Gems from our Cancer Support Circle: Physical and Mental Fitness During Cancer

by Team Onco

‘Fitness’ is not usually associated with cancer treatment. While you are going through treatment, no one really expects you to be physically fit. It might be because your body is already dealing with a lot, be it symptoms of the disease, or side-effects from the treatment.

However, when you think about it, you realise that no matter at what stage of life you are, there will always be reasons (or excuses) to remain unfit. Most young mothers are advised not to worry too much about weight gain as their body is still recovering from childbirth.

Students preparing for difficult exams are excused for having a sedentary or inactive lifestyle. Working people hide behind long hours of work, insufficient sleep and lack of time, to explain their lethargy. Older persons are excused on account of their aching joints and other age-related troubles.

There will always be reasons to not reach your physical and mental peak. But there will be some who refuse to listen to excuses and choose to instead push themselves into becoming a better version of who they currently are. 

Shreshtha had always been fond of fitness, from running every day, to following a healthy diet. So when she was diagnosed with cancer, she was as shocked as everyone else who knew her. How can someone as healthy as Shreshtha have a life-threatening illness?

Once her treatment started, Shreshtha realised that it was her fitness that was making all the difference. As she was already fit, her body was coping better to the rigorous treatment, the fatigue and the side-effects. 

That doesn’t mean she had no bad days. But she was recovering better than most and her body was able to take these temporary set-backs without too much permanent damage. 

To the surprise and even utter shock of many, Shreshtha was still jogging around her neighborhood park and completing two-minute planks while she was going through chemotherapy.

While many cancer patients lose muscle strength and weight due to treatment, Shreshtha was able to maintain a healthy weight with no obvious changes in her appearance.

This is probably what encouraged her to get back to work while still going through targeted therapy. She found the stamina to manage a full time job, her family life (including a 3 year-old child) and even the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, while on treatment for stage 3 breast cancer. 

Who better than her to share with us, some tried and tested tips for physical and mental fitness during cancer? At the latest session of our cancer support group, Talk Your Heart Out, Shreshtha opened up about her struggles and victories in this still on-going cancer journey. 

While your fitness regime and diet need to be modified to your own condition and treatment, there are some things anyone can learn from Shreshtha. Mentally and emotional fitness are an often overlooked area of health. Shreshtha gives these as much importance as her physical health by practicing meditation, keeping a cancer journal, and teaching herself to think positively and feel better. 

Based on what has worked for her she recommends a few things to try to improve your motivation during treatment. 

  • Defining your ‘Why’

What is your reason to be, to get out of bed each morning, to want to survive? 

For Shreshtha it is her son; she wants to see him reach his milestones through his growing up years. It is also her husband, with whom she wants to grow old. 

Figure out what your reason is. It could be family, your passion for your work, your unfulfilled dreams or just the feeling that you haven’t lived enough yet. 

Write down your reason where you can read it when you need to. 

Cancer treatment is no walk in the park. You will need all the motivation you can get to see you through this journey. 

  • Allow only positivity near you

Most of us do not know what to say to a cancer fighter. Many ‘well-wishers’ knowingly or unknowingly end up saying the wrong things.

You will have to shut out any negativity that finds its way to you. Be it hurtful words, or excessive pity, you don’t need these as they don’t help you in any way. 

Right now, your focus is recovery. And if anyone is an impediment to that, then you need to stay away from them. Temporarily keep out all family and friends who do not have any encouragement to offer you. 

On the blog pages, you will find a collection of survivor stories and videos. Use these to remind yourself that you too can make it through, just like they did. Visualise a future where you are a long-standing survivor with a story to share. 

In Shreshtha’s words, “Energy flows where your attention goes.” So focus your attention on your recovery and good health. 

Watch Shreshtha’s mantra for improving your mood during cancer:

If you would like to attend the next session of Talk Your Heart Out, email us at

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