Can Running Reduce Recurrence Of Breast Cancer?

Running is good for your other breast. Apologies to Pablo Picasso 🙂

I guess one of the biggest bugbears of having breast cancer is that we have TWO breasts. So if like me, you had one removed, there’s still the other one remaining. And though mine was a DCIS case and I have thankfully, a reduced risk of cancer “spreading” to my other breast, there is always the possibility of cancer happening in Breast #2.

When I started running, it was pretty accidental. But I discovered this article that made me sit up (and shout hooray): Walking Can Cut Breast Cancer Recurrence Dramatically, from Muscle Mag Fitness.Com.

The article reads: Research from The Nurses Health Study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) tracked nearly 3,000 women up to 14 years after their breast cancer diagnosis and found that cardiovascular (cardio) and aerobic exercise reduced the likelihood of breast cancer recurrence and increased the odds of living longer.”

Dr Carolyn Kaelin is a Harvard breast surgeon who is also a breast cancer survivor. She has authored the books: Living Through Breast Cancer and The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Fitness Plan.

The article quotes her saying: “Recurrence rates and deaths from breast cancer decreased by 40 percent among those who exercise at least 3-5 hours per week, compared with those who were sedentary. It does not need to be running a marathon, or biking a century, but rather simply walking briskly most days on a treadmill, at a shopping mall or around a track, that further reduces breast cancer recurrence for those who have been treated for breast cancer. For all women, in addition to physical activity helping to optimize body weight and reduce high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, stroke and diabete, scientific research is more strongly pointing to the positive effects of cardiovascular exercise in reducing breast cancer risk and the risks of other forms of cancer, too.”

I was one of those sedentary at-risk women. I’ve had my breast cancer. Now I’m determined to make a change — and thank God He has given me the grace to start running.

Now I can really run happy!

Who Wants To “Outrun Cancer” With Me?

Recently, the church paper that I help put together has been featuring lots of people who shaved their hair in support of kids with cancer, as part of the Hair For Hope campaign. I’ve always admired the chutzpah of the ones who shave — my best friend Karen Tan the stage actress was the first personal friend I had who did it, and she never looked more beautiful to me.

I’m not precious about my hair but I think I should probably spare the world a glimpse of Bald Theresa.

Running? Now that I can do.

The Race Against Cancer happened a few weeks ago at East Coast Park. Organised by the Singapore Cancer Society, proceeds went to “various programmes, such as cancer treatment subsidy, hospice home care, welfare assistance for needy cancer patients, free cancer screenings and public education initiatives.”

Running being such a new thing for me, I totally missed that race. But I chanced upon these two upcoming runs today:

The Run For Hope website — sign up today!

The Run For Hope 2011 run on 20 November at Angsana Green, East Coast Park. This one is organized by Four Seasons Hotel and The Regent in aid of the National Cancer Centre and proceeds go to cancer research. I live in hope that before I die I will see early detection and prevention for breast and gynaecological cancers. I also hope to see effective new methods of treatment that allow a woman to keep her whole breast. I know it sounds like a wishlist but I can dream, can’t I?

There’s a 10K run and a Family Walk. And there’s a 10% discount for bulk registrations of 12 persons (come on, who’s with me? Come on…) It costs $40 per adult.

I am hoping to get friends to pledge an amount to National Cancer Centre if I run. That way, we can raise more funds towards research, and that to me is a great thing.

So leave a comment here or email me directly if you think you want to pound gravel with me for a good cause!

Terry Fox ran 5,373 km across Canada on his prosthetic leg!

Early next year there’s the Terry Fox Run 2012. Terry Fox is possibly the most famous cancer-survivor-runner in the world. At age 18 he discovered he had bone cancer in the leg. In 1977, he had to have his leg amputated. But where most humans would have stayed home and tried to live as easy and stress-free a life as possible, Fox embarked on a cross-Canada run, the Marathon of Hope, to raise awareness of cancer and a target of CAN$24 million for cancer research.

He ran the equivalent of a full marathon every day for 143 days, covering over 5,000 km on foot, before his cancer—which had spread—forced him to stop. Terry Fox died in 1981 but his Foundation lives on, as does the Terry Fox Run founded that year by the owner of Four Seasons Hotel Isadore Sharp, which is today run in over 60 countries.

This year was the 30th year of the Terry Fox Run (and I missed the run in January). I found the Terry Fox Run 2012 on Facebook and the date is Sunday January 15, 2012. Runners can choose between a 5K or 10K run. Flag off at Playground @ Big Splash is at 8am.

There’s not a whole lot of registration info available yet but you’ll know as soon as I know.

The official international Terry Fox Run date for 2012 is September 16 so I’m not sure if there’ll be another one.

Let me know what you think and if you will commit to one of these races! I hope I can gather at least 30 people who want to run and make a difference to cancer patients now and in the future!

Nip/Tuck — The Secret Of My Flat Tummy

My son took this shot of me and my new belly button on Sentosa in June.

One of the questions I get asked most is how my breasts still look “normal”.

Two answers:
1. They aren’t! My right breast is a complete reconstruction, but you can’t tell because…
2. My surgeon Andrew Khoo is a genius.

Basically Dr Khoo did a “reuse-recycle” on my body. When I had to have my breast tissue removed, he took the “spare tire” all of us moms have and made it into a new breast for me. The procedure is called a TRAM Flap and sounds horrendous, but the results really are quite marvelous.

+ breast
– tummy
= Nice silhouette!

Of course, as with any plastic surgery, it’s a bit of “false advertising”. Sans clothes, you’d see all the train tracks it took to create this new figure. So, as they say, I do look better with my clothes on.

My new flat tummy has become an object of desire of a few friends. I constantly remind them that it was gotten with much pain for many months! (But let’s face it, we women just like the end-results.)

Two weeks ago my friend S and I were talking about how to get a flat tummy. We agreed exercise was bogus — yes you get endorphins, you might get a tight tushie, even toned biceps. But can exercise get rid of that mummy-tummy— that wobbly, jiggly “smile” just under the bellybutton? No, it cannot.

Not unless you’re Gisele Bundchen who started exercising 5 minutes after her baby was born.

This is Gisele Bundchen in Vogue (April 2010) AFTER she gave birth to her son Benjamin. Sick, I know.

But for us mortals, the options are few. Fact is, most of us just have loose skin under our belly button. It’s not really that much fat. It’s the wibbly-wobbly that’s not great to look at.

S asked if liposuction was a good idea. I reminded her about the man who went in for a lunchtime lipo procedure who died that night. To me, lipo’s a little like vacuuming your mouth in the dark. There’s just too great a chance something—like a filling, or a tonsil—that’s not supposed to get sucked out, gets sucked out. Or ruptured.

I said, “Look if you’re going to do a procedure, then you may as well do a tummy tuck.”

I explained that that was basically what I had — except instead of tossing the bag of fat, my good doctor recycled it into a breast. Oh, happy me.

S put her hand out to feel my tummy. “Shoot, it really is flat…except for this part. That’s not your tummy is it?”

“That’s my vajajay, woman!” I rolled my eyes as she quickly ungroped me.

I guess my surgery had its privileges. I do enjoy my new tummy — and try my utmost to keep it looking as “pre-baby” as I can with core exercises. It’s a relief to be able to wear hipster jeans and not have to try and stuff the muffin top back under the belt!

With Dr Andrew Khoo of Mount Elizabeth Hospital — the best no-nonsense plastic surgeon on this planet!

I saw Dr Khoo in late June for my one-year follow-up. He was 80% pleased with my healing, except for a 4-inch stretch of keloid along my tummy scar, and a fold in my breast scar.

“If you want, we can fix that quite easily,” he suggested, ignoring my grimace. “I just have to do a cut here, and sew it up.”

Ugh, more cutting. More sewing. Ugh.

“Or, we could just leave it alone.”

Big smile.

Thank God for great doctors, whose hands are gifted to save lives and restore confidence to women whose body parts are claimed by cancer. I am forever grateful.

3 Weeks To Adidas King Of The Road

A blurry photo of me running up the slope in my estate, taken by my son. It's not that I'm going fast, it's that the photo is blur.

Since my last whiny post, my foot has gotten better! Plantar fasciitis is no longer the giant demon it was last week. I thank God, the prayers of my family and friends, and my physiotherapist’s sage advice:
• “wear your trainers, you vainpot”
• “walk straight, don’t try to avoid the pain”
• “ice your foot”
• “take a pill for inflammation”

It’s time to strap on the running shoes and go.

It has been two weeks since I ran the Marina Bay run and my body is beginning to sound like its old, pre-running self:
• “Are you sure you’re okay enough to run?”
• “Your legs are really going to ache.”
• “You’re outta shape, babe.”
• “You’ll never make it up the hill.”

This is why runners say that running really is a mental sport. First, you’re mental for running so many kilometres when you could drive, and second, it takes extreme mental strength to keep going.

Often, the run begins to feel tedious and boring sooner than your body starts to feel tired. So the mind needs as much training – if not more – than the body, for any long-distance run.

“As a (wo)man thinks, so is (s)he,” says my favourite book.

Men's category still open for signups! Closing Monday 8 August, if you're keen!
I have exactly 3 weeks to the Adidas King Of The Road race on 28 August. I signed up right after the Marina Bay run, thinking “Okay I’ve done 10km, and I need to accomplish 21K at the Standard Chartered Half Marathon this year end, so… 16.8km sounds like a good mid-point to aim for.”

Crazy, I know. I really am mental. Especially since, after I put down my 50 bucks for KOTR, my foot became The Hulk.

I heard about this race from my friend and colleague Phoebe, whose husband, a phys-ed teacher, is running it. The KOTR is an 84K race split up across 5 cities in Southeast Asia: Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Each leg is 16.8K. I thought I heard Phoebe say she was running it, but when I bumped into her husband at church, he set me straight. He was running. Phoebe was cheering.

“It’s an okay distance,” he said, comfortingly. “I don’t want to kill myself with a full marathon! Killed myself enough in the army!”

It seemed strange to me hearing that, but I realised after a couple of days that, if you are forced to run (as opposed to being a sucker for punishment like me or my husband) your enthusiasm for running might be severely curbed.

I digress.

So I now have to get from 10K to 16.8K. Except I haven’t run for 2 weeks, which means, in truth, I have to get from 0K to 16.8K in 3 weeks. I have no idea how this is going to happen, but I sure am praying that my mind can follow my heart, and my legs can follow my mind, and angels can follow me and push me from behind.

There, but for the grace of God, run I.

My Foot!

It takes a lot to get me down, but I have to admit, I really am down this week.

And it seems such a very little matter, but it’s annoying the peanuts out of me.

It’s my foot.

My left foot: bandaged, bothered and bewildered.

What began as a typical muscle ache after the 10K run 10 days ago has grown into a pain that is driving me to tears. I probably shouldn’t have gone to Zumba class on the Monday after… or to Body Combat the next day…

By last Tuesday night I was limping like a shot dog. It’s been a week and I’m still limping.

My physio Chris saw me last Wednesday and declared it an inflammation of my plantar fascia (the muscle that runs along the bottom of the foot). She gave me calf exercises to do, and then did an ultrasound that helped the pain a little. She also told me to throw out my ballet pumps. “They’re killer for the foot, really bad!” she chided.

She also told me to ice it every night before I went to bed. And I was not to run for a few days, and no more Combat or Zumba till the inflammation subsided.

The next 4 days were TORTURE. I wanted to get well quickly and get back on the road. So I diligently stretched and iced and wore FitFlops, which do support the arch considerably more than my ballet flats. (Actually Chris’ instructions were to wear my Asics Kayanos all the time, because they support my arches, but I couldn’t bring myself to look like Dora The Explorer. Just. Could. Not. Blame all my years at ELLE and Female.)

Yesterday Chris gave me permission to go for Zumba, “but NO jumping! And wear your Asics, not your son’s wornout New Balance shoes!”

So there I was, moving like C3PO in Zumba class, feeling kind of like a vegetarian at Carnivore restaurant.

I saw Chris again after Zumba, limping really badly now because shooting pains had started zig-zagging across my foot.

She was openly dismayed at my pathetic state. “Why are you not wearing your trainers like I told you? Lie down on your face, I’m going to get your calf to be less tight,” she barked.

Boy, was that an understatement. She did a deep tissue massage — if you’re one of those suckers for pain who always feel that you didn’t get good value coz the masseuse was too gentle, you should go to Chris. It was such a deep massage I thought her fingers were going to go right through my legs and pop out between my fibia and tibula!

I had to exhale every time her hand pressed up—a little pain management trick I learned at pilates. In fact I concentrated so hard on my breathing that she said after a while, “Wow, you’re tolerating this really well!”

I gasped, “It’s REALLY painful! I can’t talk!!”

After the calf torture, I could actually walk a little better and limp less.

I was miserable at the thought of not going for my runs — if there is one thing I still fear, it’s losing momentum.

Chris’ advice was to go to the gym and do the elliptical, as it doesn’t impact the foot, and I can still get my cardio.

So here I am at home, doing my stretches like a good girl. Just downed two anti-inflammatory pills, and two Panadol for good measure. I hope and pray I can be up and running by the end of this week.

And I really shouldn’t be whining so much—I’d much rather have an inflamed foot than cancer! Thanks for letting me feel sorry for myself.