How one woman used pilates to power her recovery from breast cancer
Much of breast cancer prevention advertising campaigns have been centered around the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and the importance of a regular exercise routine. Studies show that regular, moderate-intensity cardiovascular and strength training reduces the risk of developing breast cancer in both pre- and postmenopausal women. (1) (2) (3) But, what happens when you do everything right, but get cancer anyways?
For Samantha Laird, the ability to use exercise, and more specifically pilates, is what helped her through diagnosis, treatment, and recovery of her breast cancer.
Samantha Laird regularly practiced pilates before her cancer diagnosis. When she got the devastating news, she wanted to keep practicing as much as possible — with her doctor’s permission.
“I think it is so important to continue with your regular routine as much as you can during and after treatment,” Samantha told the Poughkeepsie Journal. “All studies suggest that exercise not only ameliorates the effects of chemotherapy, but also is key to long-term survival.”
Samantha never stopped moving her body, practicing as much pilates as she could during and after treatment. Her instructor, Chelsea Streifeneder, highlights the importance of consistency:
“To get the most out of your exercise and movement program, you need to make it a habit and something you can commit to for the long-term. I tell all my clients to set some realistic goals, since it is much better to start small and be consistent than try to do too much and stop.”
Both Chelsea and Samantha agree that the fantastic thing about pilates for breast cancer patients is its adaptability.
“The great thing with pilates is that each one of my sessions is directly targeted toward my body and me and how I am feeling on that specific day.” Samantha says.
Breast cancer treatment and surgery come with a whole set of concerns – pain, nausea, weakness, and fatigue, along with mental aspects such as fear and stress. Pilates addresses the areas that are affected by treatment, focusing on strengthening and stretching the shoulders, chest, and back. The goal is to restore the range of motion and strength in the areas affected by breast cancer surgery, rehab, and reconstruction. (4) (5)
There are a variety of modifications that can be made to each movement to meet the patient where they are at that day, which allows for some patients to start as early as early as two to four weeks post-surgery.
The Pink Ribbon Program
The Pink Ribbon Program is a pilates-based exercise program that is used to enhance the recovery of breast cancer patients and survivors. It is not meant to replace traditional physiotherapy, but rather to compliment it, focusing on retraining the connections between the brain and the muscles, joints, and nervous system.
Cancer diagnosis and treatment not only affect the physical well-being of patients like Samantha, but also their mental and emotional health. Anyone who has been close to cancer knows that treatment is stressful and can drain patients of their confidence and sense of self. The goal of the Pink Ribbon Program is to help relax and energize those going through treatment and help them to restore confidence in their mind, body, and spirit. (6)
“Working out my whole body also makes me feel strong and more confident.” Samantha agrees.
Her cancer journey is not yet over, as she has a double mastectomy scheduled in the near future. Samantha plans on practicing as much Pilates as she can leading up to the surgery, and hopes to get back to her regular workout routine as soon as possible post-op.
“I am confident that after surgery, a consistent pilates practice will help me get back on my feet quickly and be able to resume my normal life with independence and confidence.”
Pilates helped Samantha make it through breast cancer, and it can help you too. Whether you have cancer or not, start practicing Pilates today and help us increase the rates of Breast cancer survival world wide.