Pilates, cancer and me
Pilates is not just for the toned of bod - it's also a massive help in the recovery of breast cancer.
Cancer. It’s a horrible six letter word and one in which we’ve all experienced in one way or another – whether it be personally, or via a family member or a friend.
For me, it’s all three. And I want to tell you a bit about my story – but I also want to introduce Sara Rounce, an experienced pilates teacher who specialises in women’s health including the recovery of cancer patients.
I’ve only recently met Sara, founder of The Wellwoman Fitness Foundation based in Hindhead. But I’d have liked to have known her when I was going through my own surgery. I know from my own experiences that Sara’s knowledge and recovery programmes are right on target for women like me.
So first, my story: I have a family history of breast cancer and I carry the defective BRCA1 gene, also called the breast cancer gene. My story mirrors that of the actress Angelina Jolie, and like Ange (although several years before her) I chose to have preventative surgery to remove both breasts, which was followed by a reconstruction.
Physically, the operation is a pretty big deal and it took weeks to recover and regain my full strength.
Several years later, and again like Ange, I had my ovaries removed (the BRCA1 gene mutation also leads to a high risk of ovarian cancer), and whilst the physical recovery from this surgery wasn’t as wearing as the breast op, the loss of my ovaries meant that I was in the menopause at the age of 40.
And this is where – both times – Sara and The Wellwoman Fitness Foundation would have been hugely beneficial for me.
Sara runs the Pink Ribbon Program, which was created specifically to enhance the recovery of breast cancer patients. The programme, which she runs from her home studio in Hindhead, aims to promote recovery from surgery by helping to re-establish strength and movement in the shoulders and arms. It also helps to build core strength, restore posture and promote lymphatic drainage.
The programme starts out (probably around six weeks post-op) with simple movements and exercises and builds up gradually to bigger movements. Each programme is tailored to the individual, and would usually run for about 6 weeks with the aim of leading the woman back into a normal pilates classes.
I remember after my own breast op, I tired easily for a long time afterwards, so Sara’s advice of little and often is a good one. The programme involves a session with Sara once a week where she will assess the client and give them five or six exercises to do during the week.
I’d have loved something like this during my recovery. As well as the physical benefits, mentally it would have been good to feel I had some control over my return to health.
As you’d expect of a woman’s health specialist, Sara also has a programme up her sleeve that helps women who are going through the menopause. It’s called the Buff Bones programme, and it targets – as the name suggests – the bones and joints. She’s also an expert on post-natal recovery – and has launched her own Post Natal Ap – as well as running regular pilates classes.
There’s no doubt Sara certainly knows her stuff – but more than that, she’s also a super nice lady with a genuine passion for helping people, both men and women. She’s one of those people you’ll feel instantly at ease with.
Ten years on from my own breast op, I can say with certainty that I’d do the same thing again. The doctors found pre-cancerous cells in the tissue of both breasts, so I know I was right to have the surgery. But next time I’d take a more active role in my recover and sign up to Sara’s Pink Ribbon Program.