T Nation

Getting Back After Cancer Treatment


I am 59. For the last 5 to 6 years I have been lifting regularly. At 165 lbs I was proud of my six pack and the fact that on my 59th birthday I deadlifted 420 lbs. In April I was diagnosed with throat cancer. It’s been almost a month since my last treatment and I am almost ready to go back to the gym. However, I am starting my recovery at 128 lbs. Any suggestions on how I should approach this? And, for those that might have gone through this were you able to get back to where you were?


Damn, sorry to hear about your troubles but great to see you’re rebounding back!

I’ve thankfully never been through anything like this but know a few who have. I think starting slow and light will be the key.

Depending on your condition now, you may want to consult a professional who has trained people in your situation before.


Exto- Congrats on starting your comeback… I assume your doctor’s have released you to workout?..I’m 57 , had my prostate removed when I just shy of 54…helluva lot different from what you battled, but I lost 13lbs from the event and gained it back over a 4 month period… …I got back to where I was and beyond strength wise, but as I said my circumstances are vastly different from yours…I would call your oncologist and get recommendations on a good nutritionist and have him check with his staff; someone is likely into fitness and maybe able to point you in the right direction in terms of how to approach the progression in the gym…wishing you continued success!


OG I can’t find your log. I didn’t know what kind of cancer you had. My brother in law who died in May had 3 episodes of prostate cancer over about 8 years. They removed his prostate in first episode but cancer reappeared two more times. He got regular checkups.

Extopaflyer, take heed. My brother in law was always in great shape until last year of his life.


The first picture was taken just before treatments started and the second, a couple of weeks after they finished. I’ve gained about 5 pounds since. This Wednesday I’m heading back to the gym.


So it has been nearly two and a half months since heading back to the gym. It’s been a slow process to say the least. Despite being nearly four month since my last treatment I am still dealing with side effects. Out of those, the one that has held me back the most is constant fatigue. On some days I can be seen taking 60 second naps between sets. But while the process has been slow I have made progress. Today I weighed in at a little over 147 lbs, which puts me half-way back to my normal weight. Some of the weight gain is from just being able to consume more calories, but I’m also putting on more muscle mass. I am now pretty much doing the same routine – with less weight, of course – I was doing before my treatments began. The goal, of course, is to get back to where I was. But I also want to prove my doctor wrong. I saw him about a month ago. At the time I weighed about 142 lbs. During the appointment he told me not to expect to able to gain much more weight. He was a bit vague on the reason, but it had something to do with the effects the radiation has on the body. We’ll see.


This week marks 6 months since my last treatment. It also coincides with my 60th birthday. I’ve been back at the gym since early September. It’s been pretty much 5 days a week since. Pushing through fatigue has been the biggest hurdle, especially in the beginning. But that has abated a bit and I am now able to go all out in my lifting routine. What’s funny is that I’m getting close to what I was lifting in some exercises (pull), but still nowhere near what I was doing in others (push).
Stamina, however, is still a problem. I used to like to finish my lifting sessions banging a few rounds on the heavy bag. Unfortunately, I am still getting winded after about 30 seconds.

I mention in the previous post that when I was 142 lbs the doctor told me not to expect to gain much more weight. I’m happy to report that I’ve been over 160 lbs for the last couple of weeks, which is just about 5 lbs from the lower end of my normal weight range. However, I’m not sure where the weight is going. In this picture taken over the weekend, I’m less than 5 lbs from where I was in the “before” picture above. To me, it looks like there would be at least a 20 lb difference.

Anyway, the gym is wonderful thing; if you ever find yourself in the same situation, get back to it as soon as you’re able.


Wow. Kudos to your dedication and effort.

I’m no expert, so I’m just shooting off at the mouth here…but the experts in the Bodybuilding forum who actually compete always say that “normal” people do not realize how much of a difference 5 lbs of actual muscle (no fat) makes.

You are so lean in all your pictures that I think that is the main reason for the perceived discrepancy. Plus I think you are actually leaner in your pre-cancer picture, so that would add even more to the difference.

You’ve obviously got what it takes to get back all the way. Just a matter of time.


Fantastic stuff, keep doing what you’re doing!
-You’re in better shape than 99% of guys over 50 let alone hitting 60 I wouldnt worry about the scale too much as long as you’re looking lean and mean -just give yourself some markers/targets for performance in the gym and a fitness or conditioning goal


Wow, well done mate, great determination!


Happy Birthday! and congratulations!


I’m sure he found that to be very encouraging.


So this week marks a year since the start of my Chemotherapy and radiation treatment. I was going to wait to post until the anniversary of my last treatment, but I think that I’m as close as being back as I’m ever going to be. I have to say that I’m very happy with where I am. My weight before treatment ranged from 165 lbs to 170; I have settled in at around 162 lbs. I’m exactly where I was when I checked in in January, but as you can see, I’ve been able to gain a bit more bulk. I’m not sure why it’s not showing that on the scale.

Before I was diagnosed my work outs concentrated on strength gain, especially for the big three. For the most part I followed the 5-3-1 program. For a skinny old guy that didn’t start lifting until 52, I don’t think my numbers were all that bad: 210, 300, and 420. However, once I got back in the gym it became quickly obvious that I was never going to get that strength back. Instead, I decided to concentrate on growth. For the last month or so that has meant a rest pause scheme, where I pick a weight that I can complete at least 12 reps during the first set then rest for 15 seconds before maxing out on the next, and so on, and so on until I’m only able to finish 3 reps. I don’t know whether it is just a natural progression from where I started from, or the result of this routine, but I’ve seen a difference in my physique. Anyway, this will be my last “update” post. I just want to send an encouraging note to anyone that goes through this that it is possible to get back to where you were. If not all the way, pretty damn close.

On a side note: I can now throw away the shorts.


Well done keeping on going after such a setback. Bloody good effort mate. I hope your feeling well.


One last update. Today marks a year since my last radiation treatment. I have indicated that although I have been able to gain back most of my muscle mass my strength is no where near what it was. However, about two month ago I started deadlifting again. I soon realized that could handle more and more weight. Before I knew it I was able to lift just over 300 lbs for reps. I decided to set a goal of 400 lbs on the anniversary of my last treatment. Last night I got up 403.


Congratulations! Job well done! Keep on kicking ass!


Excellent. Keep up the good work.


Thata boy, congrats.

Phuque cancer!


Keep up the great work. You are inspiring to this cancer survivor also!


Thank you. And good luck with your own journey.