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  • breast cancer treatment and lifting

    Hi there,

    Tl;dr: Seeking advice on what lifting to attempt, if any, during chemo for breast cancer (post-surgery).

    I'm a chronic beginner lifter (by which I mean consistent lifting for 2-10 weeks, then work interferes for 2-10 weeks, repeat ad nauseam for many years). I've done SS LP and your Beginner template (also have hypertrophy I, but haven't run it yet). I was trying to use the pandemic to break this cycle when I was diagnosed with breast cancer (stage 1, but complicated).

    I had a double mastectomy with flat reconstruction 8 weeks ago. Have done a little lifting, but mostly conditioning (light running intervals and scenic bike rides) since I got the ok for more activity from the surgeon two weeks ago. Chemo starts next week for 12 weeks, then Herceptin will continue for the rest of the year. There's a possibility of radiation post-chemo, but that's still tbd. I really miss lifting. I really need to get back into it for both my physical health and especially mental health.

    So my question(s): Should I try to just do the beginner template during chemo? Or modify it or do a different program? Or wait until after chemo? Or after radiation? My ROM is almost back to normal. My drs say I'm free to do whatever I'm able and then promptly suggest just going for walks, which is...not enough and rather depressing. They kind of just smirk at me when I mention lifting.

    Thanks for your time and great products!

    Cheers,
    Mx

    PS 42yo; healthy but for, you know, the cancer thing... AFAB, non-binary.

    PPS I haven't seen a training log for someone in the same circumstances, but if anyone knows of one I'd be interested in reading!

  • #2
    I would strongly recommend initiating strength training as soon as possible.

    There is no specific/special program needed for this, outside of one that allows for flexibility in terms of loading (e.g., using RPE or other methods) based on your performance / fatigue levels / symptoms on any given day. This will help you with the ebbs and flows during chemotherapy. Ideally you enjoy the program too, of course!
    IG / YT

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    • #3
      I will add that I did the BBM beginner program during chemotherapy (different regimen for a different cancer). I was not a “true” beginner, but had had several weeks layoff from most lifts due to abdominal surgery. I found lifting VERY helpful and important during treatment. I tolerated the chemo very well, and made some good strength gains too! I’m not sure how much the lifting helped with avoiding the toxicity of the chemo, but my experience was much better than others on the same chemo regimen, and I am certain it helped with peace of mind and keeping motivation and momentum.

      there are a fair number of lifters out there who have gone through what you’re doing. You’re not alone; this is hard and not fun, but totally doable. Let your treatment be the perfect excuse not to let work or other commitments get in the way of your health and recovery. Good luck, and keep us posted.

      jfsully

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      • #4
        Thanks so much for your quick reply! I'll get on it. I had good experience adapting to RPE when I switched to your programs, so will have a go at the beginner program with whatever weight I can do on the day. But if that's too much, what are other similar methods of flexible loading? I'm only familiar with RPE and set in stone incremental progression.

        Also have you come across any research looking at whether strength training mitigates the effects of chemo or reduces cancer recurrence? I've seen a bit looking at conditioning work being beneficial, but nothing related to strength. They used to tell women not to lift more than 5lbs for the rest of their lives after surgery involving lymph nodes to allegedly prevent lymphedema, so I'm skeptical when I'm warned off exercise by oncologists. (Upon conducting some actual research on the topic, it was demonstrated that lifting actually helps prevent and reduce the severity of lymphedema...)

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        • #5
          Thanks, jfsully. Glad to hear you got through your surgery and chemo as well as can be! I figure lifting at minimum will be good for my mental health through all this, even if I'm only lifting very light due to the fatigue. But I suspect after the surgery lay off I have a shot at some modest gains from where I am now.

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