Pilates Exercises for Cancer Patients

‘Post-cancer Pm training to be a Pilates instructor’

Emily Major, 25, was diagnosed with bone cancer and wants to help others in similar circumstances.

I ’d had a problem with my right arm since I was about 16. The pain was excruciating and, although I kept going to see GPs, they said I was a hypochondriac. Then, just before I turned 23, I started to lose strengthen my hand, so I decided to have private medical care through work. I was given a scan and the doctors discovered a tumour the size of an orange next to my spinal cord had been compressing the nerves in my hand. After this, they found another primary tumour, this time in my chest and I was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, a very rare form of bone cancer.’


‘My first surgery was huge. It lasted 12 hours and needed specialists from two hospitals. They removed portions of my ribs, a tiny piece of vertebra and severed the nerve that controls my right hand – because the tumour had been there so long, the nerve endings had grown around it.‘I was in hospital for 10 days and in a lot of pain. I remember once just staring at the clock, trying to get through the night – it was the slowest night of my life. However, when, by some miracle, I was still able to use my hand, I was the happiest I’ve ever been.‘After my second round of surgery, I went to Florida for a targeted form of radiotherapy called proton therapy. I had to lie on a massive machine with a mask over my face and with my wrists cuffed because you mustn’t move a millimetre. The first treatment was really scary. I cried my eyes out afterwards, but after that I just got used to it. There were some nasty side effects. The treatment burnt off my skin and I looked like something from Zombie Apocalypse!

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‘At first I was pretty weak. I could barely stand and had to sit down all the time, so I needed rebuild all those back muscles. I’d been very fit and healthy before I had the treatment – I was Spinning four times a week and feeling the best I ever had. I was working full-time as a PA and had a great life. Everything was perfect, and then you get cancer and everything changes. But I knew I didn’t want to come out of this and feel limited by it. My physio is a Body Control Pilates teacher and recommended a class specially for back pain, Back4Good (body control pilates.com), which has made me stronger and helped with the pain.‘I genuinely feel quite fortunate – lucky they found the tumours when they did, because if they hadn’t, I could have been paralysed.

I also had family and friends who supported me and I met some fantastic people. Plus, I had the best medical team helping me.‘When you’ve been through something life changing, it shifts your priorities. I’d done a business degree and wanted a fantastic career in business, but now that doesn’t matter to me. I just want to be healthy and happy. That’s why I’ve decided to train as a Body Control Pilates instructor. When I’m qualified, I’d like to specialise in working with people who’ve had cancer or surgery. I never thought I’d be fit and healthy again, so if I can inspire people to feel they can do more than they realise, I’d be really happy.’

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