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Empowerment Through Fitness: A Metastatic Breast Cancer Journey with Alexandra Spinner

For over 25 years, Alexandra Spinner has been an advocate for fitness, championing the benefits of strength training and cardiovascular conditioning. Her lifelong dedication to fitness became a crucial support system when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2019. “Fitness and exercise have always been a part of my life,” Alexandra explains, emphasizing the importance of building a strong foundation to face the challenges that life presents. 

Alexandra introduces a profound perspective on survival, shifting from the conventional “survival of the fittest” to what she terms “survival of the wisest.” This mindset encourages individuals to tap into their personal wisdom and intuition, recognizing that each person’s journey with metastatic breast cancer is unique. “A diagnosis was not necessarily the end of everything,” Alexandra remarks, highlighting the potential for resilience and empowerment even in the face of metastatic breast cancer. 

Recognizing the immense benefits of staying active, Alexandra encourages starting small, even if it’s just five minutes of movement a day. She addresses the common challenges faced, such as fatigue, uncertainty on how to begin and misconceptions about the need for a gym membership. Instead, she advocates for simple, home-based exercises that can make a significant impact. “The first thing I did was ask my medical team, ‘What can I do?’ and started with walking, progressing from my driveway to a couple of blocks,” Alexandra shares, highlighting the power of taking small steps. 

Alexandra outlines four key pillars to focus on: muscular strength, bone strength, immune strength and the importance of rest and recovery. She stresses the necessity of supporting our bodies through flexibility, movement and proper fueling, sharing practical tools like resistance bands, wrist weights, and ankle weights that can be easily incorporated into a home workout routine. “There are items that you can wrap around your wrist to get the same value and virtue as if you had to use dumbbells,” Alexandra explains, providing solutions for those who may have grip issues due to treatments or surgeries. 

She also emphasizes the importance of recovery and self-care, sharing her own experience of integrating simple activities and mindful breathing into her routine. “Breathing in a holistic way and moving our bodies helps us regain, recover, or even just be able to be neutral and sustain,” she advises, highlighting the calming effects of nature and deep breathing. She encourages setting goals and intentions, and scheduling time for oneself, reminding us that self-care can be as simple as a walk outside, lifting some rocks, or lying on the lawn with ankle weights. 

She also discusses the relationship between physical well-being and appearance, emphasizing that while looking good can boost confidence, it is crucial to listen to the body and give it the rest it needs. “Sometimes you’re going to physically not feel that great and people might not even know,” she noted, encouraging a balanced approach to fitness and self-care. 

To inspire action, Alexandra suggests setting visions and goals, whether it be participating in an event like a Susan G. Komen walk, planning for a hiking trip or simply improving overall strength. She reiterates the simplicity of walking as a fundamental exercise and introduces the idea of adding weight through tools like a backpack for added resistance and muscle building. 

Alexandra advocates for a holistic and individualized approach to fitness and health, encouraging everyone to listen to their bodies, set achievable goals and remain committed to their health journey, regardless of the challenges faced. “I hope that you start on your journey five minutes a day until it grows into the rest of your lifetime,” she says. “Even when it gets tough, make it through.”