Spinning through breast cancer

spin class

I just came home from spin class.*

I am so happy that my strength is back to the point where I can complete a full one hour spin class and still have energy left to continue on my daily routine without missing a beat. I will admit that I don’t do all the “jumps” and my pace is well below what the instructor is urging, but I’m there, and I’m managing to stay with it throughout the whole class.  Over time I know that I will continue to get stronger and will eventually work up to the full spin class experience. For now, I’m happy to be there at all and I do as much as I can at my own pace.

It wasn’t always like this

It wasn’t always like this. In fact, when I first had a recurrence of my breast cancer 3-4 years ago, I entered a downward spiral where things went from bad to worse. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any more complicated or scary, it did. More on that another day.

When my doctors realized that I had had a recurrence, I entered another long journey back into the world of breast cancer treatment, side effects and hopefully, someday, a “cure”. I put cure in quotation marks because when I first got re-diagnosed, my doctor said “there is no cure . . . at least not yet.”

My first time around I had been a “young” breast cancer patient. Generally women who get the disease before age 45 are considered young. This time around I was clearly out of the “young” category and have moved into the ranks of the “middle-aged.”

In any case things are fine now and I hesitate to write these words lest I jinx myself and have yet another problem. I’ve come to terms with the chronic nature of my disease, more or less, and always try to remember “words are just words” and they have no power over your diagnosis or cure.

Why I like spin class

When I go to spin, I am able to feel “normal” for an hour at a time. No one knows about my medical history. To others in the class, I’m just one more middle-aged woman trying to keep her weight gain at bay.

I do feel “normal” most of the time these days as I go about my business, cooking, writing, working, doing chores.  Spin, however, has a special effect on me because it is so all-encompassing. When you are on the spin bike, and the music is blasting and the instructor is constantly giving instructions and urging you on, you become totally enveloped in the experience and all your other thoughts and fears vanish. You are simply too busy spinning on the bike to let anything else get in the way.

I don’t feel middle-aged, but don’t know how else to say it

I hate describing myself as “middle aged.” In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written those words before when trying to explain my station in life.  After I thought about it, I can’t come up with a better way to say it. Older woman? Woman? Woman of experience? Young woman? (Who am I kidding?). None of these phrases ring true, so I guess I’ll have to stick to “middle-aged.”

Why does age matter?

The reason it matters is that as you go through life your body changes and the type of breast cancer you are likely to get is different depending on your age. Many years ago, my grandmother had breast cancer at around age 80; so why did I get it in my mid-40s and again 10 years later?

Of course her breast cancer was probably at least 50 years ago. Breast cancer and its treatment today is so very different then it was back in the 60s.   Just think of all the medical advances that have taken place over the past 50 years. Now think where we will be in another 50 years…

There are some constants

One of the biggest constants that I have observed in the past few years is the amount of research which supports the importance of exercise as a way to help reduce your risk of recurrence, or even getting the disease in the first place. For example, One study published in 2016 reported an inverse relationship between increased levels of physical activity and reduction of the risk of developing breast cancer. The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR.org), reported similar findings in 2017 from another article which appeared in Epidemiologic Reviews.

Scientific research supports the many benefits of physical activity

Want to know more? Read this factsheet from the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute for more scientific evidence about the benefits of being physically active.

The bottom line for me, is that I’ll keep going to spin, taking long walks and doing as much yoga and strength training as my schedule will permit. I may not have control over my disease, but I certainly have control over my schedule and how I choose to eat, exercise and practice good lifestyle habits.

Please join me on this journey.


*NOTE:  Consult with your doctor before beginning spin class or another exercise program. This article is for information and entertainment only, and does not provide medical advice. 


Hi, I am

Barbara Spalding MS, RDN, Culinary Dietitian

As a dietitian and world traveler, I love bold flavors — in food and in life. 14 years ago, I fell down the rabbit hole into Breast Cancer Wonderland. Since then, I’ve learned to cook differently while savoring the pleasures of food and companionship. I’ve built a resilient new life and a bold new kitchen. Let me show you the flavors of the world.
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