Strong, Fit and Beautiful
From Cancer Survivor to Figure Competitor
by Domenick Salvatore, CSCS, CPT
Editor’s Note: You needn’t be a triathlete to realize the benefits of exercise. Studies suggest that just a few hours of moderate aerobic exercise per week may lower the risk of developing breast cancer, reduce the likelihood of recurrence and improve survival.
With a Ph.D. in Health Education, Dr. Leslie Spencer is focused and passionate about health and fitness. Before she began training with me, her exercise regimen consisted mostly of aerobics, so our work together began with learning proper resistance training techniques. Not long after we began working together, however, she received devastating diagnoses: both breast and ovarian cancer. Most women would have stopped training altogether to focus on surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, but Leslie did not panic. She continued to train as much as possible, focusing more on range of motion than resistance. I believe that helped her to become better prepared physically and emotionally for the challenges of cancer treatment.
When Leslie completed treatment, she began working with increasingly heavy resistance, something that traditionally was thought to cause lymphedema. New research by Dr. Kathryn Schmitz at the University of Pennsylvania is now proving this to be incorrect: a controlled program of graduallyincreasing strength training, in fact, improves lymphedema. In August 2010 Leslie competed in a professional figure competition; it was her way of flexing her muscles and saying, “Take that cancer!” She looked and felt amazing: an unbelievable testament to the power of the human spirit.
Exercise empowered Leslie to fight cancer head-on. Amazingly, she is healthier today than she was before her diagnosis. Never forget the power of lacing up your sneakers, putting on your sweatpants and breaking a sweat.
Domenick Salvatore is a fitness professional with over 10 years of experience. He is dedicated to promoting the benefits of exercise for cancer patients that can be applied to make significant changes in clinical practice. His goal is to help our healthcare system move towards prevention.
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