Post-Cancer PILATES

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By John Appleby

At the time of writing this, I was four months after my cancer surgery and I was pleased to progress from chair based exercises to my preferred Mat Pilates, thanks to some adaptations, shown below.

I think Joseph Pilates would be proud of my wedge, as he was known for constantly developing different pieces of equipment to enable people to practise Pilates despite their limitations. My wedge allows me to achieve many basic movements. It also shows that Pilates is suitable for anyone, as adaptations can be made to meet individual requirements. So why the wedge?


John Appleby is a fully qualified Mat Pilates Instructor.

The surgery literally reorganised my insides and I no longer have a proper stomach – the sphincter muscle that stops the stomach acid reflux had been removed. Initially I could not lie down at all, hence the Pilates exercises performed sitting in a chair. Although the scars have now healed somewhat, I still cannot lie completely flat, so I made a wedge shape out of odd bits of wood. This ensures that the top of my stomach is positioned higher, ensuring any contents do not come up into my throat.

Exercises like the ‘100’ are no problem, however side lying exercises such as the upper leg lift require some stability, which I’m currently struggling to maintain. Due to my health problems following the cancer treatment, it will be some time before I can apply full effort to each exercise, so I will stick with the beginners’ and intermediate level for the time being.

My process of recovery also highlighted how all the sitting in my arm chair made my kyphosis worse, so exercises like the arrow (pictured) will also require more work. Additionally, I will continue addressing a neck problem from an old industrial accident, which got me into Pilates in the first place. The measure of success with this exercise will be my ability to lie down on the mat without the need for a head support.

In the months following my operation, I lost two centimetres in height as the curve at the top of my spine increased (and led to the need to use a head rest). To regain my posture, I will be concentrating on upper and lower spine exercises, and getting those two centimetres back.

Prior to starting an exercise programme, it is advisable to seek guidance from your doctor or physiotherapist, if you have any health issues that may be giving you concern. My classes are suitable for all levels and allow for exercises to be adapted to meet each participant’s individual health requirements. Please get in touch to discuss these in confidence.

JOHN APPLEBY’S MAT PILATES Classes at Rudford & Highleadon Village Hall, Pauntley Village Hall, Sellack Parish Hall, Larruperz Centre, John Kyrle High School and Aston Ingham Village Hall.
Tel: 01989 567 505 or 07760 341 543

Andrea Slivkova
Editor, FitNet Magazine
I am the founder, owner and editor of FitNet, a free glossy B5 sized magazine dedicated to health and active lifestyle in Herefordshire and Monmouth.

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Founder and editor of FitNet.
Previously gymnastics coach, massage therapist and personal trainer with 20 years of experience. Former gymnast and dancer.

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