“Don’t freak out.” That’s the message Excy co-founder and inventor shared when he broke the news that he had laparoscopic surgery to remove localized colon cancer. With the progress of technology to detect his colorectal cancer early, there were plenty of reasons to not freak out as Mike requested. But Mike, an avid exerciser, did share his own internal “freak out.” Frequent exercisers tend to stress a little when told not do anything more strenuous than walking for six weeks.
His immediate thought to himself was, “Better figure out something.”
And he did! Here’s a quick snapshot video if his journey. Read the rest of the post for all the details!
Staying Fit (and Sane) After Laparoscopic Surgery for Colorectal Cancer
Mike knows from personal experience that taking weeks off from usual physical activity can substantially reduce fitness levels. But, it wasn’t just about physically staying strong. It was also about staying mentally strong after having six inches of his lower intestine (the “sigmoid”) removed. In addition, research confirms that exercise can help you not just survive, but thrive during and after cancer. In fact, many customers and hospitals turn to Excy to help cancer patients exercise during their recovery. Excy is also used to help patients in the ICU exercise while lying down in bed in multiple hospitals throughout the U.S.
But this time, Mike, the designer of Excy, was the patient.
Squeezing in Exercise Before Surgery to Promote a Better Outcome
There is evidence to show that better fitness levels reduce complications when having an operation. So, Mike squeezed in one last intense workout day before the procedure. Since he already regularly trained hard, he focused on doing his usual level of exercise before surgery. This included doing his typical mountain bike ride (3 hours; 2500 calories; 155 bpm max). He also did an ultra-steep off-map trail hike (3 hours; 3000 feet up and then down; 3 miles). Six weeks after his cancer removing surgery, Mike started doing 3 hour bike rides and pushing his heart rate up to 140. In week seven, he was pushing up to his normal 155 bpm.
Mike’s Post Colorectal Cancer Surgery Exercise Journal
Below is Mike’s journal on his efforts to maintain his fitness after laparoscopic surgery for colon cancer with Excy and more. It is not medical advice. This is just one man’s story of trying not to have his fitness backslide too much following a medical procedure. His story could be of interest to those undergoing laparoscopic surgery for colon cancer, prostate cancer, and hernias. Those interested in exercising lying down might also find the blog post titled “10 Excy Lying Down Exercises for Leg Lymphedema and Lymph Drainage” helpful in getting started.
Always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially after surgery, a new diagnosis, or an injury. Mike used our most popular and versatile Excy XCS 260 model for his recovery. You can explore the setup of the XCS 260 here.
Week One: Exercising Lying Down in Bed by Day Six After Laparoscopic Abdominal Surgery
Day 1, had five holes poked through beneath ribs and a three inch slice down low center. Ultra-slow shuffling hours later, progressing to walking enough on Day 4 to take an hour Uber ride home. Off the pain pills Day 5. Have to take it easy doing everything. By Day 6 have Excy placed diagonally on a king size bed daily doing light reverse spinning for a few minutes at a time while lying down. The pin is in the bottom hole. Forward spinning would hurt. Note that I still can only get out of bed slowly and by rolling sideways carefully. Unmedicated pain continues to be my guide to what I can and cannot do.
Day 11: Exercise Cycling Outside with Clip-In Pedals to Enjoy Fresh Air
Moved Excy outside onto the patio to get fresh air. Installed clip-in pedals so I could use bike shoes and easily keep feet connected while pedaling Excy lying down on the Keeper. Light mostly-reverse pedaling for 15 minutes, with 100 calories indicated. Moved heart rate from 85 at start to 100. Had to use plastic boxes and triceps pushups to get on and off of the ground. Still could not sit up without rolling onto the side first, but I’m cycling with Excy outside and the exercise endorphins feel great.
About Calories: Stated “calories” are read from a watch that also indicates the heart rate via a chest strap. The numbers allow me to roughly compare the amount of effort I am doing. Just doing light walking and sitting around reads about 400 calories per hour. This of course is perhaps four times too high. It seems to be well recognized that trying to calculate this at low effort from heart rate is way off. This watch indicates about 700 calories per hour for me during prior hard bicycle rides, and this is close to the published hourly rates for such things.
With numbers here coming from low effort situations, consider the lower numbers way off and higher numbers only slightly better but indicative of a lot more work being done.
Day 13: Exercise Cycling to Maintain Cardio-Vascular Fitness After Cancer Surgery
Same as prior setup to bike lying down with Excy positioned as lowest to ground and lying flat on the Keeper. Thirty minutes of forward and backwards pedaling ended with a heart rate of 114 and 200 calories. My focus was on trying to get my heart rate up as an attempt to maintain cardio-vascular fitness. My normal bike rides usually had me over 140 after about 15 minutes of hard riding.
In order to progress further, the problem now seemed to be not being able to engage large enough muscle groups. In this low pedal and short crank arms setup, it seemed only the thigh muscles close to the top of the knee were being worked hard. Knew I had to change things as I got stronger, so started the process of making up some 170mm crank arms (common on road bikes) to replace the 140mm standard ones on Excy. [Excy will custom make longer crank arms on request for those who want increased cycling intensity.]
Day 15: Pedaling Lying Down, but with an Upright Exercise Bicycle Experience
Changed Excy from peddling in the lowest position to the middle-pin position while lying flat on the Keeper. Thirty minutes of mostly forward pedaling ended with a heart rate of 100 and 200 calories. Not as good as prior as needed to go easier when pushing with the knee being higher. More of the normal bicycling muscles were involved due to the longer crank arms and getting the knee more up towards the torso. I will call this the bent-over angle, and this was akin to having a very upright position on a bicycle (half way between high handlebars and riding with no hands sitting straight up).
Transitioned to more-bent-over slowly pedaling as every increase could be sensed as more abdominal pain. I had this same sense when walking, as I had to keep steps small. Large gate steps would definitely give some pain signals. Note that I was hiking up very steep trails on days between my Excy workouts, and then using very short steps and having most work done by my triceps using canes behind my back (something I am well conditioned doing).
Week 3: Easing into Exercise Cycling at Longer Duration After Surgery
Progressed every other day to a more elevated Excy pedaling position by moving the pin position and changing the length of the Slide. No increase in heart rate or calories-per-hour as more bent-over means more abdominal pain from force avoidance, but getting closer to more normal bicycling muscle usage. Transitioned from 30 to 45 then 60 minute sessions.
Week 4: Still Only Able to Walk Slowly, But Can Pedal the Excy Bike without Pain
Continued one hour sessions but progressed to higher pedaling positions while lying down. Bent-over-angle ended up just shy of normal mountain bike setup. The front of Excy was set on pavers stacked three high to accomplish this. Heart rates reached 135 (my normal not-really-working-below threshold). Calories reached 560 per hour. I could get slightly out of breath with muscle ache somewhat spread over my normal bicycling muscles.
I tested riding my mountain bike on Day 26, and could sense that this will now work for improving my endurance and strength. Pretty cool. I can now ride a bike 🙂 Note that Day 26 still has me only able to walk around slowly with small steps and unable to bend over when standing.
Week 5: Mixing Seated Excy Workouts and Careful Bicycling
On every other day, I would progress through riding harder and longer on the grass in a park to keep things controlled and keep down the vibrations (still hurts a little to ride in a car). I alternately would use Excy as a recumbent chair bike and use the Toggle Ties to secure the chair to Excy. Was able to do a more intense workout on the chair with Excy as there were much less painful vibrations when riding a real bicycle even on pretty smooth surfaces.
Week 6: Exercise Cycling + Gymnastic Rings for Needed Psychological Boost
Finally at the end of the standard recovery order of “don’t lift anything over ten pounds.” Starting to do core strengthening via gymnastic rings with a Bosu balance trainer. Already doing 3 hour bike rides. Getting heart rate during push up to 140, progressively higher and suspect soon to get to my normal 155.
Week 7: Fit Again After Surgery and Feel Great
Started doing standing steps on Excy in the step and unicycle position with longer cranks. Also back to doing chest exercises by cranking Excy as an upper body ergometer with my hands. I also love pedaling Excy from the lower bike chair position described above, which I use to get a quick great workout when short on time for normal bicycle rides.
I feel Excy helped me progress to being well positioned to carefully use a bicycle 25 days after laparoscopic abdominal surgery to remove colon cancer. It also helped get psychologically needed serious exercise when I otherwise could only walk around slowly. Slowly progressing from lying-flat reverse pedaling to near-normal bent-over bicycling position seemed to be the key. Going without pain medications appears important, as pain could then serve as an indicator of how much to progress and when. Thanks Excy!!!
Early Colorectal Cancer Screening Critical
Fortunately, Mike discovered the cancer early by using the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) to test for colorectal cancer. Early detection is key in identifying and removing colorectal polyps before they can develop into cancers. But, of course we freaked out on hearing the news. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women. It’s also the second most common cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined and is expected to cause about 52,980 deaths during 2021.
If you are having signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer, such as changes in your poop, bleeding, and belly pain, please see your doctor. Also, ask them about using the fecal immunochemical test. It could save your life.
Here’s Mike 8 weeks after Laparoscopic Surgery to Remove Colon Cancer
Read more about other success stories with Excy! Our amazing small portable exercise bike is designed help those battling health conditions, disabilities, and injuries gain easier and convenient access to exercise anywhere! Please share this story with anyone who you think might need Excy in their life.