27 September, 2022

“Now I’m in my 50s, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of doing both strength and flexibility exercises, as well as cardio,” says Rachel McIlroy.

Rachel Mcllory

She was diagnosed with hormone-based breast cancer just after her 50th birthday, and treatment involved a lumpectomy and radiotherapy. Researching information about breast cancer led her to the Breast Cancer UK Pilates Challenge in October 2021.

“I’ve always tried to be as active as possible,” explains Rachel. “And, as part of my breast cancer treatment, I was encouraged by the physiotherapists to do regular daily shoulder exercises to keep them from getting stiff and to aid in the healing process. Doing those exercises daily made me realise the benefits of doing daily stretches. Such as Pilates movements and the difference it makes.”

Rachel comments that one reason she particularly enjoyed doing the Pilates challenge was the ability to access recordings of the sessions: “It means I can take part in a live Zoom class on Saturday morning. But the recordings mean I can decide when I want to do a quick stretch or work out for a longer period whenever convenient.”

“Committing to the challenge does not mean committing to a specific time each day.”

She adds that the live classes offer the opportunity to check in with the other women taking part in the challenge. Discussing breast cancer-related topics such as drug side effects, feelings of responsibility, and necessary lifestyle changes.

Rachel is keenly aware of the need to understand that it is not possible to prevent breast cancer: “I feel there’s a lot of pressure on both my and younger generations of women when deciding whether to pursue careers or not, to have children or not, at what age to have children. And then, when you do have a child, whether you choose to breastfeed or not. I’ve wondered, sometimes, if the stress of feeling the pressure to make those decisions – and perhaps the decisions themselves – put me in this situation. But then you just end up stressing myself even more chasing the what-ifs. It’s a challenge in itself to realise you have to accept the diagnosis, and that it happened to you. And, to be grateful for all the diagnostic tools, treatments and support for women who are diagnosed.”

Going forward, Rachel heeds advice about doing what she can do to avoid a recurrence. The best advice she has been given is to watch what you eat. Reduce alcohol consumption to no more than 4 or 5 units a week. And exercise by combining cardio and strength-bearing exercise with the flexibility to protect the joints. She concludes: “I prioritise my exercise a lot more than I used to. And, the Pilates challenge has simply become part of my toolkit, going forward.”

Does the Daily Pilates Movement Challenge seem like something you would like to complete? You can sign up on our website.

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