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CARDIO & CHEMO: How Exercising is Helping Cancer Patients Stay Strong

Publication: KETK–TV (NBC, Tyler)

Doctors are learning more about the benefits of exercising before chemotherapy. Before going through the painful process of chemo, patients are asked to get their heart rate up by exercising thirty minutes before their treatments. An outcome that can literally be life-saving.

Sasha Strain a medical oncologist said, "We had a way to prove under the microscope that the exercise made the chemo work better."

It might sound strange, asking a cancer patient to exert energy right before they go through chemotherapy or radiation, but it's exactly what's happening there.

Strain said, "Typically, people need fewer nausea medicines and also get less fatigued which is ironic."

Ironic, yet proven.

"There is absolutely science behind it," Strain responded.

Doctor strain has seen the benefits first hand. So much so, that it's now required for her cancer patients to exercise for thirty minutes right before treatment.

She explains, "I became a believer by watching my patients. Now I prescribe it to everybody. If you want chemo, you're exercising."

Both Dorothy and Paul are examples of it working. Dorothy beat breast cancer once before it returned, and she’s still working to become cancer free.

Paul was diagnosed with stage four cancer and now, he's cancer-free, but it all started with the scariest words, "You have cancer."

Dorothy Taylor, a breast cancer survivor said, "When they first hear the word...It's fear. They feel it. It's real. I want people to know the fear is real, but you can overcome it.”

They're cancer warriors.

Paul Dowdy Sr, a stage four cancer survivor, said, "You can do it. You gotta fight. You gotta fight cancer. Don't let it have power over you."

What’s more, both survivors have even lost weight.  

Dowdy explains, "I started out like I was over two hundred pounds. I weighed more than I ever had, I weight 245."

Both felt the difficulty.

Paul said, "I didn't really want to do it. I was like, you're going to make me exercise? Yeah."

Dorothy explains, "The bed robs you from your strength. You're laying here, then you're hurting. That's the bed. It's time to get up."

Both saw incredible results.

"It has dropped drastically, and I know it's because I've been working out and exercising. When I started working out, that's when I really saw a drop in my tumor markers," said Taylor.

A sentiment Dowdy can relate to, "It's hard at first, but you keep doing it, keep doing it."

We've all heard over and over, exercise is good for you, but we didn't know just how good. The American Cancer Society said it's curing cancer and preventing it.

Doctor Strain said, "This is something that you don't have to wait for a cancer diagnosis to incorporate in your life. So much of the world has this built into their societies, to be physically active, and we're behind."

But for Dorothy, she's not behind at all. Defeating her cancer, one tumor marker, one step, at a time.

Dorothy said, "I never thought that I'd be walking 60 minutes on a treadmill, and my goal was in mind was like, Susan G Komen is coming up. I'm gonna do the 5k, it's in May. I'm doing the 5k," and she's ready to win the race.

According to Texas Oncology, observational studies show a 50 percent increased survival rate for patients with certain cancers who engage in consistent exercise during treatment.

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