“Choose to Move was such a gentle and nudging push, it helped me to re-build my confidence.”
My journey with Choose to Move began in January 2016, when I attended an information session on arthritis at Century House in New Westminster and paused to look through their newsletter. Choose to Move was prominently advertised. On impulse, I approached the desk and asked if I could sign-up for both Choose to Move and the ActivAge fitness class. The activity coach contacted me the very next day. I was relieved and excited to receive her call. All of my life, I was either a solo activity person or a couch potato, so I was thrilled to be welcomed by the activity coach and assured I would fit into the group. I realized it had been almost two years since I felt I could be part of a physically active group. These feelings got me thinking back to how I got here, and why I now Choose to Move.
It all started in the spring of 2013. I felt a tiny lump in my left breast. Initially, I dismissed it as a pectoral muscle pull. I had just increased my weights to five pounds and thought that was the cause. Then I realized it did not hurt, it felt very solid and was more in my breast than in my chest wall. A visit to a clinic started me on the roller coaster journey of breast cancer.
I discovered that completing treatment in July 2014 did not mean an immediate return to health. Before I was even finished my radiation, I began a three-month dance with shingles, which was followed by a month long struggle with pneumonia. As the winter faded into spring, I remained beyond tired every day. Still, I thought I was through the worst and would return to work in the fall. No amount of sleep or rest seemed to make a difference. How I longed for that ability to sleep and wake up refreshed and recharged. No matter how much I rested or slept, the refresh was very short-lived.
I was humbled by my recovery process. As a health care provider (Registered Nurse; Registered Midwife), I thought I was knowledgeable about the steps to successful recovery, and believed I was able meet a new phase in life with success. But I was annoyed and impatient with myself– there was still much to learn about my own recovery.
I knew that exercise and activity would improve my energy levels. So I did seek out opportunities. I attended yoga in Vancouver for several weeks, until the travel left me exhausted. I tried a regular pilates class closer to home, but I stopped after eight weeks as I was completely exhausted after the one-hour class. It became a pattern of trying to increase my physical activity only to slide back into complete exhaustion for several days.
In January 2016, I attended my first Choose to Move motivational group meeting. I liked the group meetings with the rest of the participants. I got to see and hear about the struggles and successes of others and I was strengthened by the shared experience.
"Knowing I was not alone was a powerful motivator."
The one-on-one phone calls with my activity coach made a huge difference to my progress. My coach was so patient and empowering, she really helped me to stay focused on making smaller steps instead of leaping ahead and trying to do more than I could. Throughout the program, I learned more about my personal recovery and how I could make it work for me by listening to my body. With the support of the Choose to Move activity coach and the slow pace of ActivAge classes I started to believe in myself again. Choose to Move was such a gentle and nudging push, it helped me to re-build my confidence.
"With the support of the Choose to Move...I started to believe in myself again. Choose to Move was such a gentle and nudging push, it helped me to re-build my confidence."
With that encouragement, I gradually increased my activity level. Muscle memory came back and assisted me. I’d recently started Tai Chi, and I stuck with it and greatly improved. I kept walking and can now do two to three kilometers twice a week (up from just 0.5km before!). I even started Nordic walking to help me develop more focus and build walking as part of a daily routine.
"I find myself developing new friends as we do other classes together and sometimes we stop for coffee together."
As a breast cancer survivor I was very encouraged by the recommendation to use dragon boat paddling as an exercise to reduce lymphedema, increase my energy and stamina. Four months later, I participated in the Steveston Dragon Boat Festival. My Choose to Move activity coach was very supportive throughout my journey and she came out to the festival to celebrate my accomplishment.
"Without Choose to Move, I may not have been able to find that first step."
The slower pace, the slow build up over the weeks and months made all the difference. I still struggle with my new pace and lifestyle, and I am more accepting of myself as I am. Movement brings me health and wellbeing, both physical and mental. If I could send a message to others it would be to just get started, just start at your own level, regardless of where you are at right now. The smallest step will help you move forward. Go ahead, start now, it will really make a difference.
Linda Peters participated in Active Aging BC's (ABC)"Choose to Move," which is implemented by ABC partners The British Columbia Parks and Recreation Association and the YMCA of Greater Vancouver. ABC is an initiative of the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility.