Exercising hope

Heidi Wright shares two workouts that you can do at home, both before and after surgery, and during adjuvant therapies.

Speaking from experience, I think the most difficult aspect of breast cancer is contemplating whether there is any hope in surviving the ordeal, both physically and mentally. Yes, the bulk of this result depends on your oncologist’s recommendation, your surgeon’s expertise, your stage level, your genetic composition, your mental health, strength and stability. But hope? How do we weigh hope?

There are many facets to this mental concept which many specialists now link to our physical being. Is there truth in the saying: if you have hope, you will survive? This topic is often discussed with my friends and family. Alas, being a cancer survivor and widow, I have no concrete answers. It’s not possible to have answers to the future or, even, to our next thoughts. Have you ever tried to think what your next thought will be? If we could do so, or know how our future will play out, we really wouldn’t have a purpose in life. Because your beliefs, genetic and mental composition are as distinctive as cancer is, unfortunately there is no specific answer for you or anyone else, for that matter.

There are two mental paths you could take – the optimistic and active way forward which is full of hope, or the pessimistic and passive route which may only stagnate your healing. I recommend the former; this chosen path entails looking after your physical and mental health. By doing this, you’re actively displaying the hope you have for your future, and you are doing your body and mind the world of good. With that said, I have chosen two exercises to kick-start your positive and active approach. These Pilates exercises can easily be done at home, both before and after surgeries, and during adjuvant therapies. I encourage you to add these exercises to your in-home program and try your best to look forward to not only your future, but also those around you.

Single leg stretch 


Lie on your back, on a comfortable but firm surface.

With bent legs, hold your shins and pull your thighs into your chest.

Lift your head and sternum in one easy movement, and proceed by extending one leg out at a time at a forty five degree angle.

Alternate the extensions as you experiment with your breath i.e. inhale for one or two leg movements, and then exhale for the same amount of extensions. This will depend on your lung capacity and depth of breath.

Do no more than twelve reps and lower your upper body if you feel strain in your neck.

The use of your arms pulling your legs towards your torso is also beneficial in itself to restore strength in your pectorals after surgery.



Lie on your stomach. (Yes, you can lie on your stomach after your therapies are complete, it may just take time getting used to. The sensations feel different in the chest and surrounding areas, but give it time and you’ll get used to it).

Extend both arms flat in front of you, with your palms facing down, on the surface.

Lift your face slightly and proceed by lifting one arm at a time, and then repeat with your legs.

Graduate by lifting all the limbs and upper back, and paddle your legs and arms in a swimming motion.

Swim for approximately fifteen seconds to begin with, and then repeat the exercise four times.

As your back extensors and hamstrings strengthen, you can increase the time.

Remember the back of your body has to be just as strong as the front to create a balance.


Heidi Wright is certified in Pilates Mat, Allegro, Studio and Post Rehabilitation with Polestar Pilates and Pilates elder Lolita San Miguel. She is also a member and certified instructor with Pilates Method Alliance and a Post Rehabilitation practitioner with Pink Ribbon.