By Brittany Crosby
By scientific and statistical standards, I shouldn’t still be alive. But by the grace of God, I’m more alive than ever. I travel the country with my husband, hike mountains, go to concerts, and sip pretend margaritas (water with a ton of lime LOL) on patios with friends. I even sing at the top of my lungs in the car and have daily dance parties.
I heard the words, “I’m sorry sweetie, but you have cancer,” at 27 years old laying in a hospital bed after 4 frustrating months of being brushed off or misdiagnosed by twelve different doctors. Those words were the catalyst for the mantra permanently imprinted on my heart: I will not let this cancer steal my joy. Cancer has tried to take me down and cast out my will to live. Instead, I now appreciate every moment. Each sunrise and sunset is extra beautiful. I have become an expert joy finder -- even though I still receive treatment for stage 3c ovarian cancer every two weeks. As I write these words in April 2019, I just received my 68th infusion in an effort to defeat this cancer. And not to mention the countless pills, procedures, and emergency surgeries.
Questions I am often asked are:
How do you still have energy?
How do you help your body withstand it?
How do you find the stamina to go out and live life amidst the chemo side effects and cancer symptoms?
How did you gain weight and strength after long hospital stays while losing all of my muscle?
My first answer is prayer. Jesus. My creator.
My second answer is that I’ve remained active.
I am an online health and fitness coach — I have kept doing this throughout my fight. Coaching helps me stay committed to my workouts, even when I don’t feel like doing them (thanks chemo, grr)! It also gives me a distraction from the crappy-ness that is “Cancerland.” Helping other women take care of their bodies helps me take care of mine too.
If you are reading this laying on your couch with your upchuck bucket sitting next to you, rolling your eyes, and looking at your surgical scars thinking that recovery is impossible.
I’ve been there.
It’ll get better.
Give yourself some grace.
Wait for your doctor’s clearance.
Then get moving!
There is scientific evidence to prove that regular exercise helps combat chemo side effects.
I’m human evidence of that.
You will be too!
Here are 5 tips on things you could do:
(As soon as your doctor says it’s ok!)
- Go for a walk. Even if it’s to the end of your driveway and back. Set a goal everyday that is a little further than the day before. Make it fun and invite a friend!
- Get a rebounder. These mini trampolines are helpful for lymphedema, blood pressure, and digestion. You literally cannot be in a bad mood as you bounce! They are so fun. I dare you to try staying upset when you are bouncing. You’re welcome for this one. Mood and mindset are so important when fighting cancer. I crank-up my favorite jams and bounce for 5-10 minutes a couple of times each day.
- Do bodyweight exercises. These can be done at your house, away from the germ-filled gym. Some of my favorite excercises for newbies are:
- Squats: Keep your chest up, your weight in your heels to keep your knees from going forward over your toes, and go as low as you can--no further than 90 degrees.
- Calf raises: Stand with your feet hip width apart. Go up onto your tip-toes, and lower back down.
- Wall push ups: Simply stand facing a wall, put your palms on the wall, and lower yourself towards and away from the wall.
- Arm circles: Extend your arms out to your sides horizontally and see how long you can make tiny circles.
I’m not a professional personal trainer, but these were some exercises I personally started with. They may seem simple, but what I found was that although my head was back in the mindset of hiking, biking, running, and lifting, my body was not ready for those activities right away. When I started exercising again, I weighed 99 lbs and has little to no muscle mass. My advice is to start small and test the waters. If the activity is not at least mildly challenging, take it up a notch by adding small weights! Remember, there is a fine line between pushing yourself and pushing yourself so hard that it leads to injury.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a health and fitness coach. All of my coaching happens online through an app! If you would like more specific help on programs you can do at home (because germs and the energy to get to the gym = EW), feel free to reach out to me.
My final tips for you today are...
- Find fun things you enjoy. Get outside. Breathe in fresh air. Go for a small hike. Kick around a soccer ball. Throw a frisbee with a friend. Ride a bicycle. Heck, get one of those fun little scooter things & bee bop around town. Whatever brings you joy & gets your heart pumping...do that!
- Are you ready for my all time best advice? Because here it is: DANCE PARTY. Every day. Turn on your favorite music, get up and get silly. Laugh. Sing. Move. It does wonders for your ol’ noggin too. When you do this, I dare you to post it on your Instagram and tag me. That would totally make my day.
As you work on building up your strength and stamina, be patient with your body. It has survived so much already. Be proud of it. Honor it. Love it where it is at. Get it moving as a celebration of life--not as a punishment for whatever it may look like right now. YOU CAN DO THIS. You are beautiful. You are strong. You have a lot more life left to live.
Guest post by the lovely Brittany Crosby. You can find Brittany on Instagram “@_brittany_crosby_” and may reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
STILL LOOKING FOR A GIFT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE BATTLING CANCER? SHOP