Why Group Health? Members Say it Best

Exercise Gives Lift in Cancer Treatment


Claire TinkerA cancer diagnosis might drop some people in their tracks but it had the opposite effect on Claire Tinker and Shawn Boice. Both active women continued to exercise during treatment, and said their exercise routines helped them stay fit and keep a positive outlook.

Boice celebrated the end of chemotherapy by riding in the Group Health Seattle-to-Portland Bicycle Classic (STP) in July 2012 with her family. She's not a newcomer to the STP — this was her second — or to cancer. Now 50, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease at age 17 and was just treated for her second recurrence of breast cancer.

Workout Routine

"I do attribute exercise to how much better I feel, and making it through treatment," she says. Her workout routine includes running six miles every other day — she also recently ran in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon — and biking.

"A lot of it is mental," says Boice, who remains upbeat and optimistic. "I don't say, 'I can’t.' I say, 'I've got to try.' If I can do it, other people can do it too. You just push through."

Running and other exercise have helped her combat the effects of chemo. "I do get tired after treatment and I know my limits," she says. "But if you work out, it gives you energy."

Staying in Shape

Group Health member Claire Tinker, also an avid cyclist, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. She found that many people seemed to wait until after treatment was finished to think about getting in shape. That prompted her to wonder, "Is a trashed body inevitable? What if I exercise every day?"

She tested this by riding, training, and cycling throughout chemo and radiation. When it was over, she says, "I didn't lose my core fitness. My body wasn't trashed. I didn't get depressed." Exercising gave her an endorphin high, and pushed more oxygen into her body helping her feel normal. And keeping her body in shape helped her avoid body image issues. "This is really, really major for someone who has undergone breast cancer treatment."

A Good Outcome

Today, Tinker considers herself cured and continues to focus on exercise. She rode in her sixth Group Health STP in July 2012. Tinker also points out that for many women with breast cancer, the odds of a good outcome "are overwhelmingly high — you will be just fine." She says many women are given the message that they will need to adjust to a "new normal" after cancer treatment. That's setting the bar way too low. "I’m going for better than ever," she says.

Posted: September 2012

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