In the past, people being treated for Oesophageal Cancer were often told by their doctor to rest and reduce their physical activity. This remains sound advice if movement causes pain, rapid heart rate or shortness of breath.
But these days, thanks to increasing understanding coupled with newer research, we now know that exercise can not only be viable and safe during cancer treatment, it provides key positive physical benefits, as well as impacting greatly on your mental and psychological wellbeing.
Today, cancer care teams are urging their patients to be as physically active as possible before, during and after cancer treatment.
Dr. Emer Guinan
Assistant Professor School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin
We know from our research with participating patients that they experience an improvement in their overall quality of life (mental health and wellbeing) when they engage in exercise, consistently.
Aim to be physically active every day. Start slowly and build gradually to reach your exercise goals.
Exercise should be enjoyable. Exercise with a friend or family member, set realistic targets and complete an activity that you enjoy.
Short periods of good quality exercise can help reduce fatigue and give you energy throughout the day.
Breaking up sitting time with some activity is an important exercise goal. When watching the television using the ad-break as a prompt to get up to walk or stretch.
If you are starting to exercise for the first time, exercising while receiving cancer treatment or recommencing exercise after cancer treatment, speak with your doctor or registered physiotherapist for safe exercise advice.
Exercise plays an important role on the road to recovery. It reduces tiredness (also known as fatigue), improves quality of life, psychological health, as well as fitness and strength.
Exercise also allows you to take some control of your cancer journey, providing you with a sense of empowerment and giving you something to do. It can also be very enjoyable.
Aim to exercise at least two or three times a week at moderate intensity. If you are not usually active, start by doing gentle walks for short periods such as 10 to 15 minutes, and slowly build yourself up to 30 minutes, perhaps walking a little further as your progress.
Moderate intensity exercise should make you feel a little out of puff, breathing a little deeper, your heart beating a little faster and you should have a bit of a red face.
Return to exercises that you once enjoyed, whether it is walking, hiking, cycling, swimming or aqua aerobics. You may prefer to exercise alone or with someone else (friend or family member). If you have any concerns about starting exercise, consult with your GP.
Exercise is much easier to commit to if it’s something you like doing!
My main fear, after having multiple surgeries was not being able to handle exercise. I had never used weights or been near a gym before; it was a complete turn-off to be honest. I found a small, personalised gym with a warm, friendly introduction from the get go. Establishing my needs meant that I received a bespoke programme. My upper body was my weakest spot, especially my right side from surgery. My trainer worked with me to gradually strengthen this and also concentrated on my overall body fitness. I’ve since developed my weakest areas well, and now I enjoy the admiring comments I frequently receive.
A lot of "ordinary" activities count as exercise. You don’t have to be in a gym!
In collaboration with St. James’s Hospital and Trinity College Dublin, the Health Research Board and the Oesophageal Cancer Fund, patients can participate in the Restore Programme a daily exercise programme, run out of St James’s Hospital.
Here patients who may have just been diagnosed can come to exercise and prepare themselves for the best possible surgical outcome, and to motivate themselves on their journey, they might also find themselves working out alongside patients who’ve come out the other side. These interactions can be helpful for both parties and most especially encouraging for patients starting their cancer journey.
Contact Noelle on: 087 299 7820 to find out more.
Patient of The Restore Programme
The Restore Programme was a superb help and support for me post-op.
I found the experience of sharing my experience with others who had the operation, a great source of comfort, and very insightful.
The presentations by medical staff including Prof Reynolds were super and really served as a further source of comfort.
The Restore Programme in and of itself was very helpful in understanding my limitations in one sense, and my aspirations in another sense.
As each week progressed I was more confident of how far I could push my body post-op and more and more determined to test it.
By the last week I had improved my fitness immeasurably.
I’m also in no doubt that participating in The Restore Programme made a significant and most positive contribution to my mental state.
In collaboration with Beaumont Hospital and Dublin City University (DCU), Oesophageal Cancer patients can participate in the MedEx Programme; a daily exercise programme, run out of DCU.
Here patients who may have just been diagnosed can come to exercise and prepare themselves for the best possible surgical outcome, and to motivate themselves on their journey, they might also find themselves working out alongside patients who’ve come out the other side. These interactions can be helpful for both parties and most especially encouraging for patients starting their cancer journey. MedEx also works remotely with patients around the country offering weekly phone catch-ups to check-in with, and motivate anyone engaged on the MedEx programme.
Contact Noelle on: 087 299 7820 to find out more.
Patient of The MedEx Programme
“My diagnosis came as a major shock. Advised that the fitter I was before and after the operation, the better the chances of a quick recovery and indeed, the better the chances of long term survival. I was late to the programme, only a week before my operation when I met Lisa Loughney of the MedEx team. I was very energised by her enthusiasm, commitment and indeed belief in the exercise recovery process; and it rubbed off on me. It gave me the motivation and focus to look on the recovery path and nothing else.
Three weeks after my operation, Lisa re-assessed my fitness level which had naturally, deteriorated somewhat. Some light exercises to work on for 40 minutes meant that over time, increasing the exercise levels, I was able to rebuild my fitness. I also met others who were going through the process. The interaction with these people was very rewarding, the confidence from meeting others in similar situations is hard to describe. We all supported one and other in driving ourselves forward.
As they say TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More.
I highly recommend the MedEx Programme to anyone facing the Oesophageal Cancer journey. I’ll be forever grateful to Lisa and Dr. Noel McCaffrey in MedEx for their devotion and expertise in making this process work for people like me.”