Breast Cancer

From chemotherapy to the gym: How I'm getting ready for surgery in February

CanXercise Estela prepares for...

EL PASO, Texas - I have completed six rounds of chemotherapy, and today, another chapter in my road to recovery as I battle breast cancer.

I have started what's called "adjuvant" therapy. Every three weeks, I'll be getting a dose of a drug called "Herceptin" for a year to help suppress the cancer cells.

In between that therapy, I've gone back to the gym to prepare the next big hurdle: surgery in February.

Before I was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer, I was at the gym four to five times a week doing spinning, zumba and weight training. The energy I expended there quickly shifted to getting through six rounds of chemotherapy. 

For the first time in five months, I'm back in the gym!

Armando Aguilar, my personal trainer, told me my history in the gym will help. "Because you have worked out in the past, muscle memory is going to help a lot, and I think, right now, it's just a matter of waking up the muscles that haven't been used in a while," Armando said to me. 

While my new training regimen is not zumba, it will be fun and with a bigger purpose. I'll be doing specific exercises to prepare for major surgery.

Spectrum Physical Therapist Sandra Terrazas recommended I do some weight training to get toned and gain strength. "There's a lot of muscle atrophy that occurs. You've been out of your whole routine and so this is a great way to get back into all that," Terrazas said, "The last big side effect is that bone density decreases due to the hormonal changes and the effects of chemotherapy. So we need to get you stronger with weight exercises."

The pre-hab sessions, which are not covered by my insurance, are meant to strengthen my core. They will include cardio workouts and will continue after surgery so my muscles won't atrophy.  The sessions include weight bearing exercises for the arms, shoulders, chest and abdomen.

Since I won't be able to use my arms a lot after surgery, I have to get my core ready.

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