Sep 2014

Walking is man's best medicine. - Hippocrates

Take a Walk Every Day

I got hours of peace and calm from taking a walk, even during the most stressful and scary part of the cancer experience. I walked almost every single day I was in chemo, missing maybe four days during the whole time. Some – many – days my walk was the only thing I really did that day, preceded and followed by staying in bed. But I loved my walks. The alleys of southeast Portland feel like living entities after that year, so well known and comforting to me. We live on 65
th Avenue, and my husband and I walked from there to 52nd Avenue, looped around and came back home. We called it "the 52nd" for short, and it was about a mile and half round trip -- in any combination of alleys and sidewalks both. On good days, we took walks to other parts of the neighborhood, or longer walks, or combined the walk with an errand. Most days we’d just say, “Shall we do a 52nd?”

After my walk, I got about two to three hours of complete peace of mind. It really had a profound effect on my mental game, which, as I’ve said in essays throughout this site, was harder than the physical game. Some days, I asked my husband to go out again in the evening for a second walk because I needed another fix. My doctor had given me a valium prescription the day he informed me I was stage 4. But, I still have the bottle and it’s not emptied. I preferred a cocktail of acupuncture and walking.

I would always arrive home and feel downright glorious for having just walked a mile and a half no matter the weather going on inside or outside of me. “I put on clothes and walked out from the house,” I’d think, “Therefore I am not trapped in a room in a bed. I have the proof.” This is important information.

Physically, some days were easier than others. I had a lot of joint pain during chemo, and it didn’t let up while I was walking. But it didn’t get worse, either. I had shaky thigh muscles after an infusion, but they were muscles after all and we all know what a muscle wants. (Answer: To be used!) Energy-wise, I was surprised that on some days I felt too tired to read or concentrate on anything, but always had the energy for at least a 52
nd. There is some evidence that exercise helps cancer patients in several ways, and links to a couple of articles about this follow.

Knowing yourself, and checking with your doctor, try to incorporate walking into your cancer regimen. If a cherished senior cat who has always behaved like a dog decides to start accompanying you as a daily ritual of his own, so much more the enhancement. ###

Further reading:

Exercise May Make Tumors Less Aggressive, More Likely to Respond to Treatment
American Cancer Society web site, June 10, 2015

Cancer Survivors Who Stay Active Live Longer
NYT, May 16, 2012

Prescribing Exercise to Treat Depression
NYT, August 31, 2011

Photo credit my own.