Top 10 tunes to get you through cancer treatment

Here are my top 10 tunes to add to your ‘get through it’ list. See it as a mix tape from me to you.

10. Fly Away Home is one of my favourite films and this song is one of the reasons why. It’s both uplifting and moving, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Mark Isham, First flight from the film Fly Away Home

9. This song does what it says on the tin – we can all be hard on ourselves and others even when we’re carrying heavy loads. This is definitely one to dance around to – forget your worries and throw some shapes!
Jess Glynne, Don’t be so hard on yourself

8. Sometimes running away from it all seems like the best option but by facing treatment head on shows how strong we are – stronger than we know.
Naughty Boy featuring Beyonce and Arrow Benjamin, Runnin’

7. This piece has a beautiful and strong cello part. Close your eyes and enjoy…
Ludovico Einaudi, Two Sunsets or Due Tramonti

6. Since moving to the sea, I’ve found myself sat on the sand watching the waves and feeling their healing energy. This song is about being thrown into the deep end and the tide creeping in.
Ellen and the Escapades, When the tide creeps in

5. I love Georgia Ruth and is one of my GR faves. During chemo, I liked to think about when ‘winter’, ie chemo, would be over and I could look back and say, ‘well that was winter’.
Georgia Ruth, Winter

4. This song makes me think of my Dan and how much he’s supported me – he’s held my hand through some hard times and I’ll always be grateful to him for letting me lean on him.
Jess Glynne, Hold my hand

3. We all need a good feel good power ballad sometimes – crank it up, girls!
Alicia Keys, Girl on fire

2. This song was originally written by the folk singer, Dafydd Iwan, about famine in Ethiopia, but recently it was re-recorded by a group of Welsh artists, including Iwan, to promote Irfon Williams’ campaign to get access to a drug that’s available on the NHS in England, in Wales. The good news is, after a long fought campaign, Irfon and his supporters were successful and the drug is now available in Wales. I love this version of the song and hope you do too.
Welsh artists, Hawl i fyw/Right to life

1. This one is for all the amazing women who have supported me through this shitty time. Thank you for being part of my sister act.
Patina Miller, Sister Act

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Getting back to fitness after chemo

I’ve always enjoyed running but in the year before my breast cancer diagnosis I was running more than ever. It was a great way to get some exercise and made my commute from East London to Surrey far more tolerable. And now, living on the coast and being able to run along the beach makes exercise even better.

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Ahead of starting chemo I’d hoped to exercise throughout the treatment or on week three of each cycle, at least. But when my body was being put through its paces, chemo paces, getting to the gym or going for a run couldn’t have felt more impossible – basic tasks left me out of breath so their was no puff for running and the like.

Whilst I absolutely wasn’t capable of physical exercise, it didn’t stop me craving a run along the beach. The fact that other people having chemo were managing to exercise and, in some cases, run 10k races days after treatment made my frustration worse. In the days following chemo I was often found in a hospital bed, which goes to show how differently we all react to the drugs.

The fact that my reactions were quite severe made me even more determined to get exercising as soon as I could. The weight gain side effect of the drugs is also a huge motivation for me to get my heart pumping and muscles working hard, so much so that I signed up to two 10k races – Cancer Research’s Race for Life in Bournemouth in June and Cardiff in July – before finishing my course of chemo.

At the time of signing up, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to run them – when you get out of breath walking 10 paces, a 10k couldn’t feel like more of a challenge. I also had radiotherapy to go and wasn’t sure how I’d react. I’m now 12 days into four weeks of radio and whilst I’m still not 100% certain I’ll be running a decent 10k by June, I’m determined to give it my best.

So how do you get from zero to 10k in five months?

The eight week training plan from Women’s Running is my starting point.

I printed out the plan and joined the gym for a month to run on the treadmill. The first gym session involved running for a minute and walking for a minute for 20 minutes. The running-walking thing lasted for five minutes before I felt like my teeth were going to fall out from exertion so I walked for the remaining time. After three more gym sessions I managed the full 20 minutes of alternate walking and running – in the space of a week I’d come along way. It’s amazing how quickly the body adapts.

Running on a treadmill isn’t my idea of fun and now the weather is starting to feel spring-y, I’m back to beach running. The sun and the view really lift my spirits – I feel so lucky to have such a beautiful setting at my feet.

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With the beach calling and the sun beckoning, I’ve been on four four-ish kilmometer runs this week, which have taken about half an hour, including pauses for breath and a couple of speed walking intervals.

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My bloods are starting to get back to normal so breathlessness is less of an issue but keeping up the endurance is definitely a case of mind over matter. Whilst there’s no shame in stopping for a break, I feel like it’s my brain stopping me and not my legs. That said, it’s really important to listen to your body and taking it slow and steady is essential. That’s why I’m really proud of my ‘measly’ 4k. I’m getting into my rhythm and it’s going to get easier but I’m being sensible with my body. My next goal is to make the 5k run to Boscombe pier by the end of next week – I’ll let you know if I make it!

If you’re looking to get back to fitness after chemo, it’s worth speaking to your oncologist. My oncologist suggested starting with stair walking or getting a step for exercise if you live in a flat. Also, lots of gyms offer a free month or two for people referred by their doctor. I was really excited about this (I know, I need to get a life) but be warned, the gym may take their time in setting it up (I’m still waiting for my free membership weeks after being referred by my doc).

Good luck with your journey back to fitness and let me know how you’re getting on

Becky xx