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Entries in cancer (22)

Thursday
Mar292012

The Need for Clubs: Greater than Ever Before!

Yesterday, they sounded the alarm once more.

A group of four eminent medical organizations published a report online in the journal Cancer that implicated obesity and lack of physical activity as factors contributing to the development of one-third of the new cancers that arise in the U.S. each year.

They are now as productive a carcinogen as smoking.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Oct252010

The True Meaning of Health

By Jon Feld

In many of the pieces I write for CBI, manufacturers and club owners consistently acknowledge the public’s growing understanding of the relationship between overall health and longevity. My wife, Susan, has always been ahead of that curve—no bleached flour, grass-fed (if any) beef, organic, well…everything. When we met four years ago, she also worked out and did Pilates regularly. So I can say that I was exposed to the right healthy habits.

In November 2007, Susan was diagnosed with a recurrence of breast cancer, which showed up after seven years as metastatic cancer in her liver. As it turns out, her liver and her spine were littered with lesions, so we quickly moved into a chemo regimen. The first round featured two highly invasive drugs whose job was to aggressively attack and kill the cancer cells. Unfortunately, as is often the case in dealing with a particularly virulent disease, the cure can be as tough as the malady.

Within a month, Susan dropped several pounds, lost her hair, and her extremities were in constant pain, with both her finger- and toenails literally falling off. Nausea was a constant and getting out of bed was, at best, a challenge. During that first course of chemo, we twice found ourselves at the hospital to battle the dehydration caused by the diuretic nature of the drugs.

I know the picture I’ve painted here seems pretty bleak. But Susan’s attitude—positive since the first call from her oncologist to let her know about the onset of the recurrence—was only galvanized by her circumstances. No matter what, she said, she needed to give herself every chance, and that meant an even stronger focus on health. She began the process of restructuring her diet around foods that would help strengthen her immune system, and, even though it was a challenge, tried to maintain her physical fitness.

Before she learned of her cancer, Susan and her personal trainer, Rhonda Skloff, would meet at our house for Pilates every Monday with a group of her friends. After Susan began her fairly debilitating chemotherapy in December 2007, we would help get her downstairs when she was strong enough—wan and unable to do much—so that she could be part of the class. She knew she couldn’t participate to any great degree, but she refused to let that part of her life go.

Rhonda, who teaches spin classes at Bosse Sports in Sudbury, Massachusetts, is also a certified Cancer Exercise Specialist and certified by Power Pilates. “Susan knew that she needed positive energy,” Rhonda says. “And, when you get on a mat for Pilates or yoga, you take that time for yourself, and tap into the energy of others in the room. It’s a source of strength for her and she gives it back, as well. Even when she couldn’t do all the exercises, she knew that she could derive energy from the experience.”

After the first round of chemo, we learned that the combination of drugs wasn’t working; while some of the cancer had stopped, other lesions were growing at an alarming rate. As we began a new round with a different set of drugs, we were not encouraged. But almost as soon as the second course kicked in, Susan found that the drugs were causing her less physical discomfort and that her hair was growing back. Three months later, a new round of scans showed that the regimen was working. She was regaining strength and the cancer was beginning to stabilize.

Throughout everything, Pilates on Monday nights were a constant. As the weeks went by and Susan’s strength came back, she became more active in the classes, and the aches and pains of taking up strenuous exercise after a long layoff eventually abated. She also went to a well-known wellness clinic in Lenox, Massachusetts, and reformulated her already healthy diet to help strengthen her immune system even more.

While on a “chemo break” for Susan, we traveled as a family to Africa this past August. Susan’s brother told us that he wanted to bungee jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge in South Africa. Before I could tell him how crazy I thought he was—this was, after all, a 111-meter drop—Susan jumped in with an enthusiastic “me, too!” Not wanting to be perceived as the chicken that I truly am, I pretended to be excited about the possibility as well.

I have to believe that Susan’s refusal to let go of Pilates and maintain it as a touchstone of her fitness efforts helped make her strong enough to undertake the jump. But it’s her overall attitude—the desire to take a huge risk and embrace it with joy—that amazes me. Susan is my hero.

As I write this, she’s taking part in an experimental vaccine program at Johns Hopkins. Susan’s  away for about a week each month as part of the program, but I can hear the smile in her voice when we speak on the phone and see how happy she is when she video chats with Lily, my 11-year-old stepdaughter, each night. A human pincushion, yet she’s upbeat through everything.

We have no way of knowing what will happen and I’d be foolish to believe in a miracle cure (but I do), but I now have a real understanding about the benefits of health. It’s beyond what we put into our bodies and the physical paces we put them through—it’s an attitude. It’s a refusal to let external forces dictate how we’ll respond to adversity. It’s the belief that a weekly Pilates class is integral not just to health, but to living life on your own terms. 

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