Louise’s story – Exercise medicine during breast cancer treatment
Mum of two, Louise, 52, from Kent, was diagnosed with hormone sensitive (ER+) HER2 negative invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. Following surgery, she completed 12 weeks of exercise medicine alongside chemotherapy and radiotherapy at GenesisCare.
Louise explains “Keeping fit has always been an important part of my life, and as a family we try to eat well and exercise regularly. Having grown up on a farm, being outdoors and going for walks has always played a big part in my life, but since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, exercise has taken on a whole new significance.
I was called for my first routine mammogram in July 2021. Having not noticed anything unusual I was only anticipating a routine check-up, and I then went away on a family holiday to Cornwall. When I returned a week later, I found that I had been contacted for a follow-up appointment. The speed of the follow-up rang an alarm bell for me, and a few days later, I was given the devastating news that I was highly likely to have breast cancer and was told that a biopsy would determine exactly what we were dealing with.
The results of the biopsy, along with genetic testing, showed a hormone sensitive (ER+) HER2 negative invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. I was then placed on a treatment programme beginning with a lumpectomy and removal of some of my lymph nodes, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Following the operation, my surgeon informed me about GenesisCare in Maidstone as an option for my ongoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. From the first time I visited GenesisCare and met with Consultant Oncologist, Dr Russell Burcombe, I felt that I was in very good hands. Dr Burcombe explained the medical treatment I was about to undergo and he also introduced me to the exercise clinic at the centre.
I have always been aware that I should exercise to stay healthy but to exercise whilst undergoing cancer treatment was not something I would have ever considered, and I had no idea how beneficial it can be.
Through a personalised programme at the onsite exercise clinic, I exercised alongside my chemotherapy regime – I increased my cardio levels, muscle mass and strength, it gave so many benefits to my body as I underwent treatment. Even on days when I wasn’t feeling great, I always felt better after doing some of my prescribed exercise.
I found that there were both mental and physical benefits to the programme including giving me a sense of control, improving my strength and stamina, and helping guard against the detrimental effect that chemotherapy can have on bone density. It's incredible that I was able to come through cancer treatment fitter and stronger than when I started.
I also accessed the services of Penny Brohn UK at the centre, such as reflexology and relaxation. I found that the holistic treatments helped me manage my anxiety levels and they really helped me keep control of the emotional side of what I was dealing with.
I completed my cancer treatment with 5 sessions of radiotherapy, ending in March 2022. It felt like I had completed the marathon of long and steady chemotherapy treatment, and that I was on the finish sprint of radiotherapy over 5 consecutive days.
I have recently had my mammogram, a year after being diagnosed. It was a big day and huge relief to hear that all is ok. I know these checks will now be part of my life for the next few years, but I am trying to focus on the positives and enjoy life as much as possible.
Exercise medicine gave me a positive focus during an exceptionally hard year and has really helped with my treatment. That’s why I’m keen to share my experience so that more people can see what difference it makes and hopefully they too can see the benefits that I have seen.