Beating bowel cancer together

How to take on Step up for 30 with bowel cancer

Helen Macfadyen was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer in February 2018. Later that year in June she decided she needed to be more active, so signed up to take part in Step up for 30. Though she was having chemotherapy at the same time, she didn’t let that get in her way of completing the challenge and raising over £1,400. 

“I was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer after an emergency operation to remove a bowel obstruction. As the cancer was in my liver, chemotherapy was the next step, which I started a month later in March.

Everything was happening so quickly and it was a lot to take in. However I was determined to do whatever I could to support myself through treatment and maintain some sense of normality, which for me meant being active. That’s why I was so excited when I read about Step up for 30. It seemed like the perfect way to motivate myself back into exercise and to fundraise for the charity.

I strongly believe that doing regular exercise is beneficial during cancer treatment, but that’s something more easily said than done. Having chemo can make you feel rough and not in a place where you want to go out for a run. But taking on 30 minutes of exercise every day in June felt manageable to me and the perfect thing to get me feeling more like me.

While I was doing the challenge I had a lot of treatment-related trouble with my toes, but I didn’t let that stop me. Instead I got creative in working out ways to exercise, discovered innovative uses of padding and allowed myself to split my sessions into manageable walks or even limps.

Completing Step up for 30 was a huge achievement and gave me a much needed boost in the middle of treatment.”

Helen’s five tips for taking on Step up for 30 while being treated for bowel cancer

  • Don’t feel you need to be too ambitious. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. What works for one person won’t work for another, so don’t set yourself too high of a standard. Take it easy at first. Remember managing to increase a ten minute walk to half an hour, is just as amazing as anything else. 
  • Feel free to split the 30 minutes. Some days you just can’t manage the 30 minutes and that’s ok. When that happened I did two 15 minute sessions instead and that really helped make things more manageable.
  • Do what you enjoy. Exercise doesn’t mean running a marathon or climbing a mountain! Find what you enjoy and slowly increase how much you do of that. I focused on walking and gardening.
  • Sometimes your frequent medical appointments get in the way and that’s ok. It just might mean you have to be flexible. So having a set exercise time everyday isn’t ideal.
  • Use social media! I used my social media pages and my GoFundMe to fundraise, but I also used my fundraising posts as a way to update people on my progress. This not only helped me increase my donations but also kept me motivated.

We are sad to say that Helen died in April 2019, whilst working on this blog. Her family have asked that her experience of and tips for Step up for 30 be published, in the hope it inspires other supporters to take on the challenge.

Helen found Step up for 30 a huge help while she was having her first round of chemotherapy, and was passionate about fundraising to help other people affected by bowel cancer.

Sign up for Step up for 30 here:

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