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RUNNING & EXERCISE DURING BREAST CANCER TREATMENT

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Sarah’s oncologist encouraged her to continue exercise during breast cancer treatment and to walk around the block to keep fit.

Sarah Lee’s Experience

Breast cancer patients are encouraged to keep up regular exercise, especially if it is already part of their lifestyle.

It’s important for both physical and mental health for breast cancer patients both during and post treatment.

However, Adelaide-based Sarah-Lee went the extra mile.

“My oncologist told me to walk around the block and I thought, well I walk 5 kms three times a week, is it going to be that bad?”

“So, I decided the first week to walk Mount Lofty in Adelaide, which is a quite hefty climb. It’s 5 kms up, 5 kms back. It took me about an hour.”

“I walked into my oncologist the next week and he said to me ‘have you done any exercise’ and I said, ‘oh yeah, I did some walks and I walked Mount Lofty’ and he got a shocked look on his face and he goes ‘well, keep doing that’.”

So, she did.

Every week throughout treatment Sarah walked the 10km round trip up Mount Lofty. Even the week before and after her surgery,

“I did it when I was sick, I did it when I had the flu. I did it every week,” she said.

Listen to the podcast

Listen to our conversation with Sarah about how her love of running helped her through treatment.

Getting Out Of The Passenger Seat

Four weeks into treatment, Sarah said she couldn’t cope driving to chemo anymore.

She then decided to instead run the 5kms into the hospital each week.

Her first run into the hospital took 47 minutes.

“I’d come into the hospital in my gym gear and my oncologist said, ‘what have you been up to’ and I said, ‘well I ran in’.”

“And it was like, I just wanted to shock him.”

“So, I did that every week from then on out and then I started doing it twice a week.”

“I’d run in on Thursday, on treatment day and I’d also run on Saturday and my Saturday morning runs were to prove that I was OK.”

“By Thursday I felt fine, but Saturday was like, ‘OK Sarah, it’s time to get up and get out again. Enough feeling sorry for yourself, get out there and start running again.”

The Nurses 12km Challenge

After Sarah began running twice a week, her nurses set her a challenge: the 12km City to Bay fun run.

“I was like, right you’re on. I’m doing this.”

However, her training wasn’t without problems. The week before the race she ended up in hospital.

“So, I was in the hospital and I was going ‘well I can’t stay here because I’ve got 12 km to run next week. I can’t stay here.’”

“They did discharge me and rang me two days later to tell me I actually had influenza A, and I said to the doctor ‘oh really, because I’m actually on the top of Mount Lofty at the moment’.”

“The poor doctor didn’t know what to say to me.”

Sarah ran the City to Bay the week before her last chemotherapy treatment.

“I did it in an hour and a half and I was devastated with my time because I wanted to do it in under an hour and 15 minutes” she said.

“Everyone told me I had to have a reality check. I was sick.”

“So, from then on, I’ve just been running, I’ve done three half marathons and a full marathon and I’m training for my second marathon.”

Finding Your Why

Sarah said she was not a runner before her diagnosis. While she was a sprinter at school and she stopped in her 20s.

She said she hadn’t run for about five years before her diagnosis and she ran to prove she was still OK.

“We hadn’t told a lot of people that I had cancer.”

“So, it was to prove to everybody around me that I was ok.”

“It was also to prove to my children that no matter what happens, you just keep going. You keep going with life,” she said.

16 months after finishing radiotherapy, Sarah ran the Paris Marathon, raising money for Breast Cancer Trials.

She said she supports Breast Cancer Trials as she understands how important clinical trials research is and how it has benefited her.

“I wasn’t involved in a trial, but I benefit from a trial in the medication I take, and my oncologist is very passionate about Breast Cancer Trials.”

“I wanted it to be something that had impacted that could help me in the future, that could help my children in the future. So that was why I chose Breast Cancer Trials.”

Sarah’s Advice For Those In Treatment

Sarah said running empowers her and was an important part of her recovery.

“I understand now what my oncologist wanted me to do, he just wanted me to maintain some level of fitness.”

“I think what it did was it gradually built my mental strength. I did really struggle in my mental health throughout the process.”

“But I knew if I ran, it gave me something I had control over. I felt like I had control over nothing else in my life at the time, but it gave me that control for the 30 minutes, an hour, whatever I ran, I had control. And so, I knew at some point that control would bleed into the rest of my life and I’d get that mental strength.”

Sarah said she advises those in treatment to keep moving if their able, for both their physical and mental health.

“I’d tell them to walk around the block,” she said.

“I’d tell them that walking around the block is not just about keeping yourself fit, it’s about proving yourself that you can do something and whether it is just walking around the block or whether it is being crazy and going a marathon.”

“Take exercise and give it the power that it has and turn it into something really good and positive in your life.”

You can learn more about fundraising for Breast Cancer Trials here.

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