Strength in Every Step: Linda Ryan’s Journey Through Cervical Cancer and Exercise

Linda Ryan, Patient Advocate

In the face of a life-changing cancer diagnosis, patient advocate Linda Ryan discovered an unexpected ally in her battle against cervical cancer: exercise. Linda, who had never been an athlete or engaged in organized sports, found solace, strength, and a renewed sense of control through physical activity. 

Linda’s exercise journey began with walking, a simple yet powerful activity that became her primary form of exercise after having children. From walking, she transitioned to running, emphasizing that her pace may have been slower than others walked, but it was a personal achievement, nonetheless. At 43 years old, Linda accomplished a marathon, a feat that marked a turning point in her life. 

In a turn of events, Linda discovered an enlarged lymph node in her neck just four weeks after the marathon, signaling the first recurrence of early-stage cervical cancer diagnosed seven years prior. Undeterred, Linda sought guidance from her gynecologic oncologist who encouraged her to keep moving as much as possible. 

“Running not only gave my body strength, but it gave me incredible mental strength,” Linda emphasized. Facing a bone scan before treatment, she went on a short and slow run, believing that every step made her bones stronger and sent a clear message to the cancer that it wasn’t welcome. 

As her cancer journey progressed through six recurrences, involving surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, exercise became a lifeline for Linda. Even during moments of extreme fatigue, she recognized the mental benefits of movement. Linda recalled, “Exercise became nearly non-existent, but I knew I needed to move to feel better mentally.” 

As a patient advocate, Linda encourages other patients to embrace any form of movement, even if it’s just a short walk to the mailbox. “While it may not be significant in distance, it still can give a sense of accomplishment, power, and control – all things that we often lose as cancer patients,” she added. 

Despite the challenges, Linda resumed exercising after surgeries and during chemotherapy. Opting for Pilates, a gentler alternative, she found motivation and consistency in her routine. “Exercise has given me the edge over cancer that I’ve used to get through the difficult times,” Linda explained. 

Now attending Pilates three to four days a week, Linda has made exercise a crucial part of her post-treatment life, emphasizing its role in maintaining strength, mobility, and mental well-being. Her story stands as a testament to the transformative power of exercise, inspiring others to find strength in every step of their own cancer journeys.