If patients do not participate in some form of exercise, their ability to function suffer.
Back in the fall and winter of 1996 and 1997, after surgery to remove a cancerous testicle, world-class cyclist Lance Armstrong received chemotherapy. Between treatments, even as he was losing muscle, he continued to ride. A year later in July of 1998, the fully recovered Armstrong won the most prestigious event in cycling the Tour de France!
The amazing Ruth Heidrich, PhD and author of Race for Life, at the age of 51 went from the devastation of breast cancer and the possibility of losing her life to competing in four Ironman triathlons in less than a year’s time!
Whether Lance or Ruth knew it or not, they became international spokespersons for using exercise as part of the cancer recovery process. They also provided evidence, through further research of their lifestyles, that exercise is a preventive factor in cancer.
A growing number of doctors are now encouraging their cancer patients to participate in a course of exercise to help control the effects of their treatment.
“Regular exercise is vital to help maintain functional capacity during chemotherapy or radiation treatment. It’s also a critical intervention to help protect against cachexia [muscle wasting and malnutrition],” says Dr Peter Boasberg, administrative director of medical oncology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California.
The Santa Barbara Athletic Club in California has instructed an exercise and wellness program for the past six years in which those diagnosed with cancer can participate in small group exercise sessions, lift weights, train on aerobic machines and relax with meditation sessions. The results have been as remarkable as the Tour de France and Ironman victories. Based on a 10-week exercise program, the participants improved strength and endurance by over 25 percent, lowered fatigue levels by over 30 percent, reduced pain levels by 20 per cent and improved their quality of life scores by almost 40 percent.
One expert in promoting exercise and quality of life to his clients is holistic healing coach and counsellor Jean Robillard of Vancouver, British Columbia. After healing himself completely from cancer, it has become his purpose in life to coach cancer patients to make empowered choices through natural healing practices.
“Fatigue does not have to be part of the recovery process with cancer,” Robillard says. “Psychologically speaking, you don’t need intense exercise to achieve energy and quality of life, as some people cringe at the thought of exercise. The average person should start at his or her own pace, until achieving a level that is comfortable.”
Robillard feels that a simple exercise like conscious breathing can give you energy something that cancer patients have a limited supply of when going through treatment. “This creates a different quality of oxygen in your body, somewhat like ozone,” says Robillard.
He also highly recommends walking and pumping the lymphatic system. Conscious breathing while taking lots of brisk walks in nature is one of the best remedies for a cancer patient. Conscious breathing and walking moves the diaphragm, which, in turn, helps the lymphatic system do its cleansing work. Purchasing a mini trampoline is also beneficial, as bouncing up and down stimulates the pumping of the lymphatic system, ridding the body of disease and toxic waste material and cleaning the blood. Better quality blood reinforces the immune system and helps fight cancer.
Free Your Qi
From an Eastern point of view on exercise and cancer, Les McLean, student of the late Michael Picard, qi gong teacher and professor of the European University of Sinobiology, survived cancer of the prostate and colon using no other forms of treatment but qi gong exercise and herbal remedies.
“The Chinese view of cancer is that everybody produces cancer cells all the time,” McLean explains. “When our immune systems are healthy and functioning properly it’s able to eat up these malignant cells. In a cancer patient, the immune system is dysfunctional to begin with and most Western protocols use chemotherapy and radiation treatment for their patients, not realizing the immune system is weakened even more. Just as cancer cells are killed by chemotherapy, so too are healthy red blood cells which transport our oxygen supply to body tissues. Fatigue becomes the silent killer.”
In Chinese medicine, the immune system is studied extensively. Qi gong exercise is known to help trigger remission in cancer patients by stimulating the immune system to function properly. It also helps eliminate the cause of cancer. This gentle art of qi gong also reduces or eliminates side effects from radiation and chemotherapy. It improves blood circulation and stimulates the conductivity of meridians and channels through which energy (qi) flows. Chinese medical theory states that when the immune system is strong, you’re emotionally centered and energy and blood are flowing freely, then most diseases should disappear.
Qi gong is a standing exercise, usually practised outdoors in the fresh air. It involves ascending and descending arms, knee bends, back bends and arm swings, all while standing. These exercises are focused on following the breath, inhaling and exhaling with each movement. It’s extremely important to do these exercises slowly and breathe slowly following each movement.
McLean recommends that qi gong be practised three times a day for cancer patients. “Since being diagnosed of prostate and colon cancer 10 years ago, I have been faithfully doing qi gong exercises every day. I look and feel healthier than I ever did. I am 74 years of age and keep up with my eight grandchildren and one great grandchild. Keep the faith, cancer can be beaten!”