Trekstock Young Adult Ambassador Sean was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma when he was 28. When he was diagnosed, the cancer had spread to his right hip and several of the vertebrae in his spine. At the time, he was a self-employed personal trainer and found that his cancer caused paralysing pain. Since having a stem cell transplant in 2019, Sean is back on his fitness journey and has joined us as a RENEW trainer. He shares the story of his experience from patient to cancer exercise specialist with us.

"Now we know how beneficial exercise can be for those living with or beyond cancer, I want to share my passion with the community."

Fitness was a huge part of my life prior to my diagnosis and I would train everyday, sometimes twice a day. I had also begun competing in powerlifting the year before and was aiming to compete at the national level. In the year before I was diagnosed, I gave up my job in business development at a software company to become a self-employed personal trainer and was really enjoying the way things were going. After my diagnosis - due to various symptoms - my fitness regimen completely changed and I was lucky to get to the gym two or three times per week. I think I could have done more than this but with the metastasis to my spine and the general thinking at time being that cancer patients should rest and not push themselves, I didn't. I didn't know as much about exercising with cancer then.

Since having a stem cell transplant in 2019 I have been back on my fitness journey, exercising as often as my health and schedule permits me. I have started working again in business development but I don't find this as fulfilling as my time working in the fitness industry. I wasn't aware of the role of cancer rehab trainer until mid-way through 2021 but as soon as I became aware of it, I decided to follow this path. I love fitness and keeping in shape. Now we know how beneficial exercise can be for those living with or beyond cancer, I want to share my passion with the community. Recently, experts suggested revealed how beneficial exercising with cancer can be and that cancer patients should be prescribed exercise as part of their treatment and recovery to increase chances of survival.

I just want to do something meaningful

That research and lots of other research like it has shown how beneficial exercise can be for those living with and beyond cancer. Some studies have shown that it can reduce fatigue and even reduce the chance of relapse. There are so many people being diagnosed every day whose physical and mental health will be affected by cancer who would benefit from having guidance to exercise safely and effectively. Exercise and fitness has been a big part of my life since my early twenties (I'm now 35) and I'm excited to share this passion with the community and provide support to people dealing with the disease. Most of all though, at this stage of my life, with a life-changing diagnosis behind me, I just want to do something meaningful, that gives me a sense of purpose and a knowledge that I am directly contributing something positive to people.

Trekstock is an amazing charity and I'm so glad I found them when I did. The work they do to support the community of people living with and beyond cancer is excellent and RENEW is an important part of this. Cancer takes so much from us and, I feel personally, even more so from younger people who are planning for the years and decades they have in front of them.

"RENEW can help people to regain or maintain fitness as well as building confidence in your body which may have been lost due to your diagnosis."

In your 20s and 30s you're thinking about dating, your career, friends, holidays and the future more generally; cancer, it feels, takes that away from you and replaces it with pain, fear and sickness. But, just as exercise can be empowering to 'healthy' people, so too it can be to those living with cancer and RENEW is an excellent foundation for people to get back into exercise safely. The programme can help people to regain or maintain fitness as well as building confidence in your body which may have been lost due to your diagnosis.

Exercising safely is possible

Cancer can have many effects on our bodies and ability to exercise but, generally speaking, there will be a form of exercise that you can do safely. Exercising with cancer or beyond treatment doesn't need to feel scary. If you are unsure of what constitutes safe exercise after your diagnosis, finding a personal trainer or Cancer Rehab trainer with experience of working with those living with or beyond cancer is a great place to start. It's also important to speak to your medical professionals about the effects cancer has had on your body specifically, so you know what - if anything - you should be careful about.

Beyond this, my advice would be the same as to anyone: learn correct form for each exercise you do, get plenty of rest and adequate nutrition and build a connection with your body so you know when to push harder or rest. 

If RENEW sounds like the sort of thing you'd like to get involved with, find out more information here