A very large part of me (NO!, not my ass or my thighs!) is WHAT I do. What I have chosen to do. What I LOVE to do. Being a fitness professional is literally a part of me. To that end I have done my best to educate myself continuously. Conferences, seminars, webinars, scientific journals, and practical courses are absolutely necessary to stay current. Like so many other professions, you simply have to stay up to date in order to continue being effective. Which is the subject of my blog post today…..up to date research.
I really enjoy the informational and educational aspects of fitness, but I can often be heard muttering: “Ah, the sound of settled science”, as my eyes roll back in my head so hard that I can see my own ass. I kvetch about this in a hugely sarcastic way, in as much in my line of work, it’s hardly EVER settled. Sometimes, what WAS done ages ago, falls out of favor, and then we find out it was the very thing we should have been doing all along. A great example of that is Pilates. Classical Pilates…done the Joseph Pilates way. Over the past decade it has been sliced and diced and made to look completely different than the way it was originally intended. Just look at any fitness class schedule and you might see Yogalates, Piloga, Musalates, Pilates Fusion,and (gulp) Pilates Bootcamp! Only now is the trend for classical Pilates finally making a well deserved return. To digress for just a TEENY second, if you live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada AND you are looking for a classical Pilates instructor…have I got one for you!!! Check out Lorissa Chan right here: http://www.flowpilates.ca
When I got the news that I had cancer, my life changed immediately. That’s all it takes, really. Just those three words: You have cancer. A split second in time and everything grinds to a halt and, for me anyway, you don’t really process it on the spot. I wouldn’t say it was an out of body experience for me, it was more like a WHAT THE FUCK MOMENT. I just did not believe it.
Once I began to slowly process it, all I wanted was information. We do live in an age where Doctors Bing and Google are at our fingertips, but unless you look at proper medical sites like the Mayo Clinic, The Canadian Cancer Society or The US Library of Medicine, you can send yourself into a tailspin. Even if you stick to those reputable sites, the fact is that every cancer is different and they cannot possibly give you specific information that YOU might need for YOUR cancer, though at least you won’t be advised that the aliens have the cure for cancer and you just need to be abducted to benefit from it. Yep, there’s a crack pot web site for EVERYONE out there!….
Don’t even get me started about the plethora of alternative cancer sites on the web that recommend anything from eating parasitic worms to applying leeches to various parts of your body. While the latter two might work for some people, I like to stay firmly on the side of reality and 21st century medicine. There’s a reason we live longer now. A century ago average life expectancy at birth was in the low to mid-50s. Now it is almost 79, and if you make it to 65 you’re likely to live into your mid-80s. One of the biggest reasons for this is because of modern medicine, so I’ll stick to NON hoodoo mumbo jumbo remedies, thank you very much. Your mileage may, and certainly can, vary but we could never go shopping at Lululemon together or go get a latte if you think vaccinations are the work of the devil…….just throwing that out there.
So…..while I do admit to visiting the Mayo Clinic web site and scouring the National Institute of Health’s solidly researched articles, I decided that I would rely mainly on what my surgeon and family doctor had to say. These were the people on the front line and would have real world experience, as well as access to any information that I should be aware of that would be relevant to my particular cancer. I asked my doctors to let me know about various breakthroughs they had heard or read about, which is how I was able to find out about some ground breaking research that seems counter intuitive to how cancers can be beaten, or slowed.
The reason I was so interested in this particular research (calm down people…I’ll get to the actual research soon….I just like lots of preamble and context. It’s a disease) is that I was very pissed off that my extreme good health had not prevented my cancer from happening. As I have outlined in earlier posts, I am that aggravating person who does almost everything right and doesn’t hesitate to tell YOU when you are making bad choices. It’s amazing, really, that I have friends to begin with, AND that they want to spend any appreciable time with me.
So during one of my doctors appointments, I brought up that subject yet again and rather than tuning me out, which to be fair would be the obvious go to, my doctor told me about some research that had been published in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
I wrote down the specifics as she gave them to me and took a look when I got home. WOW!!! A real eye opener and immediately made me so thankful that I had been training so hard in the years leading up to my cancer diagnosis, as well as eating a well balanced diet.
An exercise physiologist out of Kansas State University by the name of Brad Behnke has been researching prostate cancer tumor growth in rats that either exercise or are
Just like in humans, rats divert blood flow to the muscles when exercising. What Behnke has discovered is that there is a 200 percent increase in tumor blood flow during exercise.
If you’re thinking to yourself….ooooooooooooo, that’s a bad thing, you’d be wrong and you’d lose if that was the final Jeopardy question. It would be bad IF more blood flow “fed” tumor growth and increased the spread of the disease (called metastasis). However, the inverse occurs, according to Behnke.
Okay….so stay with me now…..When a tumor LACKS oxygen (like from someone who decides that getting off their ass is NOT right for them)
it releases just about every growth factor YOU can think of…well, what a highly educated person in this field can think of, which almost always results in, you got it…metastasis. To put it very plainly, the tumor gets pissed and says: “I can’t bloody well breathe (I’m British, so my tumor has an British accent) so I’m toddling off and moving somewhere else in this body where I can get some proper air”!
Conversely, when a tumor is bathed in oxygen, the way my rectosigmoid cancer was, its activity tends to slow. In some earlier research, Behnke showed that there was a 90% decrease in “tumor hypoxia” (low oxygen) among rats that engaged in extended moderate intensity treadmill exercise. He writes in the paper that “as far as I know, this is the largest reduction in tumor hypoxia of any other kind, including DRUGS” (emphasis mine).
Behnke’s research has focused on low to moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking and slow running, and human studies have not been conducted yet, but this research is very, very promising. Let’s face it, there are not really any negative effects to moderate intensity exercise and if bathing that tumor in oxygen makes it stay comfortable and not grow, or grow slowly, then once again exercise could be the answer.
Listen, a cancer diagnosis is life altering and I can see clearly why so many people fall into a depression. I get it. All this does, however, is make any possible recovery more difficult. Isn’t it far better to challenge yourself with fitness goals, whether that be hitting a set minutes per week target or, as I do, setting up a desired monthly running distance goal?
I’m joyful that I logged all those running miles from 2010 to the here and now. I’m glad I crammed in all the running I could do in the 61 days it took from tumor discovery to finally getting the surgery.
Perhaps soaking Sigmund in all that glorious Canadian oxygen on almost a daily basis kept that bastard from moving to my liver or lungs, which are the two locations colon cancers tend to metastasize to. Honestly, that’s what I was constantly worried about while waiting for my CAT scan and then waiting for my surgery. I look back now and I am SO happy that I made the healthy choices I did, and am continuing to do. I’ve been living and teaching a fit lifestyle now for over two decades, but I credit taking up running in 2010 as the complete turnaround point for my cardiovascular endurance, strength, and now, POSSIBLY, keeping my tumor localized. As I’ve said before, being fit did not stop cancer from starting in my body, but being fit MIGHT have slowed that swine down.
For those of you interested in the studies, I have noted them below:
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