, and comment on them, because I wanted everyone to know how much it meant to me that they were taking the time to support me in some way.

 

After my surgery I expected to be binge watching Netflix, movies, etc. But NO! I was binge watching these burpee videos. It made such a difference in my recovery to be in contact with so many people rooting for me. I felt like I was still working in some way, motivating people to get moving, and to do something good for themselves!

 

I was touched that entire families were getting involved, kids, grandparents, parents… Entire companies were getting involved, soccer teams, dance studios, play groups… My daughters school had a Burpee day where the whole school did them in their gymnasium, and my son’s daycare had their whole class of crazy toddlers and brave teachers do them as well!

 

GUYS – THERE WAS A BURPEE FLASH MOB! In Newmarket, a ton of people showed up on a particularly dreary day just to do burpees in public. It was incredible. Did you know that being a part of a flash mob was something on my list of things to do in life? Well it was, and now it’s checked off. (Featured image is from that day!)

 

These burpees were coming from everywhere around me, and it was honestly the most touching experience of my entire life. I am so grateful. It was impossible to be in a bad mood, feel sorry for myself or be super negative when I had all this positivity and support coming at me from so many different angles.

 

So, this group still lives on Facebook if you want to check it out. I do still, and I hope to one day resurrect it! Perhaps around the time I need to have my next major surgery once chemo and radiation is complete….muah hahahaha…

 

Consider yourselves warned.

 

This video tho.

This was a video made by a particularly awesome woman, Maricel. At the beginning of the Burpees for Boobies movement she went ahead and took the time to make a thoughtful video like this!  It was hard for me to watch at first, because it was so early on in my journey and it felt kind of funny having people go so far out of their way for me – but now I’m SO thankful to have it.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, enjoy!

And mom, try not to cry again… hehehe…

Well, that escalated quickly.

Well friends, I got cocky. I’ve been feeling very grateful that so far during my chemo treatments I haven’t had any complications, I haven’t fallen victim to my suppressed immune system and I’ve been able to maintain a decent level of normalcy.

 

Then I was quickly reminded that things can change fast.

 

My fifth round of chemo was a combination of drugs that I haven’t had yet. It was always the plan to have four treatments of a certain combo, and then the second four of another combo. My fifth treatment was much longer, 6 hours long, and I also started Herceptin, a drug that combats my HER2 status (what makes it so aggressive) and I’ll be doing that treatment every three weeks for the year.

 

So it was different.

 

At first it felt like a better round of side effects – no nausea, my brain felt clear and I had more energy compared to the first four treatments. I did suffer for a few days with some pretty intense bone ache, my hands and feet were numb and tingly, and my appetite completely changed due to a sore throat and lack of taste in food – but overall I was pretty ok with this.

 

Then out of nowhere, my body exploded in a rash. The rash started harmless enough (I actually thought it might have been an acne breakout on my chest), but then as the day went on I started seeing changes on my legs… then overnight it spread almost everywhere.

 

So, first thing in the morning I went to the ER, and they told me it was a reaction to my drugs, take Benedryl and move along. I wasn’t going to worry, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be enough.

 

Later that same day the rash was getting even worse, and then I had a fever. So off to the ER again, and this time I’d be told that I couldn’t go home until it was all figured out.

 

I’m currently writing this from a hospital bed, four days into my stay, and the rash is still very much a thing. I’ve seen a million doctors and they all had different opinions at first – but now they’re narrowing it down to a drug reaction. This is great news, because they know what drug it likely is and all that needs to be done is a modification at my next chemo treatment.

 

I’ve been treated for infection (just in case), a virus (just in case), a reaction (just in case), an infectious disease (just in case) and next stop is dermatology since you know, it’s a rash. Once I get that Doctor’s take on what this could be then I should be able to go home. Because, we’re hoping he’ll say it is a drug reaction and I’m good to go. Until then they’re monitoring me, watching my blood levels and waiting for test results from when I was first admitted.

 

That’s the scoop on what’s happening right now! All I care about is getting it taken care of so I stay on schedule with my treatments. The light at the end of this chemo tunnel is clear and I just want to get there as soon as possible!

Lindsy Vs. Chemo

For those of you who have been following my blog, and this whole journey – you will have noticed that I’ve been pretty MIA lately. I went pretty quiet on social media, haven’t written a blog in over a week and haven’t been my usual busy self.

 

My latest treatment (number 4) really knocked the wind out of me. I know it’s because the effects are starting to add up, and it’s getting harder for my body to bounce back… but it’s still something that took me by surprise.

 

Immediately after the treatment I feel something that I can describe best as a certain ‘heaviness’. My body feels heavy, my eyes feel heavy, I can really feel my heartbeat in my chest and I am just generally moving slowly. My eyes were so dry it was hard to keep them open, and the constant dehydration is a battle.

 

During the first three days after treatment I’m given oral medication to take at home, and once that is done – I go through a new phase of effects. The nausea was constant, the fatigue made normally easy tasks difficult, and I slept a lot.

 

I also have to take shots every day, for seven days, after each treatment. The shots aren’t a huge deal, and they’re very important because they’re what helps my immune system battle normal everyday things like colds/flus/virus/etc. by increasing my white blood cell count. These shots cause some major body aches (the doctors call it bone ache because it actually makes your bone marrow ache), and that is what I’ve struggled with the most.

 

I’ve been dealing with some other little things like peeling fingertips, tingling in my hands and feet, food aversions, mouth sores, and a lasting burning sensation in my throat caused by a growing list of food and drinks.

 

Guys, I still have my eyelashes and eyebrows though – so I feel like a winner! Seriously.

 

Honestly, I’m sure reading that all feels like a lot. And although it’s been pretty crappy, I know it means the medication is doing what it needs to do – save my life. Am I right?

 

Yeah, I said that.

 

Shit just got real friends. Again. Because it’s the truth.

 

My next treatment is in a few days and the cycle starts all over again, and I’m not looking forward to it, obviously. Especially since they’re giving me four new drugs for the remaining four treatments, and I’ve been warned they’re going to be even less pleasant than the first four.

 

Meh.

 

You have to do what it takes, whatever it takes, and that’s just what I am going to do.

 

The Chemo Suite

Chemo. What exactly is it like? Well, it is obviously very different for everyone, but for me it has been pretty smooth sailing so far. Besides my minor emotional breakdown last week, of course. Ha.

 

 

The Stronach Regional Cancer Centre in Newmarket has been a positive experience. It is organized, there is a ton of support and they seem to be really on their game when it comes to caring for patients. The actual chemotherapy suite is big, bright, not crowded and overall a pretty ok place to receive the world’s most famous medical therapy.

 

 

You are seated in a large reclining chair, there is a personal tv if you choose to watch, and lot’s of space to cozy up and do some reading, working or sleeping during treatment. You can snack while they offer coffee/tea/water throughout and basically try to make it as comfortable as possible while you’re hooked up to the IV.

 

 

You can bring one person with you to sit in a chair beside you to keep you company, and that’s pretty much it. Super exciting stuff.

 

 

Side effects. You can go ahead and picture a commercial where I’m skipping through life, playing with puppies and laughing with friends – and in the background you get to hear all the lovely side effects listed.

 

 

And despite what you’re about to read, it really isn’t that bad. I mean, it could be so much worse, and is, for some people.

 

 

I feel pretty nauseous for about a week following treatment. The drugs for that help most of the time.

 

The fatigue can be challenging, and tends to accumulate after each treatment.

 

I have to give myself shots every day for seven days following each treatment. These shots help you produce more white blood cells to fight viruses and infections. These shots also have the main side effect of body and bone aches. The aches have been pretty hard on me, and they are the worst during the second week.

 

Then there are mouth sores, tingling fingers and feet, dehydration and ‘chemo brain’, and that pretty much sums it up for me.

 

Chemo brain. It’s a real thing. I feel like I have trouble speaking correctly, like my brain and my mouth can’t work together. It’s like I’m in a haze, and it feels like I’m kind of floating. I find it harder to write, work and carry on normal conversations – and my memory is seriously suffering. I’ve always had a knack for remembering details, stories and events – and that is definitely not the case right now.

 

 

Oh wait, and my hair fell out. That too.

 

 

So I guess there are some side effects that aren’t great, and it may seem like a lot once I write it all out. But I guess I’m just trying hard not to focus on the bad stuff… because that’s a slippery slope into feeling sorry for yourself, which is something I’ve never been big on.

 

 

I focus on the good – and there is good I promise you! I’m completely committed to being as normal as possible. I’m still taking care of my kids, although they may be watching more TV than usual… I walk them to school, prepare meals, take care of bath time, talk with them, read with them, and even take them for play dates. I still need to take care of the house, and I am still working from home – although I have taken a break from personal training and my bootcamp business.

 

 

I am obviously more tired than usual, and the first week after chemo my patience is a little thin – but I’m doing it. Headaches come and go depending on what drugs I’m taking post treatment, but they’re manageable. Everything is temporary.

 

 

And yes, I’m still finding time to drink wine – approximately every other weekend, with friends, and it’s a lot of fun. Being able to go out for dinners with friends and enjoy wine and tell stories and be ridiculous is honestly one of the biggest reasons this hasn’t been all that bad. My friends have been there through the good and the bad, the boring and the interesting, and if it wasn’t for them I’d be in a much more negative and depressed place. I know me, and I need to be social (even if I don’t feel like it) and go out and do the things that make me happy in order to get through this in one piece.

 

 

Tomorrow is my last round of the first two chemo drugs. Which means that is 4/8 done and halfway there. For the last four rounds I’ll be getting a few different chemo drugs and I’ve been told the effects may get harder. But I’ll just keep managing the best I can, work at staying active and continue to focus on the positive!