TAMPA - Three months after my last reconstruction surgery, I’m back to work and finally back at the gym.
Both Doctor Wayne Lee, my plastic surgeon, and Dr. Charles Cox, my breast surgeon, told me exercise is important, especially for someone like me who had an estrogen-positive cancer. Exercise may help keep estrogen levels lower.
Dr. Lee talks more about healing, “Generally speaking, healing takes about four to six weeks. This is the initial healing where maximum strength only gets to about 50 percent. When you are a year out from surgery, maximum wound strength only gets up to 80 percent. So, I generally tell patients that for the first four to six weeks, take it easy. You can do walking and range of motion exercises."
Hard for me, a hard core gym junkie. I'd exercise every day for at least an hour if I had the time or the okay from my doctor, but now I have to be patient with my healing body.
I'm lucky enough to be able to work out with a personal trainer. Beau Taillefer, of Club Bod Fit in Tampa, worked with me before my diagnosis, and was anxious to help me regain strength after my surgery. He was kind enough to actually talk one-on-one with my plastic surgeon about what I should not be doing this first year or perhaps ever again.
Doctor Lee explains, “We have a lot of newer technologies. We are able to save the nipple and save the skin, so the cosmetic result can mirror breast augmentation, however sometimes we use expanders to expand the pectoral muscles. It does make them weaker and thinner. So its strength is weakened."
Beau adds, “The implants are under the muscle and he doesn't want the skin and muscle to thin out too much, especially when you do push ups and chest press, because you don't have the protection of breast tissue anymore. So, we have to be careful of that."
Doctor Lee adds, “It can change the shape. The body forms a scar or capsule around any foreign object, whether its an implant or expander. If the muscle is intimate with that capsule, potentially the implant could rupture or be displaced."
Which is why its important for breast cancer survivors to know what their new limitations are.
If you can't afford a trainer every week, hire one to set up a program for you that you can even do at home for free. The important thing is, exercise of some kind is a key factor to preventing reoccurrence, as is diet.
Andrea Batha is a registered dietitian at Florida Hospital Tampa. “It helps with keeping up their strength and energy if they are gong through treatment. It helps with tolerating treatment. It also helps with recovery and healing and also with weight maintenance."
Examples of food that help you through chemotherapy include cold foods and foods with no smells like fruit cottage cheese. Batha says, “Once you are healing, we recommend going to a plant based diet focused on fruits and vegetables and whole grains. We want to aim for two thirds of our plate from these foods. They have more fiber and less calories."
Fruits and veggies also have all sorts of cancer-fighting components, so make sure you get a variety of colors.
And should cancer survivors take supplements? Batha believes “a multi-vitamin can be okay. Anything else, we want you to discuss it with your physician because some vitamins and minerals, especially certain doses of them, along with herbs, can actually interfere with treatment and therapy, making it less effective."
Another thing I did was to enroll in a clinical trial at Moffitt Cancer Center, where I learned stress-relieving methods like yoga and meditation. Most of your cancer centers have numerous clinical trials you can ask about. All of these things help, according to medical experts I've worked with.
If you'd like to learn more about a new post-operative return to fitness program for breast cancer survivors, go to http://toptampabayplasticsurgery.com/plasticsurgery/return-2-fitness/ .
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
We're taking action tonight for a well deserving group of Tampa athletes. They call themselves the Thunder and they've stormed onto the soccer scene - putting enough points up to make it all the way to a national competition.