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'Climb every mountain...'

DAFYDD HEADSHOT

Before I was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer some six years ago I had always tried to keep as fit and well as I could, because it also made me feel good in myself and better able to withstand the pressures of work. I had a stressful and sedentary job so was keen to make up for the battering I received and probably inflicted on myself, physically and mentally, by eating as healthily as I could and keeping active. I attended various resistance and cardio programmes at my local gym during the week, and at weekends and holidays enjoyed coastal and hill-walking a few times a year. As I entered retirement at the grand old age of 60, I left work behind and looked forward to being able to spend much more time enjoying the outdoors and keeping as healthy as I could.

And then came my diagnosis

At first, receiving a shock diagnosis for an aggressive cancer turned my world upside down. My life seemed to be transformed into an endless series of hospital visits, and the treatments changed my life routines out of all recognition. Looking back now, I can see that most of my efforts over the next two years were focused on helping my medical team rid me of my disease, which required all the standard treatments available (surgery, hormone treatment, chemo, and radiotherapy). I wasn’t leaving anything to chance though and learning that keeping active would really help me fight the disease and support my recovery inspired me to try as hard as I could to ‘keep going’ as far as exercise was concerned. Even if that only meant walking for a few minutes each day. I prefer the term ‘keeping active’ as I found it removed the impression that it was a chore or something unpleasant.

Sure, it was an effort at times, particularly at the beginning, but given that I had felt helpless and scared for so long, the challenge of applying myself gradually was as nothing, really. The ‘payback’ more than made up for the times when I felt less motivated to throw myself into it.DAFYDDS QUOTE 1

I tried to get out and about as often as I could, and then did something really brave (for me) – I started working with a personal trainer qualified to work with cancer patients and people like me who were in remission. I would never have done anything like this previously – confining myself to the odd exercise class. We started very gently, but in what seemed like no time at all I was running (or was it a fast walk?!) on an inclined treadmill and pulling some impressive weights. I felt completely safe under the guidance of an inspiring, knowledgeable, and skilled practitioner, and absolutely wonderful – both physically and mentally. It was great to feel myself improve after more than a year of going through the mill, and the general positivity and buzz in my body lifted my spirits on top of the satisfaction of being able to progress. I was also delighted to notice that, after a while, keeping active actually reduced my fatigue during the day, and helped me sleep more soundly at night, something I’d heard about but didn’t really believe would happen.

Being active also helps me mentally

At one stage during my cancer treatment, I agreed to psychological therapy to help me with my depression which had been brought about by my protracted cancer experience. I feel – and know now – that keeping as active as I can is a wonderful way to keep me well, emotionally.

Having finished treatment I’m proud to say that my new habits have stayed with me. I’ve found that it’s not a case of having to go through pain to see the gain – my regime started well within my comfort zone and expanded at a rate that I was comfortable with. It’s true to say that I’ve felt the benefit from the very beginning, something that’s crucial if you’re in any way uncertain about whether it’s for you.DAFYDDS QUOTE 2

DAFYYD ON MOUNTAINIt's now over three years since I was discharged and since then I have managed to climb a few mountains in Austria and Wales(!) and have to date walked a full 64% of my way round the entire coast of Wales. These sorts of achievements were completely beyond me a few years ago. Sometimes I think I may need to come up with more items on my ‘bucket list’ to keep me going!

Dafydd grew up in Wales and learned English at the grand old age of 4. He was 60 and newly retired when he received his shock diagnosis of an aggressive and advancing prostate cancer. He loves the sense of achievement when he ventures beyond his zones of comfort, but often needs to be encouraged to do so by family and friends.

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