Walking With Cancer

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2022, there were, not surprisingly, a lot of things I was worried about. But high up the list, was the concern that my treatment would prevent me from being able to go for my usual 10-mile weekend walks.

Over the last seven years, walking has been such a big part of my life. It’s kept me relatively fit, it’s given me a wonderful group of friends and it’s been really positive for my mental health. So the idea of missing out and getting flabby and generally going stir crazy was not an appealing one! For anyone reading this who has been diagnosed with cancer and is facing chemotherapy, I am pleased to report that I managed to continue going out for a good walk during most of my treatment.

The first time I went for a hike with the gang after my first dose (first half of treatment was EC), it was only 6 days after my treatment and I was determined to prove to myself that I could do it. The walk was 10 miles – I remember a lot of hills and my legs feeling wobbly, also a winery (usually a big highlight for me) that made me feel queasy. But I still enjoyed it and felt a great sense of achievement – not to mention relief at the end – that I’d managed it – the main image on this blog is me at the end of this walk! On the other hand, I decided I really didn’t need to walk the first weekend after a treatment – and actually never did that again.

I think this is an important point for anyone reading this who wants to walk during chemotherapy – don’t think you can’t do it but on the other hand, listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard. There were some occasions early on where I’d start feeling more energetic a few days after treatment, go for a walk around the block and then not be able to move from the sofa for two hours. In my case, it made sense to give myself time to recover (usually a week to 10 days) before doing anything too strenuous.

But the benefits of going for a walk are massive. I got some fresh air and good company, probably improved my general health and well-being and most importantly, felt ‘normal’. Chemotherapy has occasionally felt like a slow robbing of my sense of self, but being able to continue with one of my favourite hobbies has been a way of restoring that. Even if I’ve had to worry about swollen ankles or getting my wig caught on a low-hanging branch (it happens).

Towards the end of the eight-cycle course, it did get harder, partly due to general fatigue and partly for side-effect reasons (second half was Docetaxel). I had achy legs, a strange sensation in my feet that felt like they were made of sponge and a couple of toenails went astray. But, at time of writing, I’m seven weeks post-chemo and everything is slowly returning to normal. I’ve got an operation and radiotherapy to deal with but am hoping to be back to my 10-mile weekend hikes by the summer!

by Emily Morrison

I live in a lovely corner of South East London. I have a keen interest in travel - so much so that as well as travelling as much as possible myself, I have forged a career out of helping other people do so. In my spare time I sing in a choir and go on lots of walking adventures. Sometimes I combine the singing with the walking, much to my friends' distress.

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