Surviving & Thriving: Breast Cancer & Pilates

I was 46 when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Older than some, but younger than many. The day I found my lump, I had just come back from a run and felt the fittest I had in a long time. My diagnosis hit me hard and I was catapulted into a frightening new world without warning.

Breast cancer and its treatments are brutal, quickly stripping me of many things I took for granted. There are the obvious losses, like your hair and in my case, half a boob, but my confidence and fitness took a nosedive too. My energy sank to rock bottom and I realized I had always assumed I’d have good health and the ability to exercise every day. It was difficult for me to stay active during the first week of each chemotherapy cycle, and with the increased rest time, my body quickly felt weaker and less capable.

Pilates looked after me. Taking my body through familiar movement was reassuring. Many days, in the first week after a chemotherapy session, I didn’t manage to get to class, but I did what I could at home. Gone were the fancy or advanced moves and I began to rely on the essential exercises to guide and support me mentally and physically through treatment and recovery.

I do believe in fate and that things happen for a reason. Although it wasn’t clear at the time, it was because of my diagnosis and treatment that I truly began to understand the power behind the Pilates method.

Pilates doesn’t need to be difficult to be effective. On the contrary, it’s the principles and foundation exercises that saved my bacon. During diagnosis and treatment of Breast Cancer you’re in control of very little, so for me, keeping my body moving, and mind focused with Pilates was empowering. I was in control of the movement, and the familiar movement patterns were comforting. My body remembered how to move and together we kept muscles lengthened and joints moving. Pilates works – it guides, soothes, reassures – tells you that you can. It holds your hand and reminds you how good it feels to move your body and engage your mind.

6 years on, I’m still celebrating Pilates and its role in my recovery. Having Breast Cancer was the reason I trained as a Pilates Instructor, and subsequently as a Breast Cancer Exercise specialist with the Pink Ribbon Program – to help those whose bodies are compromised by injury or illness. Don’t get me wrong, I love the well choreographed, advanced, social media clips as much as anybody else, but my heart will always be with Pilates’ truly magnificent ability to hold your hand through recovery. To remind you, that your body can move without pain or restriction, although it does take effort and a lot of practice.

“The Pilates Method teaches you to be in control of your body and not at its mercy.” Joseph Pilates

Join me on Instagram @carriespilates during October as I go through post-operative exercises, based on the Pink Ribbon Program, aimed at restoring movement on your affected side and shoulder. They’ll help improve functional movement for day to day activities.

Carrie Jose

About Carrie Jose

Carrie trained as a Pilates instructor in 2013 and owns a home studio teaching mat and equipment Pilates. She is also a Breast Cancer Exercise Specialist with the Pink Ribbon Program, and takes continued education seriously, often traveling to take workshops with other instructors. Originally from a Nursing and Pharmaceutical Marketing background, she has always enjoyed sport and an active lifestyle and believes that Pilates is the perfect tool to help us all age well.