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Are You Rushing Your Body to Heal?


Mending from cancer and its treatment takes time. It's not always easy to let your body set the pace for recovery.

We were a small support group of women sitting around a table when she came into the room.

She didn’t even make it to a chair before she shared her distress with her doctor, who had "finally" cleared her for physical activity after her mastectomy.

As an exercise instructor, she had been crazed by weeks of inactivity and weight gain. As soon as she was able to exercise, she threw herself back into it with a vengeance. Now she was in a lot of pain, angry with her doctor and afraid she would never be able to return to exercising.

We’d never met before, but it seemed obvious she had the drive to return to her passion.

What she wasn’t able to do was give her body the time it needed to heal.

It turned out that we had the same problem. When I couldn’t stand upright after my mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, it was easy to sit still. But, as time went on, I also tended to push my body harder than was prudent.

One lovely spring day, I snuck outside after my husband left for work to pot a few plants. Somehow, I gingerly carried the pots and potting soil out of the garage, and was feeling happily productive when his car suddenly rolled into the driveway.

He got out of the car and told me to step away from the plants. I argued that it wasn’t a big deal, but we both knew he was right.

He was right, but I didn't learn my lesson. My doctor cleared me weeks later and we joined a gym. I took a Pilates class and was lying on my mat when the instructor told us to lift our feet off the floor. To my shock, my feet wouldn’t budge.

Of course, my body was still recuperating from a TRAM flap abdominal surgery, so this very minor, temporary disability shouldn’t have come as a shock. But, all I felt was grief at another cancer loss and all I wanted to do was run out of the room to to hide my tears.

Things got better when I told my therapist about the Pilates incident and she steered me to a rehabilitative exercise course offered at my cancer center. The instructor, also a breast cancer survivor, stressed honoring what our bodies had been through and taught us gentle, restorative exercises to build us up without causing further injury.

Finding yoga also taught me to appreciate my body’s abilities as they exist in the moment, restoring a sense of confidence and patience. I’m still doing yoga today and am grateful for the healing energy it brings into my life.

Are you fighting your body’s limitations? Do you find it hard to give your body the time it needs to recover after cancer treatments? Let’s talk about it in the CURE discussion group.

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