Fitness regimen helps patients battling the disease to build strength & improve outlook
Every woman’s journey is different, her sufferings unique.
One thing is certain for the Breast Cancer Boot Camp troops in Tucson – the agony they face at the hand of Boot Camp Troop Leader Anita Kellman is a good pain.
Once again, they feel alive. Their muscles are working. They are building strength. They feel empowered.
It’s a far cry from days spent too weak to get out of bed, the trauma of losing their hair and the painful rounds of radiation and chemotherapy to battle the cancer cells attacking their bodies.
“Just five more . . . , ” Kellman, aka “Sarge,” shouts to a sea of groans. Standing 5 feet tall and dressed in fatigues, she shouts again, “Just like the machines at the gym – but we don’t need machines because what?”
“We are machines!” shouts back the group of women in their mid-30s to 60s after doing a series of three-count jumping jacks, monkey squats, walking lunges and high knees.
Kellman co-founded the Breast Cancer Boot Camp in 2003, after helping a friend exercise her way through breast cancer.
The outdoor exercise support group features military style exercises based on the Navy SEALs training. The goal is to make members “physically stronger, so they can be mentally tougher” to better fight the cancer. Kellman believes there is a fighter in every woman and the boot camp seems to foster that spirit.
In addition, a growing body of evidence suggests exercise benefits cancer patients.
In 2005, Harvard University researchers found that simply walking on a regular basis helped breast cancer patients. In a study of 3,000 women, those who regularly walked three to five hours a week were 50 percent less likely to have a recurrence of their cancer than women who exercised less than an hour per week.
Kellman does far more than walking with her troops. The women get a cardio and strength workout in as they run through tires, drop and do push-ups, sit-ups, dips on the parallel bars and more.
The boot camp is a supportive way for women to stay active during cancer treatment and beyond, and regular exercise can help relieve stress and anxiety, fight fatigue, reduce nausea, improve immune function and ease muscle and joint pain to enhance mobility, she said.
Kellman, who has never had breast cancer, has worked in the breast imaging field for 25 years, performing mammograms and assisting in breast core biopsies. She has observed the disease afflicting women earlier in life, including more women in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
It’s hard to witness the suffering but rewarding to help them regain control of their lives and feel positive about their outcome, Kellman said.
“When you’re told you have breast cancer, it’s a real wake up call and you realize you better start taking care of yourself,” said Dawn Messer, a survivor who started boot camp after breast cancer was diagnosed in the fall of 2005. She thought the workout would be a cinch because of the age of the women.
“Boy, was I wrong! I was so sore after the first class it made me realize how out of shape I had been. I’ve been going to class twice a week every since . . . and I feel so much better that I’ve made exercise a priority in my life,” Messer said.
The Boot Camp has become a sisterhood for many women and now offers a buddy program, a monthly luncheon and community lectures. Soon it will expand to other parks in Pima County.
“Anita is a positive, encouraging and motivating force in the women’s lives,” Messer said. “Even when she is yelling at you, she’s telling you that you can do it and to push yourself.”
“Oh my word! If chemo doesn’t kill you, her workout will,” joked Brenda Sheehey. The breast cancer survivor, whose disease was diagnosed in April as Stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma, had no family history of breast cancer.
“(Kellman) is a breath of fresh air to me. It feels so good to have my muscles build up strength again and for me to challenge myself physically and mentally,” said Sheehey, who still is battling neuropathy. “Each week, I get stronger. I could barely hold a pencil in the beginning, and now I am increasing weight weekly.”
She loves being outdoors – and the women show up come rain or shine.
“The other night, I looked up at the most beautiful sunset while we were working out on the grass,” Sheehey said. “You have fresh air, a wonderful team, and you are healing yourself. Life is good, rain or shine.”
Said Kellman, “I have watched women go from being diagnosed, to going through their chemo, coming to class with no hair and fatigue and barely able to do anything, to watching their hair grow back, and increasing their weight and being so proud they can do a push-up.
“It’s a tough workout, and it’s tough to watch them, but it’s very rewarding to see that you actually can make a difference in someone’s life.”
RACE FOR THE CURE
April 15th. Forget your taxes for a day.
Instead, mark your calendars for the ninth annual Southern Arizona Race for the Cure. (You can be sure that the Breast Cancer Boot Camp troops will be there.)
If you’ve always wanted to participate, but didn’t feel you were in shape, no problem. Training begins Saturday.
The Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is providing a free Race Training Series to get you ready for the big day, whether you decide to do the one-mile walk or five kilometer. The six-week training program starts March 3 and will meet Saturday mornings at 8:30 a.m. at the Rose Garden in Reid Park.
This is designed for all fitness levels, with a focus on beginners who want to implement a new fitness routine into their life, said Wanda Revells, Team Lead for the Race Training Program. Training will include programs for those wanting to walk the entire 5K and a more advanced training program for those wishing to jog or run all or part of the race. You will set (and achieve) goals, talk about stretching, nutrition, safety and injury prevention,
Visit the Susan G. Komen Foundation Web site, www.komensaz.org, for complete race details and additional race tips, courtesy of the Southern Arizona Roadrunners, or call the Foundation at 319-0155.
Online registration for the race ends April 10, and for those who would rather stay in bed that day, there is also the Sleep In for the Cure. A $30 donation means you can sleep in and still get your T-shirt. Check out the details online.
BREAST CANCER BOOT CAMP
When: Sessions ongoing. Spring sessions are 8 to 9 a.m., Saturdays, March 10-April 28; and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Tuesdays, March 13-April 6
Where: All classes meet at Brandi Fenton Memorial Park, 3482 E. River Road, at Alvernon Way
Cost: $25 for eight weekly sessions or $40 two weekly for two months
Details: Bring dumbbells and water. Wear appropriate exercise clothing and shoes. Towels optional for exercises done on the ground. Advance registration required. Call 546-1601 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
WALK/RUN METHOD TO PREPARE FOR THE RACE FOR THE CURE:
Sample six-week workout schedule for runners
Exercise four or five times a week, modify as necessary. (The idea is to alternate bouts of walking and running.)
Week 1: Walk nine minutes, run one minute, repeat for a total of 30-40 minutes
Week 2: Walk nine minutes, run one minute, repeat for a total of 40-50 minutes
Week 3: Walk eight minutes, run two minutes, repeat for a total of 30-40 minutes
Week 4: Walk eight minutes, run two minutes, repeat for a total of 40-50 minutes
Week 5: Walk seven minutes, run three minutes, repeat for a total of 30-40 minutes
Week 6: Walk seven minutes, run three minutes, repeat for a total of 40-50 minutes
Sample six-week workout schedule for novices
Exercise four or five times each week, modify as necessary
Week 1: Run nine minutes, walk one minute, repeat for a total of 40-50 minutes (For novices, walk for 10 minutes and run for 30 seconds.)
Week 2: Run nine minutes, walk one minute, repeat for a total of 50-60 minutes
Week 3: Run 10 minutes, walk one minute, repeat for a total of 40-50 minutes
Week 4: Run 11 minutes, walk one minute, repeat for a total of 40-50 minutes
Week 5: Run 13 minutes, walk one minute, repeat for a total of 40-50 minutes
Week 6: Run 15 minutes, walk one minute, repeat two or three times
You can now complete the five kilometer with any combination of running and walking that you choose! Be sure to rest the day before the race.