BY LIZZY SMITH In October 2012 I had just finished up the second of my tandem stem cell transplants. I was weak, just starting the healing process, and lacked a frightening amount of muscle tone. Pre-myeloma, I was a runner and had very strong legs. A year later, they were vanishing and I hated it. My dad randomly mentioned a new spa near our home and that we should go check it out. We went to lunch and afterwards stopped by. A Bikram yoga class was in session. I never heard of Bikram before and I was intrigued—a beautiful room with mirrors, hardwood floors, an entire wall that overlooked a peaceful garden—and some 50 people doing all kinds of cool poses in a room heated to 107-degrees. I asked the front desk employees if this was an appropriate activity for someone like me-- just coming out of chemo and needed to start working out again. She said yes, I purchased a monthly membership, a mat and towel, and some yoga shorts and jog bra. I attended my first class the next day. Still bald, I wore a wig and sweated like crazy for 90-minutes. I managed to stick it out the entire class and do most of the poses (not well, but I did it!). Within a week, I got brave and went wigless. No one gaped at me in a bad way—just the opposite. Many women gave me hugs and encouragement. It was my piece of heaven. I meditated, stretched, and learned breathing techniques. I started strengthening my core. You know what that class gave me? A sense of empowerment. It made me feel good, strong, resilient-- inside and out. And it was so necessary because I was broken-- physically, mentally, and emotionally. This was a huge part of my healing process. And because I found a new passion and remembered how great it felt to break a sweat and exercise, I also started power walking. Within a month, I was up to eight miles. I could hike up challenging trails. Exercise is critically important to us myeloma survivors and caretakers. Its benefits are numerous, both physically and emotionally. Even during treatment, we should do what we can, but moving is important. If that means a stationary bike, a short walk, yoga poses from our hospital room—it all counts. The healthier we strive to be, the more treatments we are eligible for. Our bodies respond better, we heal faster, and it helps combat depression. Mentally and physically, it makes us stronger. Strong is good, especially if one has an illness. Here are just a few benefits that exercise brings:
While staying motivated to get moving can be challenging, especially when we're distracted or not feeling that great, I can't think of a single time I've regretted it. The hardest part of my workout? Often it's actually putting on my workout gear! It's one day at a time, one step at a time. But, trust me, our bodies need it. Need inspiration? Join Muscles for Myeloma! Register Today Have you joined Muscles for Myeloma yet? If not, you should! By doing so, you'll get daily tips workout tips and join others in the myeloma community from around the country-- building muscles and supporting an amazing cause. Muscles for Myeloma is helping myeloma patients, family, caregivers and friends get more fit. Fitness matters to myeloma patients who are now being segmented into fit, unfit and frail categories for treatment. The more fit the patients, the better treatments they will receive for better outcomes.
about the author
Lizzy Smith was diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 at age 44. Within days, she left her job, ended her marriage, moved, and entered treatment. "To the extent I'm able, I want to prove that despite life's biggest challenges, it is possible to survive and come out stronger than ever," she says.