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Don't Be A Turkey: Stay In Your Best Shape Cautions Cancer Survivor

Cancer survivor shares her fitness learning experience.
PUBLISHED November 22, 2017
Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools–We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at,or
Tempted to overindulge? This is a cautionary tale. Don’t be me. I am recovering from breaking two long bones in my right foot. At 54, I am already aware of the importance of my mobility. With a broken right foot, life suddenly slowed down—way down.

Before now, as a cancer survivor who wanted hair to grow back after chemotherapy, I became acutely aware of the innate desire to blend back in with the pack and to not look different. Now, I just want to keep up with the pack! Originally, I could put no weight on my right foot. Crutches and a knee scooter were the only ways I could get around. Eventually, I could put some weight on the boot and hobble around that way. When the boot finally came off, I discovered things, little things like standing and walking, were still not back to normal.

Since getting out of “the boot” after wearing it for three months, I try to do 10,000 steps per day on most days. My gait is improving. I have physical therapy. I still limp, and my deconditioned ankle can’t bear my full weight. Time in the boot was good for healing bones, but bad for muscle condition. Still, I am slowly moving forward.

It is strange how much we take for granted until something basic, like mobility, goes away. I remember working hard to help Mom keep her mobility so she could get in and out of my car and we could continue to have adventures together. I never considered the possibility of losing mobility myself. Fortunately, and this will sound strange, I broke my foot two months after Mom died and not while she was still with me.

Why does any of this matter? It matters because we deserve to be our best selves. Our loved ones also deserve for us to be our best selves. Getting out of bed, taking a shower, getting in and out of a car, driving and just walking across a room were all things I previously took for granted. No longer.

Do not think that you don’t have time to make healthier choices. If I had kept up with my own exercise (healthy joyful movement) and calcium supplements, I may not have needed to spend 12 weeks in a boot. The boot was not fun or convenient for me or for the people around me. We all had an unplanned opportunity to grow our patience.

I had an opportunity to learn firsthand how much faster we de-condition as we age. Crutches were not as simple or fun as they were when I broke my other foot at age10. Frankly, getting back to “new normal” (I still dislike that term) is not as simple as it was over 40 years ago when they just took my knee cast off and off I went.

Honestly, I suspect if I had been in better shape, I might not have rolled my ankle that day, or, if I had, maybe the consequences wouldn’t have been so complicated. The surgery on the fourth metatarsal is doing well, but there still may be surgery needed on the fifth metatarsal, which my surgeon has described as “bone mush” and has said that it is finally healing, but very slowly.

Be careful out there. More importantly, don’t let another day go by without trying to be as healthful and conditioned as you can be. If you can’t do it for you, do it for the people around you. Time will march on regardless, so we might as well try to keep up with it for as long as we can. Right? I wish you a grateful and peaceful and healthful happy Thanksgiving.
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