Physical activity and exercise are widely known to increase overall health and wellness, but the Cancer Network and American Cancer Society suggest that it also can prevent cancer and aid in the recovery of cancer patients.
“Exercise should be a part of your life no matter what age or physical status,” said Jessica Beckman, DPT, at Lake Regional Rehab Therapy in Eldon. “Not only does it help prevent a variety of illnesses, but it can mentally and physically aid in recovery efforts.”
Tanya Rhine, Eldon High School guidance counselor, knows first-hand what a consistent workout can do for the body. A two-time cancer survivor, Rhine credits her love for running as a key part of her speedy recovery.
“I’ve always been a runner,” she said. “And, I try to be a model of exercise and good health.”
Running may not have prevented her colon cancer diagnosis in 2007 or breast cancer in 2012, but it was always at the top of her mind, and remained a part of her life through recovery.
“I was always thinking, ‘when can I start running again,’” she said. “It was usually one of the first questions I asked my doctor.”
Six weeks into radiation therapy for breast cancer, Rhine was running a race.
“I didn’t want to be thought of as sickly or someone weak, so I pushed myself,” she said. “Running is a release for me and made me feel like I was doing things a normal person without cancer does. I felt like I was accomplishing things.”
Beckmann says exercise plays a major role in the recovery of function following treatments and reduces the lingering effects of cancer and associated treatments. Various exercises can reduce swelling, pain, numbness and fatigue often associated with some cancer treatments.
“At first I thought, ‘what good has all my exercise been when I still got cancer,’” Rhine said. “But, you have to look at the flip side of how it’s helped me deal with and recover from cancer.”
Rhine, who shares her survivor story with her students as a way to empower them, ran her first half marathon this past spring, just months after being deemed “cancer free.”
“I try to stress with my kids and students the importance of exercise in all aspects of life,” she said. “It’s not only good for physical health but mental health, too. I decided it was time to just face my fears and run the half marathon.”
Page 2 of 2 - Aside from exercise and good health, Rhine stresses the benefits of regular health screenings and physician visits for cancer prevention and early detection.
“I found out I had breast cancer when I went in for a routine exam,” she said. “And when I had pain in my side and thought it was appendicitis, I went to my doctor and found out it was colon cancer.”
Both cancers were surgically removed and did not require chemotherapy, partially because of the early diagnosis.
“Regular physical exams and screenings go hand-in-hand with early detection and more rapid treatment of most illnesses and diseases,” Beckmann said. “No one knows your body like you do. If something doesn’t feel right, you absolutely should have it checked it out, even between routine exams.”