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Walking has played a key role in my cancer experience, as it helps my mental and physical health.
Just days after my prostate cancer diagnosis, I made one of the most important purchases of my life: a pedometer.
My goal was to out-walk cancer, or at the very least to delay its devastating effects. In the eight years since, I have logged millions of steps, and I’m proud of that. But aside from my celebratory mood, I’m just an ordinary guy struggling to slow cancer’s spread and keep it from ramping up to stage 4.
I walked during the frightening time when my diagnosis was disclosed, despite the paralyzing fear that consumed me. I walked during my eight-week radiation treatment, although I felt fatigued at times. And I walked just a couple of hours after my prostate surgery, still lightheaded and unsteady on my feet, but nevertheless inching down the hospital hallway with the help of a handrail.
Five years into my cancer journey, shoulder surgery to fight an infection kept me mostly immobilized in a hospital bed for four days. But I was undeterred when it came to my walking routine. I had no nearby park or mall for a stroll, so I settled for a few hundred steps each day ambling around the hospital ward. It wasn’t easy. I had to drag along both an IV stand and a heavy, infection-control machine and required the assistance of a physical therapist.
I walk with even greater determination when my three-month prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is just around the corner, trying to counter that unnerving experience with a strong dose of endorphins.
I have worn out several pairs of tennis shoes in my quest to stay healthy post-cancer. And, fortunately, I have been in remission for seven of those eight years, holding my own at stage 3 with no evidence (knock on wood) of metastatic cancer.
Walking is so ingrained in my routine that no day passes without an attempt to log at least a couple of miles. Extreme temperatures in winter and summer force me indoors, but my walking routine doesn’t skip a beat. I still lace up my tennis shoes for 30 to 45 minutes of walking from the bedroom to the living room, about 50 steps round-trip.
Sometimes, I call a homebound friend or neighbor, aiming to cheer up their spirits as I get my workout in. Or I’ll dial up an aunt marooned at her nursing home due to the pandemic. I call that my “walk-and-talk” time. On nice days, I grab a small wastebasket and nabber to collect litter around the neighborhood, giving me the chance to wave and chat with the neighbors during my exercise. Walking can be beneficial physically and provide a perfect venue for social interaction.
Of course, I couldn’t prove scientifically that my exercise regimen has had much to do if anything with staving off my cancer. But then recently I read a “Washington Post” story about the benefits of exercise in preventing cancer and stalling its progression. So, I guess that I’m on the right track after all!
Have I out-walked cancer? Only time will tell, but I can say this: I feel stronger, healthierand more socially engaged than ever. And then again, I...hey, reader, hold on a second, I’ll have to cut this blog post short.
It’s time for my afternoon walk!
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