Gilly: Finding fitness
Finding fitness

Prior to my diagnosis in 2013, I had E cup breasts and had never been able to run or do energetic fitness classes, as it was always too painful. Even riding my horse, I would hold my boobs with one hand the reins with the other while trotting, to prevent getting black eyes!

Regardless of the issues, I did love my breasts, they defined who I was and the cancer diagnosis and knowing I would need a mastectomy, rocked me to the very core. I asked to have them both removed as I knew I would struggle with one large breast. That request was denied, but my surgeon said he would remove the “healthy” breast once I had finished active treatment, if that was what I still wanted.

First surgery went smoothly and I recovered well. Then came chemo, that stripped me of anything I had known of myself. Losing my hair was probably harder than my breast. It was during this time that I started to truly find the real me, when I no longer recognised myself in the mirror.

I finished treatment and, true to his word, my surgeon removed my second breast 11 months after the first surgery. It was at this point I realised I had a belly that hadn’t been there before, and I was carrying an extra 2 stone that I had gained through treatment. I started a business dog walking and slowly as it built up, I was getting fitter again and stronger. I started Slimming World and over 8 months, lost all the weight I had gained and have since lost another stone. I now eat no processed food. I have a passion for homecooked, healthy food and nourish my body.

In 2017, a few of the Flat Friends members decided to enter a women only event, with triathlons, duathlons and a 5km run. I entered the run, never having run before. So I started training in the January, bought an old treadmill, and Couch 2 5k was my new goal. Week by week I plodded away, until after 8 weeks I could run (plod) 5km without stopping. I went along to our local Parkrun. I started at the back and my goal was just to run all the way without walking and I did and I wasn’t last either! The achievement was huge. My one top tip for running, is to go to a specialist running shop and get running shoes fitted that suit your gait. The difference for me was incredible and the running shoes weren’t silly money either.

That was the start of my growing love of running. I did the 5km that year with two other Flat Friends and was so proud. The following year I did the Duathlon at the same event and loved that too. I bought a bike for that and discovered that I love cycling too. I ride my bike most days and love going for a long cycle around our beautiful country lanes. Along with still riding my horse, which is now a complete, pain-free pleasure.

There is now so much research done on the benefits of exercise for everyone, especially after a cancer diagnosis. Some of the results are showing that 150 minutes a week of moderate to intense exercise, can reduce our risk of recurrence by 40% and after discussing this with my oncologist, she fully agreed. So I use my Fitbit to track how much I am doing each week and make sure I hit my target.

I can honestly say that I am fitter and healthier than I have ever been in my life at 53 and I hope that continues for many years to come. If I can do it, anyone can!!

Check out this video chat Gilly had with Breast Cancer Now to hear more about her decision to live flat.
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