The fit side of breast cancer

Most of us are aware that for every situation in life there is generally a flip side. If you are one of the selected to experience breast cancer, I would like you to open your mind and indulge yourself in the flip – or fit – side of cancer.

If you are reading this article you or someone you know has struggled, or is struggling with breast cancer and the accompanying surgeries, treatments and possible reconstruction programs. The process of treating and rehabilitating breast cancer patients is long and arduous and may often not produce the envisaged fruits. Recurrence is always a possibility and treatment often leaves the breasts looking different.

One area that is often neglected in the process of normalisation after breast cancer is the post rehabilitation stage. This is the stage after chemotherapy, radiation, reconstruction and implant surgery, where the patient’s body is no longer what it was before the process began. What does a patient do to get their healthy body back? From personal experience, my answer is a Pilates post rehabilitation program.

Pilates Power

As a breast cancer survivor, I highly recommend Pilates as a tool for regaining flexibility, strength, mobility and fitness after treatment. There is a wide range of exercises in the Pilates method such as the sitting and supine arm series, which are useful for rehabilitation of the back, arms and chest areas following surgery. Other existing Pilates exercises will address areas that would have been affected by the various reconstructions. The vast expanse of exercises available in the Pilates method will not only assist in the areas affected by cancer treatment, but will improve your entire body’s fitness levels, leaving you vitalised and ready to start your life after breast cancer.

Breast cancer survivors often feel insecure about their appearances and worry about the possibility of recurrence, their future quality of life and whether their lives will ever be the same again. Pilates based instruction can help rebuild the harmonious fusion of the mind and body whilst working on regaining a quality of life and the confidence in the new look and perception of the body. Pilates based exercises can help address the aforementioned concerns when executed with a practitioner that is well versed in this particular field of post rehabilitation therapy for breast cancer. The patient and practitioner must consider each case separately. No breast cancer case is the same, no patient is the same and no two programs can be the same. Therefore, post rehabilitation must be done on a one-on-one basis. An expert must consider the type of surgeries, reconstruction, and rehabilitation that was done before settling on a unique post rehabilitation program. For example, does the patient show signs of lymphedema or Axillary Web Syndrome? Is there any nerve damage to proximal muscle groups? Were the pectoral muscles removed or not? These are but a few areas to be assessed by the practitioner and accepted by the patient, for a viable program to be developed by both.

As mentioned previously, the harmony of the mind and body is a priority for the body to work at its best. This is one of the primary Pilates principles, as it also is with other types of disciplined training styles. I think we could all agree that as much as some strive to initiate an exercise program for us, it makes us feel better about ourselves when we do it. With diligent and consistent post rehabilitation therapy, you will look better not only to yourself, but to others also. Those of us that have been through it know that the new look can be a daunting reality. This time you can select what you plan to do, whether for appearance sake or for peace of mind. Indulge yourself in the flip side. You have nothing to lose, only confidence to gain.


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.