Thursday, March 22, 2012

Run Beyond Cancer: Outrunning Lung Cancer: My interview with Julie Guarducci.

    There is increasing evidence that being physically fit can play a vital role in disease prevention, recurrence and recovery. This is especially true for cancer, a disease that often leaves people feeling helpless and out of control. As a personal trainer, I have been deeply effected by the number of younger women I have met and worked with, who have been diagnosed with cancer. Last year I became certified as an ACSM/ACS Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer in order to learn more about how we ALL can use exercise to fight against this horrible disease.

 This is the first installment of my Run Beyond Cancer series of interviews with cancer survivors. The women I will interview have used running and other forms of exercise to move past their diagnosis and into a stronger healthier life. The strength and courage of these ordinary women who have gone through extraordinary battles, has inspired me. I hope their stories will do the same for you.

                                          RUN BEYOND CANCER:
           Outrunning Lung Cancer. My interview with Julie Guarducci.

Julie Guarducci
Heels and Hills and Him Race; September 2011 
  Julie Guarducci is like a lot of women.  She is a  Mom of two beautiful girls, Nicole 27 and Julianne 26. She can't believe she is almost 50. (which is really the new 30) She is a runner. She is also a lung cancer survivor.
  She was born and raised in New Jersey by her dad who she and her sisters referred to as St. Jimmy. They called him that because they knew that any man who could raise three girls was a saint!
  In 1992 Julie got divorced and moved to AZ. She is now currently residing in Dallas Texas where she works and plays.
Here is my interview:

Julie, why were you interested in sharing your very personal and difficult battle against lung cancer?
 I hope by sharing a little about my experience with lung cancer and the treatment, I can encourage others who have been afflicted with this horrible disease to exercise. Exercise is one of the most powerful drugs, it clears the mind of all negativity and assists in healing the body.

Were you a runner and exerciser before you were diagnosed?
   Yes. I was an avid smoker for 30+ years. After I quit, for two years I was an exercise fanatic. I was doing spin classes 6 days a week and then I started running about 6 months prior to diagnosis because I wanted a change of pace from spinning.

What type of Cancer were you diagnosed with and how long ago was that?
I was diagnosed with stage 3a NSCLC (non small cell) Squamous carcinoma in July 2010.

What type of treatment did you have and for how long?
  My thoracic surgeon felt he could remove my right upper lobe so I had a Thorocotomy in Aug 2009. Once in there he realized the cancer wrapped around my pulmonary artery making surgery nonviable. I went through 2 rounds (6 days each round) of chemo and 41 session of radiation between August 2010 and October 2010.  The drugs used were Cisplatin and  Etoposide.

Do you think the physical strength you got from exercising and running, helped you get through your treatment and recovery?
  ABSOLUTELY!    I don't think I'd be telling you this story if I wasn't such a freak about exercise. I went from one very bad addiction to another, healthier one. I don't think my recovery would have been as quick if I weren't exercising prior to treatment.  After a Thorocotomy, it usually takes patients about a week to recover, but I was home after 2 days. 

Were you able to run/exercise during treatment? If not when did you start working out again? 
 Chemotherapy treatment knocked me on my ass, so no, I wasn't able to workout during that part. But, I was still receiving radiation treatments when I started running again. I don't want to say it was against my Doctor's advice but I didn't ask either. I was extremely tired all the time, but knew if I didn't get up and do it, I would become a couch potato.  I couldn't even run a 1/2 mile at first. I was only out of the running scene for about 2 months, but boy did that chemo break me down. But I'm a determined person and didn't give up! I kept going out day after day until I was able to run without walking, just a little at a time.

Do you feel that running had a mental effect on your recovery? 
  I'm certain it did, how exactly I'm not sure. If I had to guess I'd say it helped because I didn't lay around worrying 'what next'. Also, since I run with a running group I was able to socialize as I was getting back in the swing of things. Running also helped alleviate stress.

Where are you now in terms of your health and fitness?
  I'm currently 2 years cancer free!! I continue to run 5-6 times a week and try and work yoga into my schedule as well.

What are your long term fitness goals?
  Since my diagnosis I've completed 3 half marathons, several smaller races and a few 10K night trail runs! 

   I have 2 half marathons scheduled for the weekend of 3/24/2012, a 208 mile relay 3/31/2012-4/1/2012, and at least one 18K night trail run this summer. Plus, I start training for the October 2012 Chicago Marathon in May. I can't stress how excited and even more nervous I am about this. I mean 26.2 miles???!!!? Right now I seem to hit a wall at 10. I can't imagine what it's going to be like to train for and run TWENTY SIX POINT TWO MILES. Oh Em Gee!!

I think that it is incredible that you ran 3 half marathons after you were diagnosed! Did you run any before you had Cancer?
 I never even thought about running a marathon before being diagnosed! I think my wanting to inspire others to exercise and run after diagnosis is what inspired me to consider running a marathon.

How would you describe how you feel about running and what it means to you?
 I love running no wait, I hate running. Maybe the best way to describe how I feel about running is to say I love to hate and hate to love it.
  I hate it for the same reasons I love it. I have to get off my butt, get up out of my comfy chair, go out in the heat or cold, there are so many reason or better yet, excuses not to run that my mind is too confused so I have to run to clear it.
   What I love is the camaraderie, the friendships you form, the encouragement, that no one judges you … no matter how fast or slow, in shape or out of shape, how old or young runners accept you. Let's not forget the health benefits … it's great cardio work, a great way to shed a few pounds and the best benefit, runners butt! Who doesn't want a nice tight, round bootie?
  For that reason alone I'll keep running and continue my love and hate relationship with running. But mostly, secretly loving it. Remember, tough times don't last tough people do!

What is your personal message to other women who are battling lung or any other type of cancer?
  My message is not only for women but for anyone with a life threatening illness or debilitating disease. Don't give up! Don't wallow, cry and ask "why me?". It's God's will, he choose us because he knows we're strong and can handle what he throws at us. Prove him right, do everything in your power to conquer your disease or illness.  FIGHT!

       I would like to send a big thank you to Julie for being so brave in sharing her story!

    Always make sure you check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Here are some links where you can find more information about the connection between exercise and cancer:

Cancer Prevention: Nutrition's Role
Cancer: What Your Weight and Exercise Has to Do With it.

American Cancer Society
The National Lymphedema Network

American Council of Sports Medicine

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Hayley for taking the time and for caring enough about those of us afflicted with cancer. We don't have enough advocates in the physical fitness arena. I think most, not all, are too wrapped up in the money side of the business to really think about the fitness side for everyone not just for the 'healthy'.