April 14, 2024

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Exercise and cancer: ‘How my cancer diagnosis transformed my relationship with exercise’

Welcome to Time For You, HELLO!’s brand new series that asks wellness experts for the one thing they do every day to boost their mood – take notes!

This week we spoke to Dr. Anisha Patel, who wrote Everything You’d Hope To Never Know About Bowel Cancer after she was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer aged 39.

Here she shares how she makes time for herself alongside her busy NHS role and regular appearances on Lorraine, raising awareness of bowel cancer.

© Rex
Dr. Anisha Patel was diagnosed with stage 3 bowel cancer

Anisha, how did being diagnosed with cancer change your approach to self-care?

“I have become so much better at treating myself and self-care in general since cancer. During treatment, it was so important to treat myself after each cycle of chemo, after each surgery, scan or hospital visit. It really shouldn’t have taken cancer to wake up to the importance of treating myself.”

How did you treat yourself after your appointments?

“Treats for me include everything from eating out to buying bright and sparkly clothes to switching on my electric blanket and switching off, but if I were to choose one treat, it would definitely be exercise.”

What is it about exercise that you see as a treat?

“As a doctor, I have a relatively sedate job and I was chained to my desk while writing my book, so movement of any kind is my go-to treat and necessity.”

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How did exercise help you in your cancer recovery?

“Exercise kept me going during cancer treatment because it allowed me to feel alive, and I now appreciate how privileged I am to be able to move. 

Dr. Anisha Patel on Lorraine© Rex
Dr. Anisha Patel regularly appears on Lorraine

“Since cancer, movement helped me rebuild faith in my body since. It helped me to rebuild my self-confidence and self-esteem which in turn has made me feel happier about myself.”

What is it about exercise that makes you happy?

“Not only do I receive a hit of endorphins after exercising, I feel stronger physically and mentally, ready to tackle the day head-on, safe in the knowledge that I am doing something positive for myself.

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“There are certain things I can’t do post-cancer, such as riding a bike, because it aggravates my sciatica, but I have learnt to adapt to what I can do, rather than focusing on what I can’t do.

Dr. Anisha Patel posing for a selfie in pink lipstick© Instagram
Dr. Anisha Patel has a new approach to exercise, post-cancer

“I enjoy the time exercise gives me to clear my head when I work out along, while exercising with friends gives us time to catch up, which is therapy in itself. In the busy world we all live in, this is multitasking at its best.

“When it comes to work, exercise allows me to step away from the heavy nature of my job and space to breathe and just be me, to gather my thoughts, to reflect and take a moment to appreciate all that’s going on at that point in time.

“Early morning is my favourite time to exercise – there is nothing better than starting the day full of vigour, energy and a feel-good buzz.”

Dr. Anisha Patel’s book, Everything You’d Hope To Never Know About Bowel Cancer is out now.

Dr. Anisha Patel's book cover
Everything You’d Hope To Never Know About Bowel Cancer

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