When I signed up for aquatic fitness at the gym a few years ago, I thought it could help me stay fit. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that it would someday help me get through breast cancer treatment.
My story begins in December of 2015.
In the middle of the holiday season, I thought my biggest worries would be getting the shopping done or having enough time to cook and to clean the house. But I was wrong. I was told what every woman dreads to hear: You have breast cancer.
After the initial shock, my main concern was about what I needed to do to get better.
My treatment would begin with surgery—in my case, a lumpectomy and bilateral reduction—followed by chemotherapy, once a week, for three months.
Fortunately, I could rely on my strong and loving family, my two wonderful sons and aunt and uncle. They were with me every step of the way, providing support when I needed them the most.
Throughout the chemo, I continued to work at my job as a program manager for New Jersey Transit. Being able to work from home was a great help, but even with that, it was becoming a daily struggle just to be able to walk. I was already dealing with neuropathy on the tops of my feet (the result of an earlier ankle surgery). Now, with the chemo, neuropathy was affecting the bottoms of my feet as well. This, in turn, was creating even more problems. Because the intense pain in my feet affected my gait, I began suffering lower back pain.
But I knew I needed to fight through the pain. Walking had always been an important exercise and source of energy for me (I tried to walk at least 8,000 steps a day). Now I could barely take more than a few steps. That's when I remembered the aquatic therapy sessions.
Once I received the seal of approval from Randi, my nurse navigator at Virtua, I signed up for a few sessions of (aquatic physical therapy) at Virtua's rehab facility in Moorestown. As I suspected, the warm water therapy eased the throbbing pain, allowing me to exercise longer and build endurance.
Working in different water levels during my physical therapy sessions, I did a fairly wide range of exercises to stretch and strengthen my core. In shallow water, there were hamstring stretches on the pool steps; squats at waist-deep level; and, floating in neck-deep water, exercises that simulated pedaling a bicycle.
It was a pretty thorough workout, but it made a big difference. My circulation improved;I was able to walk further; I stood up straighter; andeven slept more soundly.
Now, almost a year later, there are no signs of cancer. It will still be a while before I regain all my former strength. Until then, you can still find me in the pool.
*While aquatic physical therapy helped Argean Cook, it may not be right for others undergoing cancer treatment. Before considering any form of physical therapy during treatment, please consult with your doctor.