Cancer And The Dread Of Exercising

05/05/2017 11:50

Exercise is much touted as a way to fight cancer. To be perfectly honest, I'm not a big fan of exercising, it is a dull and rather pointless way to spend an afternoon or evening. I feel far more invigorated in a pub or a restaurant. Naturally, with cancer tumours in tow, going on a pub crawl is not medically recommended. So I have given in to the tyranny of my circumstances and decided to exercise, in moderation. The exercising options for a middle-aged man are rather limited. My female friends have strongly recommended that I try yoga or meditation. Maybe I'm a bit of a dinosaur, but I simply cannot see myself in a yoga leotard and a yoga mat. Sorry ladies, I'm sure it is great exercise, but yoga won't do for me. Same with meditation. I'm just too impatient and cynical to be sitting around, doing nothing, waiting for a gong. If I'm going to be doing nothing, I much rather sit in a pub watching football matches. I do plenty of meditating there, I guess.

I think that I finally found a suitable exercise regime for me. Curiously this revelation came to me as I was at home, relaxing on my couch. I was watching a BBC documentary about people who had an addiction to pain killers. In the programme, this rather cheerful chap was trying to convince three painkiller addicts to give up taking pills. Good luck with that, mate, I thought. Not going to happen. Sure enough he failed miserably with the first addict. For the second addict, he tried to convince her to go swimming in a lake. That seemed to work for a couple of times, but as soon as he was not there coaxing her to go swimming, she lost her motivation. I think that she went swimming because she secretly fancied the cheerful chap. The third addict seemed like a hopeless case, she could barely walk to the door. She seemed to be on a diet of pain killers and self-pity. He recommended that she tried taking kung-fu lessons.

The idea of this woman taking kung-fu seemed rather preposterous. However, the proposed approach appealed to me, as I'm a big fan of martial arts. In the distant past, I have practiced Muay Thai, kickboxing, and Krav Maga. As I got older I had to give these martial art techniques because I kept on getting injured. I came to the realisation that whilst it is fun to punch someone in a sparring session, it is less fun to get punched or kicked in return. So the prospect of someone who could barely walk to the door doing martial arts was just staggering to me. Sure enough, this patient kept on whingeing about her pain, but the documentary presenter convinced her to sit in a class, just to watch others training. I have no idea what transpired during that class, but by the end of the lesson she was already trying some of the kung-fu moves. She continued taking these classes and in a few months she had given up her addiction to painkillers.

Having witnessed this small miracle, I decided to try kung-fu myself. Luckily, there was a class being offered within walking distance of my house. Although I had no addiction to painkillers, I had some rather unpleasant cancer symptoms, namely uncontrolled bowel movements. I could literally poop on myself. I also had an unsightly abdominal hernia. Given my personal cancer symptoms, attending the first class was rather trying. I was really worried about embarrassing myself. Luckily I had an excellent kung-fu teacher. The class itself was very relaxed, we practiced our movements with a great deal of calmness. None of the shouting or macho posturing that is characteristic of other martial arts. It was almost like sitting in a kitchen, chopping vegetables. Unlike other martial arts, kung-fu aims to cause an opponent the maximum amount of damage (which I like) with the minimum amount of effort (which I like even more). The core idea for kung-fu is to use your opponent's energy and aggression against them. I was hooked.

This is certainly not a commercial for kung-fu. Other martial arts --like jujitsu, aikido-- are built upon similar principles as kung-fu. What is important here is that it is possible for a cancer patient, particularly someone who is as lazy and allergic to exercise as I am, to find a positive outlet in exercise. Ultimately I cannot be sure that exercising will help me fight cancer, but it helps a great deal with the way that I approach life. To paraphrase a kung fu master, what is the greatest obligation we have? To live.

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