Exercise and Breast Cancer: One Woman’s Story

By Joan Pagano - September 30, 2011

"I've always exercised, but I increased the amount and type of exercise after being diagnosed in May five years ago," answered Margo Kornfeld, SHARE member and fitness enthusiast, when I asked her to tell me about her exercise regimen during treatment. She went on to explain that she's a recreational cyclist and found it to be very therapeutic – plus wearing a helmet covered up her baldness!

Margo added weight training and yoga into her program and then started to focus on endurance sports. After she finished her treatments, she bought a road bike in celebration and decided to do a century ride (100 miles) to raise money for other cancer victims. She also started running and has completed half-marathons (13 miles).

Her instincts proved she was on the right track! When she had the opportunity to ask Dr. Larry Norton what she could do to prevent a recurrence he told her, "It's not about diet or exercise, but about athleticism and getting the endorphins going." Margo had severe asthma as a child and was never an athlete, so getting to a high level of endurance sports was truly transformational.

In her practical approach to managing the side effects of treatment, Margo said that while exercise prior and during chemo kept her strong, when she had a low energy day she would take the day off and rest. She shares her personal, positive mind-set for getting through treatment: "Think about your future beyond chemo. Chemo's not the end-game. The end-game is living a healthy life afterward… You want your body to live in a 'neighborhood' where it will thrive and be nurtured." Margo recommends that you build your body up to sustain chemo, help prevent recurrence and have a healthy future.

Margo 5 years ago

Margo today

Margo Kornfeld Bio: I was 46 when I was diagnosed with Triple Negative BC and learned I was BRCA+. I am currently 51, and have never felt healthier or stronger. I am a SHARE Helpline volunteer, peer leader and speaker through the Pink & Teal program. I'm currently serving as the marketing lead for a new product launch at Time Warner Cable. I am married with two college-aged children and live in Westchester County. As a fresh empty nester, I just put my house on the market and I am looking forward to moving back to NYC!


Joan Pagano

Joan is author of the best-selling book Strength Training for Women and owner of Joan Pagano Fitness in New York City.

  • Rose – Miami

    Margo, you're very inspiring. I did a double mastectomy Thanksgiving week and am pending chemo and radiation. Although my legs are still quite sore (also swollen with some numbness) from the initial stage of fat grafting, your story has inspired me to work on a plan of exercise and eventually athleticism, though I'm 56. Ironically, I had already started down a path of lifestyle change when I got hit with the DCIS diagnosis (1st occurrence 11 yrs. ago). You've encouraged me to continue and to step up the pace eventually. Thank you for sharing your story.

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