Thinking about recovery.

Recently I had a patient with breast cancer who was so determined to fight her disease and get better. She is young and dynamic. She was prepared to do anything to beat this.

She had a large-ish tumour and so we recommended chemotherapy before surgery.

I explained that the chemotherapy normally takes 18 weeks. Normally you have 2 doses of chemotherapy in a week and then 2 weeks to recover before the next 2 doses.

Then she asked something that I’ve never been asked before: could she have her chemotherapy every week so that her treatment would go quicker? She really wanted to get on and get better!

The way chemotherapy works is that it kills any cells that are in the process of growing and dividing when the dose is given. Cancer cells tend to grow more quickly than the body’s normal cells, so more of them get killed. The other cells in the body that grow really quickly are hair follicles, your immune system and the lining of your gut, so that’s why chemo can make your hair fall out and make you sick.

The 2 week gap is long enough for your body’s normal cells to recover enough to tolerate the next dose. Usually the body recovers better that the cancer, and the cancer eventually reduces.

But without the recovery period, for this type of chemotherapy, you would die.

The recovery time is just as important as the treatment!!

Once she understood this my patient was fine and actually she had a great result from her chemo with virtually no cancer left at surgery.

Why am I telling you this story?

Just to highlight to you how marvelous the body is, how it can withstand massive traumas and given time it will recover. But it does need to be given time to rest and recover.

And so it is with running.

The body needs time to recover.

Like my patient, we tend to think that more of a good thing (medicine or exercise) must be better, but that isn’t so. It works best interspersed with recovery time.

So don’t think that recovery time is wasted. It is essential!

‘Nuff said.



About mawil1

Hi my name is julie and I took up running at the age of 46! Hence 'mawil' Middle Aged Woman In Lycra. I did it at first because someone asked me to do a charity run with them. I couldn't run at all, but pride wouldn't let me be seen to be unable to run so I started a walk run programme. I stuck with it and to my surprise I found that I liked it- after a couple of weeks of progress I was hooked! My blog is about my progress in running and how I fit it in with the rest of my life.
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17 Responses to Thinking about recovery.

  1. Great reminder. I often feels guilty for what I think is slacking off when in fact my body just needs to rest. In my mind I know it’s necessary to take breaks!

  2. pwhent says:

    I love this post Julie. What a great way of illustrating how important recovery is. I was having a similar conversation with someone just yesterday. They told me that recovery isn’t just a break from training, it is vital part of training. Your rest day should be as inflexible a part of your training as your long run. Between you and them, I’ve got the message. I hope all is well with you. I do follow your blog with interest. It always reminds me that I need to write some posts of my own.

    • mawil1 says:

      Yes it’s a bit eggagerated with the chemotherapy, but it makes the point! I hope that you are well, I look forwards to reading a post from you, when you are ready! Sometimes you just feel like there isn’t much to say😊

  3. Our bodies are remarkable. I’m just thinking I might be doing to much recovery … at least my doctor told me I should run fast from time to time! Makes me think πŸ™‚

    • mawil1 says:

      Yes I’m definitely doing too much recovery just now! But it’s the secret of life isn’t it? Work hard, play hard keep it in balance!

  4. Excellent! I’m huge on rest and recovery and a lot of stubborn people don’t realize how important it is, when your sick OR running. 😁

    • mawil1 says:

      I think that’s exactly it paula, people (including a previous version of me!!) just don’t understand how important recovery is!

  5. 50in50marathonquest says:

    Love this post Julie – it’s great way of illustrating the importance of recovery by presenting a medical perspective that is easy to follow and comprehend for us non-medical people. I just finished my peak training week last week and out of nowhere got hit with screaming back pain Monday morning…it was so bad by Tuesday, I could barely walk let alone think about finishing my plan. My marathon is in 2 weeks and so of course compulsiveness sets in as I go from running 6x per week to nothing – getting up from the couch was a major challenge. I accepted, or rather had no choice to accept, the rest time…I’m already starting to feel better and now have hope that I can make it to race day with minimal impact to overall fitness. What I also like about this post though is the perspective – even though that was not the main intent of your article, when I am worried about a running injury or missing parts of the my training, there are many people fighting and winning far bigger battles.

    • mawil1 says:

      Sorry to hear about your back – particularly distressing 2 weeks before a marathon! It is a bit extreme comparing chemotherapy to exercise recovery, but it made the connection for me. And yes, I agree that sometimes we need to keep some perspective about our troubles. You would be amazed at some of the people I meet who are having a terrible time but who manage to retain their perspective- for instance saying how lucky they are that they get all their treatment for free, or at least they haven’t got metastasis, or the older people who say ‘I’ve had a great life, I can’t complain about this’. It’s very humbling sometimes.
      I hope that your back improves and you make the marathon, like you say your fitness will be ok (call it a taper!)😊

  6. Oh, I love my recovery.

    In fact, today I had planned on getting some strength training in but realized that I just needed more rest. So I walked the dogs & if I’m lucky, I’ll do some yoga before bed. I needed that!

    Such a fine line, though, right? And a very interesting analogy!

  7. Gareth says:

    I’v enever considered it that way and I feel shamed that I worry about recovery from running after reading about the fight that others have for their lives .. puts it all in perspective. Great thoughtprovoking post – thankyou!

  8. Thanks Julie. I know recovery time and rest is important but this post explains it simply and with a punch. Glad that your patient is doing well. Another really insightful read from you x

  9. oscardiamond says:

    Yes, I agree with the necessity of accepting recovery time. I think men, in particular, often think they are physically invincible. I know I did until I had a heart attack at 58. Since I’ve been symptom free and running as much as I want after recuperation, it’s easy to slip back into this way of thinking. Running and recovery go hand in hand and it’s pointless giving yourself plaudits for pushing to the maximum on a regular basis. I no longer feel Junathon and Janathon is a good idea if you run every day.

    • mawil1 says:

      Yes, this culture of ‘pushing yourself to the max’ isn’t good in any sphere of life but there is still a lot of machismo about. Thinking of a recent conversation I overheard at work, if you challenge some of these people they just label you as a ‘wimp’! But who cares what they think! People who don’t listen often learn the hard way. I suppose that I did, but re mental health rather than physical. I suppose that I thought that I was invincible too😊

  10. Midlife Man says:

    Good advice Julie. Relaxing for a day or two is a gift to give ourselves when we know we are putting in real effort to stay in shape on other days!

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