“With hope in our hearts and wings in our heels” – Linda’s story

Linda is smiling in a green Macmillan t shirt and wearing a medal for running.

Linda, known as  here on the site, posted in the “Breast cancer” group about how running has helped her through her experiences with cancer treatment and body confidence. We wanted to share her story here on Community News. In today’s blog, Linda talks all about what the benefits of exercise during cancer treatment have been for her personally. 

I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer just before Christmas, I am 52 years old and I must admit it came as a complete shock. I started having chemo every 3 weeks and I am now having it every week, I am 9 down and 7 to go, not that I’m counting! In fact, as I write this, I am wired up having chemo number 10.

The worse side effect I have experienced is that this whole process has completely affected my confidence.

As much as I was determined to be bald and proud, it hasn’t really happened and leaving the house was difficult and didn’t ever happen unless I had a hat on with my eyes looking at the floor. But, I wanted to share with you all, and I hope you don’t mind, how I am coping and if I help just one person, I would feel really proud.

 I have always been a bit of a runner, not competitive or fast, but I loved having a couple of slow jogs each week. When I was diagnosed at Christmas, I thought that was it. In fact, my last few runs before my chemo started was spent in tears thinking that this would be my last bit of exercise for a while.

Linda is smiling and holding up her medal for running 10k, while wearing her green Macmillan t shirt. However, I did continue and have done regularly throughout each chemo. To start with, it was ok, I sometimes left it for a few days or a week but I forced myself to go and do as much as I could. Sometimes it would just be a slow walk, sometimes a slightly faster walk or if I could, a run. My mile times were getting slower and slower but I didn’t care. I realised that I was no longer running for the physical effects but for the mental benefits. It didn’t matter how slow or hard I found it, after I had finished, I felt on top of the world. I also started to find that the side effects of the chemo were getting less every week, nowadays I have minimal and count myself very lucky, but I do think the exercise is helping.

“I realised that I was no longer running for the physical effects but for the mental benefits. It didn’t matter how slow or hard I found it, after I had finished, I felt on top of the world.”

 A massive turning point for me was when i treated myself to a couple of bright green Macmillan T- Shirts. When I put these on for my run, I felt proud of myself. I RAN BALD! My hat was off and I was running through the streets in my green T Shirt, no hat and my chin held high. I got thumbs up, hoots and smiles from passers-by. My confidence when I was running began to improve.

 What I am trying to say, in my roundabout way, is that it doesn’t matter how rubbish, tired or low you feel, whether it’s a slow walk, run or crawl, just try and do something if you can. Mentally the exercise might help. My Oncologist told me, when I asked her whether it was ok to run, to listen to my body. My body was sometimes unwilling but my head over-ruled.

 Most of the time (especially during this weekly chemo) my body says, lay down, go to sleep and don’t be so stupid. However, I’ve have kept my now extremely slow plod going and it makes me feel alive, lucky, proud and strong.

“It makes me feel alive, lucky, proud and strong.”

I plodded yesterday, after about 200m my legs were telling me to turn round and go home, I felt like I was pulling 3 tractor tyres but I continued, I did it and I loved/hated it but then I got home and felt brilliant.

I have no right to give anyone advice, especially as this chemotherapy malarkey affects us all differently but a small walk will become a slightly longer walk, it may even become a little jog, it doesn’t matter. A lack of confidence and feeling rubbish will come and go, hair will grow back, eyebrows will reappear (I hope) but fresh air, a slightly raised heart rate and the odd smile from a passer-by is the best medicine I can advise.

Last weekend, I entered a 10k fun run, I wasn’t sure if could do it but thought I would wake up on the morning and see how I felt. But i was determined. The organisers kept me separate from the crowd at the start and off I plodded. In my green Macmillan t-shirt, I ran, very slowly but I did it. Some people were walking, some jogging, some running, but the atmosphere was great, I loved it.

 Cancer is an awful thing, so is chemotherapy and other treatments, but I wanted to share with you how I’m coping. My plodding is my mental tool to kick cancer’s butt and if you can, please give it a go, you won’t regret it!

Regular exercise, even in everyday physical activities such as walking or housework, can be good for your wellbeing and have health benefits. There are lots of different types of exercises that might help. If you would like to find out more about exercising safely, Macmillan’s booklet “Physical activity and cancer” might be helpful to look at. Why not read through our other blogs around exercise, body confidence and breast cancer? These blogs tackle different ways of coping with a cancer diagnosis and improving your quality of life.