A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Yoga relieves cancer therapy side effects: A survivor story (VIDEO)

Yoga can help reduce cancer treatment side effects and improve emotional well-being.

“The first thing I did after being declared cancer-free was sign up for classes,” said Jill Bancroft, a 54-year-old Neillsville woman who celebrated five years of remission in March 2016.

Jill demonstrates her morning yoga routine, approved by instructor Luanne Sojka. View the video to follow along, or read on to learn more about Jill’s story.

Not quite ready for the intermediate level? Try yoga poses for beginners.

Breast cancer treatment

Jill was diagnosed with Stage 2, triple negative breast cancer at 49 years old. This spreads faster than most types of breast cancer.

She went through six rounds of chemotherapy.

“I experienced what most cancer patients experience during chemotherapy,” Jill said. “Hair loss, severe fatigue, nausea, bone aches and joint pain.”

After chemotherapy, Jill had a mastectomy, the last of her cancer treatments.

Yoga after breast cancer

After five years of being cancer free, she still suffers from treatment side effects.

“Everything hurts since chemotherapy,” she said. “I walk like I’m 100 years old when I first wake up in the morning. Yoga helps me work out those aches and pains.”

One study from the Journal of Clinical Oncology found breast cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy benefited from yoga during treatment and in the long-term after cancer.

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation suggests yoga might improve the quality of life of all breast cancer survivors.

“One of the great benefits of yoga is appreciation and acceptance for where you are at that moment – not where you were yesterday or where you think you should be tomorrow,” said Luanne Sojka, yoga instructor.

The benefits of yoga

Jill said yoga has positively affected her life physically and mentally. This comes as no surprise to physical therapist Ashley Detterbeck.

“It provides improved flexibility and strengthening with low impact movements, which feels less hurtful on her body than other exercises,” Detterbeck said. “Mentally, it allows her to be centered in the moment to reduce stress and promote a calming environment.”

Jill supports these claims with her own experience.

“I gained back my self esteem and learned to be patient with myself,” she said. “I spent so much time being logical during treatment that it wasn’t until my yoga class that I learned I was ready to be emotional and heal mentally.”

Jill said yoga has helped her gain back her mobility and flexibility, areas she is working on daily.

“In the midst of movement, we learn the importance of acceptance of all the experiences life has offered to us,” Sojka said. “We move, we breathe, we love.”

In Jill’s current routine, she admires best-selling author, motivational speaker and international yoga teacher Rachel Brathen, who once said about yoga, “The goal is to create space where you were once stuck… To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates… The goal is to love, well… You.”

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