One of the toughest parts about being a breast cancer survivor and a cancer survivor in general is the all-consuming fear that you cancer is going to return. Even if you have had a double mastectomy and you’re a breast cancer survivor, you haven’t completely eliminated you odds of getting cancer again. You have reduced them by around ninety percent, but they’re still there, and that is more than enough to terrify you.
I’ve found that one of the best things that I can do to make this sort of fear go away is to adopt the sort of healthy habits that will make the symptoms less likely to appear. This is the part where someone inevitably says that exercising isn’t a guarantee that your body is going to be healthy enough to ward off a recurrence of cancer. They’ll talk about the fact that a lot of people act like antioxidants are magic, and they just aren’t, even if they can help.
I want to say that I know all of these things. All cancer survivors do, or at least most of us. We have lost the easy sense of security that a lot of people have, because that’s one of the consequences of being a cancer survivor. We do these sorts of regimens and adopt these habits primarily because the fear goes away as a result.
Lots of cancer survivors don’t turn to diet and exercise. Some of them try aromatherapy and other types of alternative medicine that lack almost all scientific backing. They get plenty of scorn from the skeptic’s community as a result. I want to tell these people that the cancer survivors who do this are trying to cure the voice in their heads that is making them worried about getting sick again. Whether they actually have any faith in aromatherapy or not, that is their primary objective in my opinion.
I can tell you that getting regular exercise really helps partly because there actually is some scientific backing behind it. It isn’t any kind of a miracle cure, but the cancer survivors who exercised regularly were less likely to experience a recurrence of cancer than the cancer survivors who did not. In this context, ‘regularly’ means around five days a week, or at least three. You don’t have to do it every day, although there were points during the recovery process where I really was.
This is probably another reason why I got so enthusiastic about dragon boat racing in the first place. This is the kind of exercise that really lets you feel it in your bones and everywhere else in your body. You’re not just taking a walk around the block. This is a rowing exercise. I found that when I got into one of those boats and started with the paddling, it always felt like I was starting to outrun cancer in the process.
Dragon boat racing provides a distraction, of course. You get focused on trying to improve your technique and you stop worrying about your cancer coming back. You bond with all of your teammates, and they help take your mind off of what your body is or is not doing. Getting a new hobby can make all the difference for people who are experiencing mental health problems of any kind.
However, I really think that dragon boat racing hit the spot on many different levels. It made me feel like I was really doing something to prevent cancer. It helped take my mind off of the cancer in the first place. It helped connect me with dozens of people who weren’t involved in the cancer world and who therefore didn’t make me feel immersed in it in a different way. I’m glad that dragon boat racing was there for me at that point during my life, and that it still is.