Tag Archives: lymphedema

Shira Litwack Medical fitness, Corporate wellness, Radio talk show host

Breast Cancer Recovery with Pole Walking

Breast Cancer Recovery with More Cancer Exercise

Breast cancer recovery demands a solid, safe cancer exercise program. Yes, exercise and physical activity are vital to any healthy lifestyle, disease prevention or recovery program. Please may I introduce you to another great exercise partner – pole walking.

I have had the pleasure of a new walking buddy – a set of 4life poles from Urban Poling. I would like to share with you some of the wonderful health benefits, especially as part of a  breast cancer recovery program. Even better…Urban Poling donates 2% of all proceeds to breast cancer research…..And….Urban Poling donated poles and training to cancer wellness centres in Ontario, BC, AB and Dalhousie university in NS.

Lymphedema is a possibility in breast cancer recovery as with any cancer treatment involving lymph node removal or radiation. Survivors should always consult their health care professional for:

a) Permission to resume exercise, and be aware of any contraindications

b) Recommendations for compression garments and proper fitting

c) Cancer exercise is different. Contraindications must be avoided. Maximize the benefits. Many stereotypes over exercise can be dangerous. Work with someone who is specialized in cancer exercise.

Yes, caution and vigilance are a necessity, but a thorough, carefully planned fitness program is a crucial part of disease recovery, and a healthy lifestyle for all.

Breast Cancer Recovery with Best in Health Radio
Live Laugh Love ……Liberate with Best In Health Radio Health Processes

The obvious that stands out about pole walking for breast cancer recovery is helping people (men and women) with range of motion challenges often faced after treatment. However, there are many other aspects of pole fitness I would like to point out. Far too often in recovery from breast cancer, or any surgery, the immediate surgical area is focused on, the truth is the entire body, is the immediate surgical area.

Think of our body as an ecosystem. Every part of the ecosystem has a crucial function, and when one part is struggling, the entire ecosystem is compromised. When trained properly in form and cardio respiratory management, pole fitness can be a valuable partner in balancing and optimizing the ecosystem by:

  • a wide range of cardio respiratory training options
  • Range of motion and flexibility training
  • metabolic support
  • Development of the Power pump muscles
  • Body fat management and lean muscle mass development
  • affordable and attainable
  • Balance, core strength & postural training
  • hormonal ….mood balance
  • minimizing side effects of treatment – during treatment and beyond
  • Social aspects
  • Fun = adherence

All of these are performance partners in an  effective exercise program, but are also beneficial to lymphedema prevention. Let’s remember lymphedema can happen any time after treatment…even 20 years later.  Unfortunately as a person ages, fitness levels are much harder to maintain. Changes in body fat percentages, lean to fat ratios, can be dangerously conducive to lymphedema.

Cardio respiratory training is vital – and it is critical to include a broad range of training – target heart rate zones are far too often over looked. Health care professionals might recommend a particular target heart rate zone to be respected faithfully. Even for those ready to train in higher zones, it is still important to vary training from easier demands of 40% capacity up to the higher ranges of 75-80% capacity. Constantly training in the more vigorous range can be a source of physiological stress and oxidative stress. Far too overlooked in conventional training – we should all make disease prevention a focus of our training. Many traditional training beliefs are not wise for disease prevention.

Something that women are often far more guilty of is appreciating our muscle mass. Simply put, out muscle mass is our BFF(best friend forever)  in life. Besides the obvious functions, little known is our immune system is helpless without strong muscles. Muscles are the pump of the immune system. Our power pump muscles as I refer to above are our gluteal and leg muscles. Strengthening the power pump muscles is vital for heart health, venous return (VR) to the heart. VR is the flow of blood back to the heart. Muscles are also vital for metabolic control, adiposity management, hormonal and mood control.

The 4Life poles are fully adjustable – allowing a proper fit. It is a very difficult exercise for me to be at the gym, watching MOST people destroying their posture on the machinery. Most people have compromised posture due to their day to day activities – screen time, driving, poor muscle balance…rounded shoulder syndrome, spinal subluxation (misaligned back), exaggerated pelvic tilt.  Good posture affects every aspect of bodily function, comfort, and healthy aging.

A feature of the 4Life poles I especially appreciated was the lack of vibration. Many poles you feel a rippling through the body – not cool. Those vibrations add up to stress on the joints over the years. At every age, we must prioritize keeping our body “young” flowing smoothly.

The handles do not have straps – personally I find straps a nuisance as well as a potential danger. There is no hand cramping or sweaty palms due to the shape.

Every major city has pole walking clubs – and if you do live in a town without, or there are no groups near you – start one. We are social creatures. An analysis by Stats Canada provided convincing data highlight “the importance of frequent social participation to maintaining quality of life.”

“The greater the number of frequent social activities, the higher the odds of positive self-perceived health, and the lower the odds of loneliness and life dissatisfaction,”

Physical activity within a group – being part of a pack – greatly increases chances of adherence.

Breast Cancer Recovery with Cancer Exercise Specialist Shira Litwack
Shira Interviewed on Sirius XM “Doctor Radio” for Breast Cancer Awareness month

And speaking of adherence…….the fun factor with the 4Life poles…..I have never met anyone looking for another torturous, miserable thing to do in their life. Pole walking is fun and exhilarating.  It becomes a focal point of our schedule. And yes, living in Canada – the weather is a brutal reality. I actually used the poles with indoor training with clients. ………We called it – Dancing with the Poles!

I leave the 4Life poles in my front entrance – they are always clean and sparkling as they are durable and very washable looking brand new. They are a source of intrigue (unfortunately I find most people are unaware of pole walking) and motivation for the many people of all ages that come through my home.

Exercise should not be an intrusion in our lives, and should be something we look forward to. After using the 4Life poles  for a few months – myself and within my medical fitness practice – whether it be outside winter and spring or inside Dancing with the Poles” …..they provide hours of invigorating and fun, complete exercise. Get trained with them properly, and reap the benefits for years!

BRCA Gene and Breast Cancer

The BRCA Gene and Breast Cancer –

The BRCA Gene….Should you (man or woman) get tested for the BRCA gene mutation?

An Interview with Dr. Alex Ginty  – Physician, BRCA Gene Carrier, Breast Cancer Survivor

Dr. Ginty is Family Physician and Cancer Survivor. Regional Primary Care Lead for Cancer Care, Cancer Care Ontario, Mississauga/Halton.

BRCA Gene Dr. Alex Ginty on Best In Health Radio“Today, on World Cancer Day, we want to recognize the loved ones who support their spouses, family members, and friends who live with the effects of cancer treatment. The battles they face are not only for the patient; co-survivors experience life-changing emotional challenges through the cancer diagnosis, treatment and beyond.”

Listen to Dr. Ginty’s passionate and powerful message – it will inspire you to strength when faced with hardship.

“It hits you blindside when all the balls are in the air – mum, doctor, tennis team…… delete. Bilateral breast cancers, double mastectomies, reconstruction, 3 axillary node surgeries, BRCA 1 mutation discovery and hysterectomy. Then back to busy work. A journey of empowerment & strength – now to give back even more as a voice from both sides.

Either I had to learn to keep up or be left behind. In my busy job, it is hard to keep work under control so it is not high priority to advertise or increase public access to your strained and exhausting life. Keeping spare time private and quiet is a more common approach.

During my cancer journey however, I experienced the hardest time of my life as I lost control and uncertainty was a daily companion. The fragility of character took a lot of hard work to put back together with trust and support as my glue. My positive thinking cards kept me moving forwards and still echo in my head daily in a positive, forgiving and yet balancing way.

Well, it was fortunate that I came across some remarkably lucky opportunities as stars aligned. As my cards said, I had to step up to the plate if I wanted to change the emotional fallout of cancer treatment and how it could look different if I wanted it to. Passion + opportunity and here I am. I still have to push the comfort zone and push the barriers of media savviness or get left behind.

Stepping up to the plate of change as a Regional Primary Care Lead, at our regional cancer centre and across the province ,on expert panels and cancer pathway committees,  my energy for awareness and change push me on.

In this honest, heartfelt yet powerful interview Dr. Ginty shares with us her journey. Some of the major points covered are:

  • Dr. Ginty’s discovery through journey
  • Facingcancer.ca  and Look Good Feel Better
  • Co Survivors
  • The many tasks in a woman’s life…now breast cancer
  • BRCA gene – Genetic Counselling and getting tested – the facts and the psychological aspects
  • Examining Prophylactic mastectomies, benefits, risks, and the little known
  • Lifestyle habits for prevention
  • Relationship challenges
  • Finding the Go Forward

Please join us – Laugh and cry, but knowledge is power.

BRCA Gene Interview with Dr. Alex Ginty on Best In Health Radio.com

Breast Reconstruction Exercise

Exercise for Breast Reconstruction – Feeling Your Sexy Back!

As many of you know, breast reconstruction can be a very long and winding road. However, you do have the option of of a personalized guide through that journey –

Exercise, the right exercise.

Feeling Your Sexy Back! I’m not going to say getting your sexy back – because you didn’t lose it – maybe misplaced it for a little while. Exercise will awaken all those neurotransmitters, endorphins, muscle activation, mindset……that physiologically constitute your inner sexy.  I actually challenge you to realize – you can further optimize that very hot button of inner sexy, post reconstruction!

Exercise for Breast Reconstruction Best In Health RadioThere will be variations in all of these points based on your own unique situation (over 20 deciding parameters!). However, all of these are integral partners of post reconstruction exercise.

Exercise can take that inner cacophony, and turn it into a blissful symphony. Let us count the ways…..

1) Posture post Breast Reconstruction. I think posture is #1 to feeling our sexing back, physiologically and psychologically. Grandma did tell us to sit up straight and eat an apple a day, both are excellent pieces of advice. Posture is a critical component to breathing, balance and effective performance of our entire body. Rounded shoulder syndrome  (RSS) is all too common to start with in our high screen time world. Reconstructive procedures can create or exacerbate RSS. Good posture though, is not as simple as sit up straight. I urge EVERYONE  to seek postural evaluations post reconstruction from a trained physiotherapist, specialized exercise professional. Posture is NOT DIY (do it yourself). Learning the intricacies of posture, and implementing them into your daily life, will make all the difference for a full, successful recovery from the reconstructive procedure, your quality of life, success with exercise…and feeling your sexy back!

2) Range of Motion: Sure, the first thing we literally ache for after reconstruction is pain free ROM, which also allows us to carry on with our normal, every day functional demands.

ROM exercises can also be easily combined with lymphedema prevention exercises, which are a necessity with most people.

In working with ROM there are certain exercises, when permission is granted from your health care professional – you can practice on your own. These are “Active ROM” exercises.

When working with a health and fitness professional, they can perform “passive ROM” exercises to further improve your ROM – and provide you ways to practice these at home.

Alway start all exercises with NO extra weight

3) Power Pump Muscles: Far too often I see people train the local area of reconstruction only. It is imperative to train the entire body to support recovery. Working the lower body muscles….glutes, quads, hamstrings, lower leg muscles….We know it is important to fend off excess adiposity (body fat) in breast cancer recovery. The power pump muscles are great calorie burners.

Even more importantly, good strong power pump muscles given a greater force for blood return back to the upper body – the heart and brain.

Muscles are our true BFF in life – Best Friend Forever, but unfortunately they are the ultimate example of use it or lose it. Cancer, cancer treatments, Breast Reconstruction and age all attack our muscle mass. Safely working those power pump muscles is a critical aspect of healing and recovery, and yes, prevention of metastases.

4) Cardio Respiratory Fitness: I said fitness, not bop till you drop.  The correct CRF is the strength training for our heart. It does not have to be at a gym, and is important we pump our circulatory system regularly through out the day. Tracking out heart rate, optimizes the efficacy of CRF.

5) Static, Mindful Exercise: One of the most misunderstood aspects of exercise is the importance of both dynamic and static exercise. Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Meditation – when performed properly are true mind, body and soul boosters. When we talk about stress in our lives – we are concerned with daily stress turning into physiological stress, oxidative stress.  Again, this type of exercise is excellent for prevention, recovery and beyond.

6) Deep breathing: It sounds so simple – but we often just don’t breathe properly. Proper oxygenation is vital – aka Life’s Breath! Master proper breathing techniques – and take a few breathing breaks through out the day. Be very careful during all forms of exercise to breathe fully and properly.

7) FUN and Camaraderie! I have yet to meet anyone who is looking for another miserable task in their lives. If you are an “I hate exercise” or “I have no time”, I hate to be so blunt – but you are misinformed. The body wants to exercise and be active. However, let’s find a few ways to tickle your exercise fancy, and wake up those suppressed neurotransmitters, creating a calling from within. Vital aspects of the right exercise are fun, you will happily do it on your own, and it creates an inner and out camaraderie……camaraderie inside with yourself, and sure with others. Group activities serve us in a spectacular way on many levels.

8) Physical Activity – Measure It:  When people ask me the #1 thing they can do for our health…I ALWAYS reply wear a pedometer, or some kind of an activity tracker.  Pedometers today are wonderful, hook them up to your computer ( or phone, iPad…..) and watch your progress.  You can compete with friends – including friends around the world you have no idea who they are – other than the fact they are fellow fitness enthusiasts. Healthy competition, with yourself and with others – is a spectacular form of motivation, and tickling those neurotransmitters!

9) Be Careful not to Diagnose: Frequently while exercise we might feel different sensations…certain pains, shortness of breath, maybe dizziness. It is NEVER for any of us to diagnose and slough anything off as “that’s normal”.  Report any discomfort to your health care professional.

I do urge people when hiring an exercise professional – please assure you hire someone specifically trained in cancer exercise,and our experience with breast reconstruction and the many demands.  Having trained many people recovering from cancer, is NOT the same thing. There is an inner chemistry that must be respected. Not all exercise is supportive of cancer recovery. Cancer exercise training is very different.  The right exercise, based on your own unique you.

Track your progress – nothing more motivational and healing than self empowerment – knowing what your body can do, but please remember this is not the time to train for a competition. Achieving extremes is NOT the measure of success.

Our psychological health pumps our physical health and vice versa. Breast Cancer and breast reconstruction are both a gruelling test of tenacity.  Exercise – Have Fun. love it, feel it. Fitness is a feeling of liberation, not deprivation and torture. Try different modes of exercise and physical activity….feeling your way to sexy back!