T Nation

Lifting Daily on Chemo

Background:
I’m thankful to still be able to post my annoying questions on here! In late November I had a tennis-ball size bowel cancer removed, along with half my stomach and most of my colon.
Due to lymph node involvement I am on Capox chemotherapy for approximately 6 months, started two weeks ago. Eight 3-week cycles.
Since my diagnosis in October, I lost over 20kg (97kg to 75kg current) though thankfully I was fat to start with.
My abdomen is weak as I had a full open surgery with sternum to groin incision.
I’ve previously posted in another section of T-Nation for advice to get back into lifting; now it’s time for something more.

Training History:
31 yo male. Approximately 3 years, including 2 on various 5/3/1 templates.
Past PRs 500/385/265/171 D/S/B/P.
Current working maxes 65kg/55kg/45kg/40kg…

Current Training
After my operation as soon as I was able, I began lifting shitty little dumbbells in my bedroom. I’m now sweet to lift barbells too, though my maxes have dropped substantially.

So I am back on 5/3/1:

Day 1
Press 5/3/1
DB Incline bench
DB Front and side lats

Day 2
Dead 5/3/1
DB Lunge
Side leg raises

Day 3
DB Shrug
DB Rows
DB back lats

Day 4
Bench 5/3/1
DB OHP
DB Flyes
Skull crushers

Day 5
Squat 5/3/1
DB Stiff Leg Deadlift
Calf Raises

Day 6
DB Row
DB Shrugs
DB Curls

I’m working with extremely light maxes

What I would like advice on
Basically, I’ve followed 5/3/1 routines for the last couple of years and they have been good for me.
So I want either an endorsement that my lifting program is “acceptable” or a “get your fucking shit sorted” with some advice for changes or totally new template.

Restrictions / Requirements
-No direct Ab work (surgeon advice)
-No valsalva maneuver (surgeon advice)
-No chinups (they cause pain in my abdomen so surgeon said wait 6 months)
-I want to keep lifting every day because it helps alleviate side effects of chemo and makes me happy within myself
-Happy to do Barbell lifts every day, just unsure how I’d structure it
-I can’t do long workouts due to fatigue; 45 minutes seems to be about right
-My diet is a bit fucked due to nausea and loss of appetite, but I do what I can

Goals
-Live
-Lift more and vomit less!
-Don’t become skinny-fat (would negate the living part)
-Reclaim the right to my size L NOV shirt (sexually tight fit)

Any help appreciated!

**epic scar photos on request

Cheers,
Jay Calvert

I think your plan and attitude are awesome. When you feel it’s appropriate you may want to look at some stability work like
(google Robertson ground-based core training)

Some/all of that could probably be modified to make it extremely low level stuff and slowly increased to a pretty respectable level.

A lot of respect and best wishes to you.

I’ll let jim take this one. But this is bad ass. Hang in there bro

You’re an animal man. I’m glad your surgery turned out well and you’re back in the swing of things.

echo what everyone else has said.

You’re above ground man. every day is a blessing regardless of our medical histories. Just stay focused on those goals and set new ones along the way.

My first was exactly what you said was no valsalva. But good for you man. My dad battled with a real bad cancer a couple years ago, and from him I can see about the fatigue and tiredness. For that, I would just say that just hitting the main lift on some days wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.

Damn dude, you’ve overcome a lot. I followed your training log for a while and you were definitely killing it back when I read. I remember you used Beyond for a while. Have you considered that variation? You can train everyday with that programming if you wanted. I can only imagine that you have days where the therapy has you feeling like shit and days where you’re okay, and Beyond leaves flexibility for good and bad days.

I don’t think you have to worry about “reclaiming” the NOV shirt, sounds to me like you have earned it.

There was a guy that completed a “Death Race” after having colon cancer. Cheque that out in the Biotest Supplement advice.

I know when I was sick (not as bad as cancer mind you), I lived on MAG-10.

Good luck.

[quote]JFG wrote:
There was a guy that completed a “Death Race” after having colon cancer. Cheque that out in the Biotest Supplement advice.

I know when I was sick (not as bad as cancer mind you), I lived on MAG-10.

Good luck.[/quote]

Cheers dude. I had a look but couldn’t spot the thread, any chance of a link?

MAG-10 has some pretty intense reviews. At the moment I’m getting enough nutrition to maintain my (paltry!) body weight but if I do run into issues I may start looking at supplements. I’m very conscious of the fact muscle waste will occur if I don’t keep my protein intake high.

[quote]StrengthDawg wrote:
echo what everyone else has said.

You’re above ground man. every day is a blessing regardless of our medical histories. Just stay focused on those goals and set new ones along the way. [/quote]

Agreed! Perspective is a funny thing and suffering is very relative. Everyone has their own personal darkest hour, and none is greater or lesser than another human’s.

When I was in hospital for two weeks, vomiting everything I ate and reacting to drugs, the thing upsetting me the most was seeing my Dad losing his mind with worry - I was just rapt to be breathing.
And hilariously, I found my last relationship breakup far more emotionally bothersome than the whole cancer thing.

I had an undiagnosed condition which pretty much doomed me to experiencing this at some stage in my life; I’m very thankful it happened last year when I was strong and fit and happy, with all the support and inner skills to deal with it. Can’t imagine what it’s like for kids, fragile people, old people.

[quote]Jaynick77 wrote:
Damn dude, you’ve overcome a lot. I followed your training log for a while and you were definitely killing it back when I read. I remember you used Beyond for a while. Have you considered that variation? You can train everyday with that programming if you wanted. I can only imagine that you have days where the therapy has you feeling like shit and days where you’re okay, and Beyond leaves flexibility for good and bad days. [/quote]

The therapy has been up and down so far, but I’ve only missed one schedulted lifting day in 2.5 weeks, so it’s fair to say I’ve reacted overall well so far. I’m not setting myself up for disappointment; I am sure there will be days or weeks when I am not capable of lifting. But I’ve told my gf if she sees me moping when I am physically capable of exercising, to tell me to get off my ass and do something! I don’t want lack of mental fortitude to be a hindrance in this particular journey.

As far as Beyond 531 goes, that’s a possibility for sure. Without sounding nut-hugging I am hoping Jim can either approve my plan or steer me in the right direction as his programs have been awesome for me in the past.

So until then I am just plugging away with the template I wrote above. I’m averaging 15+ reps on all my final sets, so I think I chose my maxes well. Some may say too light but I can’t CRUSH myself from the outset and I need to be wary of my midsection. It’s “surgically recovered” but still weak.

I will start a new log soon, be sure to tune in for some hilariously light rep PRs!

[quote]Young33 wrote:
My first was exactly what you said was no valsalva. But good for you man. My dad battled with a real bad cancer a couple years ago, and from him I can see about the fatigue and tiredness. For that, I would just say that just hitting the main lift on some days wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.[/quote]

Hope your old man is doing well now dude. And yes I expect to have many “I’m not doing jackshit” days!

[quote]Waylon wrote:
I think your plan and attitude are awesome. When you feel it’s appropriate you may want to look at some stability work like
(google Robertson ground-based core training)

Some/all of that could probably be modified to make it extremely low level stuff and slowly increased to a pretty respectable level.

A lot of respect and best wishes to you.[/quote]

Thanks for the link! Awesome stuff in there. I haven’t had any suggestions from the hospital on how to physically rehabilitate my midsection but that stuff looks perfect. I know with a huge scar area like mine, stretching is really important.

Also I appreciate the replies, people.
I cannot put into words how happy I am to be lifting again; and all cheesiness aside, I genuinely feel my strength and clean diet prior to surgery helped me get through this. And will continue to do so. My cancer had been growing for nearly 3 years and I was anaemic, full of infection, immuno-compromised, pretty much a fuckin wreck. Yet I had still been setting PRs until mid last year, before I crumbled to fatigue and bleeding.
Crazy isn’t it, how resilient a human body can be?

You’re a hard dude.

You’re winning regardless of how you set your training up, but maybe just pick one lift a day and go do what you can do. Work up to something you can handle, and then hit as many down sets as you feel like/have energy for. Could just rotate thru squat/press/dead/bench and train as often as you feel like. Use the ‘Beyond’ template for some structure if it helps.

Program specifics aside, every time you touch a bar it’s a big win. All the best.

[quote]panzerfaust wrote:
When I was in hospital for two weeks, vomiting everything I ate and reacting to drugs, the thing upsetting me the most was seeing my Dad losing his mind with worry - I was just rapt to be breathing.
And hilariously, I found my last relationship breakup far more emotionally bothersome than the whole cancer thing.

[/quote]

Fucking chicks man… lol

Jay, may I call you Jay?, Know that you are inspiring people by posting this and like the other guys said, there is NO “reclaiming” of the NOV shirt. You’ve basically embodied all the traits of a warrior. Rock on man.

@panzer: You should join Jim’s website. It would be cool to hear more about your progress and stuff.

You are a huge inspiration Panzerfaust, your attitude is incredible. All the best with your recovery and lifting.

damn dude. what’s my excuse… ? maintain your attitude and you will succeed in anything you aspire to do.

[quote]StrengthDawg wrote:

[quote]panzerfaust wrote:
When I was in hospital for two weeks, vomiting everything I ate and reacting to drugs, the thing upsetting me the most was seeing my Dad losing his mind with worry - I was just rapt to be breathing.
And hilariously, I found my last relationship breakup far more emotionally bothersome than the whole cancer thing.

[/quote]

Fucking chicks man… lol

Jay, may I call you Jay?, Know that you are inspiring people by posting this and like the other guys said, there is NO “reclaiming” of the NOV shirt. You’ve basically embodied all the traits of a warrior. Rock on man. [/quote]

You definitely can bro. Thanks, I really appreciate that.

A big part of why I want to start a new log is:

Directly after my operation I was told I “may” have some “mild” precautionary chemo which wouldn’t be a long term thing. I was like “fucking sweet!”

Anyway so I got out of hospital a couple of weeks later, and within four weeks I was back lifting again… just light housewife type weights but anything felt better than nothing.

I was getting stronger fast and gradually moving into barbells again, feeling fucking amazing in myself now I don’t have this huge cancer sucking up my blood proteins and iron stores. I was feeling a million bucks and ultra excited about the prospect of enjoying the end of summer after spending the first half dying in bed haha.

And then… visit to oncology and the new plan is “the heaviest chemo we have, for as long as we can justify giving it to you”!!! Six months of really brutal treatment. This blew my mind and pretty much smashed all my dreams of getting strong again anytime soon.

So I checked my negativity and jumped on google to see what people in my situation have managed to achieve in terms of physical development, exercise etc. Let me tell you now: there is fuck all information out there.
I found a few cases of people asking forums if they will be able to lift, then never posting updates as their chemo progressed.

But the thing which gave me inspiration is http://www.ergo-log.com/strength-training-and-cardio-during-chemotherapy.html - a scholarly study where a group of people actually increased their strength through resistance training during chemo treatment, and they also found exercise had a positive effect on 10 of 12 side effects. And I noted: light training works, but moderate training works better.
My interpretation - lift heavier for less misery.

Now these are not all athletes or young people or strong people. So what excuse do I have? None.

Getting ranty here sorry, but anyway I want to start and complete a log through my entire treatment so next time some poor bastard googles “weight lifting on chemo” he will see it’s not only possible, but will reduce side effects and improve quality of life.

It’s early days for me, but already I notice I feel physically and mentally better after each lifting session - even if they are pretty exhausting.

[quote]Ramo wrote:
You’re a hard dude.

You’re winning regardless of how you set your training up, but maybe just pick one lift a day and go do what you can do. Work up to something you can handle, and then hit as many down sets as you feel like/have energy for. Could just rotate thru squat/press/dead/bench and train as often as you feel like. Use the ‘Beyond’ template for some structure if it helps.

Program specifics aside, every time you touch a bar it’s a big win. All the best.[/quote]

Simply rotating through the barbell lifts -doing one per day- is a good idea, I may end up doing this. I have to be wary of volume so the Beyond template is a possibility with its massive array of possibilities.
Yeah I feel the same way; I always loved training but man do I appreciate it now haha.

[quote]panzerfaust wrote:

[quote]Jaynick77 wrote:
Damn dude, you’ve overcome a lot. I followed your training log for a while and you were definitely killing it back when I read. I remember you used Beyond for a while. Have you considered that variation? You can train everyday with that programming if you wanted. I can only imagine that you have days where the therapy has you feeling like shit and days where you’re okay, and Beyond leaves flexibility for good and bad days. [/quote]

The therapy has been up and down so far, but I’ve only missed one schedulted lifting day in 2.5 weeks, so it’s fair to say I’ve reacted overall well so far. I’m not setting myself up for disappointment; I am sure there will be days or weeks when I am not capable of lifting. But I’ve told my gf if she sees me moping when I am physically capable of exercising, to tell me to get off my ass and do something! I don’t want lack of mental fortitude to be a hindrance in this particular journey.

As far as Beyond 531 goes, that’s a possibility for sure. Without sounding nut-hugging I am hoping Jim can either approve my plan or steer me in the right direction as his programs have been awesome for me in the past.

So until then I am just plugging away with the template I wrote above. I’m averaging 15+ reps on all my final sets, so I think I chose my maxes well. Some may say too light but I can’t CRUSH myself from the outset and I need to be wary of my midsection. It’s “surgically recovered” but still weak.

I will start a new log soon, be sure to tune in for some hilariously light rep PRs!

[quote]Young33 wrote:
My first was exactly what you said was no valsalva. But good for you man. My dad battled with a real bad cancer a couple years ago, and from him I can see about the fatigue and tiredness. For that, I would just say that just hitting the main lift on some days wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.[/quote]

Hope your old man is doing well now dude. And yes I expect to have many “I’m not doing jackshit” days![/quote]

Thanks, he is doing well. He’s been off his hormones for under a year now. And not too long after his “hard” treatment he was back in the station hopping on the truck again with his men. And going n and just hitting the main sometimes is awesome I love it.