Class #2891

Double Mastectomy Recovery

40 min - Class


See the power of keeping things simple and neat with this Mixed Equipment workout with Dana Santi. She shares the workouts she did after she was diagnosed with the BRCA 1 gene and had a hysterectomy in November 2015 and a double mastectomy in August 2016. She is now twelve weeks post surgery, and she shows a series that helped her find the arm/back connection that was lost after surgery. She reminds you to take things slow and to remember the simplicity of the movement can be so important for recovery.

Dana spends a few minutes talking about the procedures she had and the impacts they had on her body. The movement part of the video begins at about 4:45.
What You'll Need: Mat, Reformer w/Box, Mixed Equipment, Wall


Read Full Transcript

Hi, my name is Dana Santi. And in August of 2015 I found out that I carried a Baraka one gene, which basically ups my risk for getting ovarian cancer and breast cancer. So as a 40 year old woman, your chance of having ovarian cancer is about 5% and once you're diagnosed with this gene, it goes up to 50 to 55% as a 40 year old woman for breast cancer, my risk would technically be 12% but as a gene carrier it raises it up to about 87% so I chose um, in November of 2015 to get a hysterectomy and an oophorectomy and that basically means they take every woman part out of your body. And just recently in August of 2016, I had a double mastectomy. Today I am going to talk about the workouts that I've done after the double mastectomy. If I had to pick which one was worse, hands down the surgery was, was a lot worse.

They went in and they kind of detach your Pec muscle from your rib cage and then they end up sliding the implant underneath that which is, which is great, but at the same time, um, as a [inaudible] teacher, they just disconnected my arm back connection and that, that's if I could describe the feeling it's in seven hours, you, you are one person and seven hours later you can't even move your arms. You can't even find a muscle to get there. So as it's only been from today, about 12 weeks, I'm going to kind of give you a couple different workouts, um, to show you the progress and what you can do to kind of find that arm back connection again. So first thing we're gonna do is go to the wall. And I've, I wouldn't put myself on the equipment until I knew what I could do on the wall.

Um, what people have to remember is the f, even before I got to the wall, everyday tasks were incredibly hard. You can't, the further your arms go away from your body, okay, the further you're going to do damage at the beginning. So for three weeks, my doctors keep your elbows into your rib cage. There's nothing wrong with your legs. There's nothing. He goes elbows to ribs. And I said, okay, I get this right because this is where we should be when we do things like rowing. Right? So it's, it's safe. It's a safe place. So I did, I learned everything. My son called me the Tara dactyl and I s and, and it, it's safe though. It's a safe place.

So I'm not gonna put my arm up against the wall until I know, like I can pick up the bottle of shampoo that's a little bit higher up on the shower tray. Um, I'm not going to extend my arms too far out in front of me right on the wall unless I know I can kind of take a paper towel and wipe up, you know, the spill that my son spilled, let's say. So everyday tasks for six weeks were incredibly exhausting and it's, it's just slow and you have to take these, take a surgery like this and don't be in a hurry to get it back. It's, it teaches you the simplicity of what this movement is. It's, it's, I don't want to say this as a gift for me, this is a gift for me in many ways, but it has totally taught me how to become completely humbled with this work. And there is so much power in keeping things simple and neat and how that's going to advance you so much faster than throwing yourself right into it. So go into the wall, we're going to do things okay here. Okay.

And you're gonna take the arms and we're going to just do arm circles and there's no, there was no big huge movement six weeks ago. There was not, and it was just kind of trying to feel how and where I knew my range of motion could go. And if you knew how much this worked, your stomach, you, you would just, you would, you would lose it. It's so hard and it's just keeping the back connected. I'm trying to feel my shoulder blades up against the wall.

I'm trying to keep my abs where they should be and my pelvis where it should be. And now I know about where I can extend my arms. Okay. Then from there I'm going to step away and I'm going to take my hands in towards the wall here and now I'm going to a little obsessive about my feet. So I'm going to take it and I'm just going to try to do some calf raises.

And what I'm doing is I'm just trying to see if through six weeks of of doing no exercise and a lot of sitting where any imbalances are on my, on my toes. So if my big toe is coming up, I'm assuming that my inner thigh isn't connected somewhere. If my pinkies are coming up, I'm assuming that the outside of my leg last, you know, whatever it did during that sitting time. So then from here I know I'm safe with my elbows to my ribs. I'm going to just walk away, try to keep my elbows pointed down and see where I could go. And again, the whole elbows down, keeps it connected to the back instead of into your pecs and then walk forward.

And then maybe I got a little outrageous, raise my arms up a little bit. And now I'm still trying to keep the elbows down, pushing the wall away, making sure my feet are even, and then come back in. Okay. And now I'm going to take my forearms and keep them in line. And now again, the elbows are pointing down. So I'm going to take them.

And how far can I go up? Not really far. It's just there and then come back home and again and elbows down. Hold it and come back. And one more time and I'm going to do it again.

And I'm making sure that every finger on the wall kind of has equal pressure on it. And I hold, hold, hold. And the higher my arms go up, the more I can feel my stomach and then come back. Okay. So I kind of know where I'm at. I'm going to walk away. Okay. Making sure my feet are even, my elbows are gonna point down and I'm just going to bend down and then push the wall away. So now I'm working the tricep.

I'm not engaging my pecs and push it away and elbows down and push it away. And next I will show you what I started on the reformer. So now I'm going to take you through some reformer exercises that I did, maybe six weeks post surgery. I think I give myself a, a body check before I put myself back into the studio to see, uh, how the, how it was gonna affect my teaching, how it was going to feel on my body. So I didn't go in and do too much. So I'm going to start with footwork and I start on two springs because for six weeks I haven't really done anything and I take this opportunity to kind of make sure everything is in really good alignment.

So I'm not going to maybe do the 10 reps that we should be doing and I'm going to make sure that my feet are in a great position, that my spine is in a great position. And you would be surprised the soreness you would feel the next day in all the right places just by keeping everything where it should be. And then I'm going to go onto the arches. And as I push away, I'm going to make sure that my toes wrap around the bar as much as my heels do. So there's equal pressure. So there's 50% maybe in the top of the foot and 50% in the bottom of the foot.

And it does wake your feet up and now to the heels. And from here I'm just going to kind of make sure that my feet from my pinky toe to my big toe all the way across, both feet are in one straight line. Okay? Then I know my inner thighs and my outer thighs are working equally, and then I go into 10 and stretch. Okay?

And I'm gonna take it, push it away and I lower. And then I left. And again, not too much weight on the outside of my foot. I have to keep some on the inside and a few of these. And then I come in and then I'm going to go into the a hundred the trick is with the hundred I keep it on two springs. You could do it with straps. You could do it without straps. If I was working with a regular client, I'm not sure I would use the straps, but I have it on two springs.

I know I have to keep my elbows close to my ribs because that's a safe place. So I don't engage the wrong muscles. And from here I'm going to keep my legs down, lift my head, and then just pump and breathe [inaudible] and just working. This is the first time, right? I could be curling in, really engaging that spot that they detached. So it's kind of a, it's a good guide to see how weak or strong that you are.

And again, I'm making sure my feet are nice and even, and then I can't raise my arms up like I would, I have to bend them and bring them right back in. Okay. And then from there I would do my frogs and my circles and I'm going to focus on the precision of the movement. And again, taking advantage of being able to work my feet to the best of my ability because I was lying around for six weeks after surgery doing nothing. Okay. So still on two springs and I'm going to take my straps and I'm going to put it right in the middle of the foot. Okay. And from here, just press the legs out.

And now I'm trying to press with the top of my foot as much as I'm pushing through my heel. So I don't want to go too much here and I don't want to go too much here. Okay. Right in the middle. And keep it even and push it away and keep it even. I might just because I'm a little crazy, take my feet, separate them. Okay. And now not one leg can help the other leg. I can see the difference right in the right leg and the left leg.

So which hip is unstable is what I'm looking at. It's kind of fun. Now, leg circles, and again, they're small because the bigger I go, the lower I go, the more stomach I have to use. And six weeks after surgery you don't have a lot. And then reverse and then, and okay.

And now and now on to stomach massage. And again, I'm choosing to leave it on a lighter spring two springs because I want to make sure that I can work my feet and my upper body in the best position that I can get it throughout the exercise so that I get all the work that I need and not necessarily working the packs and working the arms and all that stuff that I know is weak, but it's not always best to work it until it's 100% ready. And I chose not to reach my arms back because I just didn't know if I was ready for that. So I know from doing my wall stuff that I can keep this position. One of the best pieces of advice I got was from my teacher Jay Grimes. And he said, okay, you don't have to feel like you have to do all the exercises all the time because you don't, why don't you walk past three former and do footwork and why don't you walk past it again another time and do the a hundred and that kind of resonated with me because we're a generation of teachers that feel like we have to go hard and, and um, you know, we have to do everything.

We have to do it all and we can't, we can't do it all. So short box here, I'm going to keep my elbows in hands here and I'm going to roll back and I can roll back all the way and I could at six weeks, so long as my arms were in towards my rib cage. Yeah. Okay. Then from here I'm going to take my hands. I'm going to try my best to put them behind my head. Okay. This was probably a more realistic place than opening up the elbows out to the sides because we know that if the further the elbows are away from our center, the more the pack is going to engage and lift the arms up and maybe they had to come down here, maybe they stayed here. Okay. Wherever we know the, where the movement was for the arm circle is where we're going to keep the arms when we stretch.

And again, we don't have to do all of them. Okay. And now the tree. So the tree I have made fun with have had, I've learned through both surgeries how to appreciate this exercise. So I'm going to do my best to bring the leg up. And what I'm not going to allow myself to do is hoist myself into place.

Okay. We have to start taking and starting from the inside. So we don't want the joints to move the muscles. We want to start to get the muscles to move the joint. Okay? So again, I use this to see how screwed up I got from sitting there for six weeks doing nothing.

And I just take it and I extend it and I can kind of feel that my weight is too, I don't have control of this leg, so it's too far off to the side. So I'm going to walk up and when I can, I'm going to try to shift and pull this oblique back and reach this leg forward. Okay. Then from there, go back and I'm going to walk down to where I can. So now hips aren't even, so I have to pull this back and I kind of have to reach through the back of that leg and then come back up. And you get so much more of a better correct stretch than you do by just accepting that you're going to hoist that joint right in to the spot.

And then I will do the other side. And again, each side's going to be different. Yeah. And all I'm doing is trying to make sure my hips are nice and even [inaudible]. Yeah. And one more [inaudible] and then off [inaudible] and now we will move on to the elephant. So the elephant I got into the position and I don't think I will forget this and I tried to walk back a little bit further.

Okay. And I said, well no, I guess the elephant isn't going happen today. I wanted to get into the position so badly cause I wanted that stretch. But again, knowing what the doctor told me, the further your arms are away from your center, okay, the harder it's going to be, the more you're going to engage. So taking this opportunity though to do what I did on the wall. So I'm trying to keep my elbow from not being here, okay.

But from being there, so it's reaching down towards my toes and I'm going to just hold it, push the bar away from me and I go out a little and I pull in. And again, huge part of the elephant is to make sure that the back of the legs get a stretch. You have to keep in mind for six weeks you haven't done anything. And so this right here is a huge stretch. Okay.

Keeping the elbows down, not engaging the pecs. Then Antonis stretches. So knee stretches. Yes, I could sit back a little bit further from here. Okay. But I'm going to now make sure I'm going to go slow, keep the elbows down and I'm going to push through the heels to wherever I can and I'm going to bring it back in and I'm going to push through the heels, elbows stay down and in, push through the heels and bring it in and push through the heels and bring it in. Then I could do a few with a straight back and push through the heels and bring it in. And I'm in a safe place here. I feel like if I go back any further than that, it's going to take again, the arm further away from the center.

So better to work. Precisely. Okay. And then instead of just trying to lift, cause I know that's gonna take too much upper body strength, I put one foot forward. Okay. And then I lift from there. Then I can do a knee stretch and I can feel how weak or how strong one leg is compared to the other. And I would have come down 100% and out pushing through the heel [inaudible] elbows down. Okay. And then I step off and I'm going to lie down for running.

So I am still on two springs. Okay. Trying to find my center and what it is and I'm going to lower one heel and lift one heel, keeping equal pressure on the feet. And then pelvic lift. We know there are so many different places the feet can be doing the pelvic lift, but I you have to think for six weeks you weren't in your normal routine.

And all I want to do is stretch like crazy and I can't, but this way I can. So hips kind of get the stretch that they want. Try to keep the inner thighs connected. [inaudible] so this is why I picked this position. Okay. And then last, the front stretch, but I'm going to do the front stretch. Kneeling because personally afraid I would fall off of the reformer and damage all that's been done. There's that. And again, here's another one of those stretches you've been laying.

So this has been nothing but tightening up for six weeks. So you're going to take him push through the back leg. And again, I'm still trying to keep my elbows down and now I'm just going to work the hips, try to get an even and enjoy this stretch. Holy Moly. And again and n and again. And then switch legs and pushed through the back leg. Get the heel and, and there was no reason to lift the arms and balance because it's not worth the risk and stretch. Okay. And now we will move on to some mat exercises.

Okay. So now we're gonna move on to some mat exercises. Again, realize you're trying to focus on precision more than the quickness and more than the reps. And I would not have done the reformer and the mat in one day. I would have probably tried and surfed the reformer for awhile. And now I'm going to try to see where I am with my network.

So I'm going to start with the a hundred like we do. And again, it's a lot better if I start with my arms down here because the further I bring them away from my body, the harder I know it's going to be. Again, I'm going to keep my legs down and just pumped and breathe. I take a look at my feet and make sure they're even, make sure my knees are up towards the ceiling, make sure I feel like both my hips are even and make sure I feel like my, I'm bending in my sternum as much as I can and then I'm using the backs of my arms, my triceps, and not so much my biceps and home. And then I'm going to come up. I am going to use the strap because again, I don't know where I'm at. I could put my feet up against the wall. Okay. And try to keep it that way and I'm going to take my arms and I know I'm safe here because I did arm circles up against the wall and I know I could reach my arms out in front of me. So I'm going to bring my chin into the chest, keeping it all even and stretch and get to where I can and then come back.

Okay. And again, [inaudible] and up and stretch and back. And maybe I do one more now moving onto leg circles. And I want so badly to be able to take my hands and push those poles away like I normally would, but I can't because my chest is, is too fragile. Um, muscle wise. So now maybe I can take the leg, I'm gonna try to open.

Okay. I'm going to try to use this opportunity to get my hips that I know are off from laying around. OK. Square. So maybe again, the legs not going to come up. Okay. It's going to come here cause that's where I can get my hips in their best place and now I cross, I'm going to control it because I don't want to, I know my hip isn't stable so I'm gonna work it and know that my right butt cheek is my left butt cheek is on fire because I'm keeping it in the spot that it needs to be. So you don't have to squeeze anything, you just have to keep your body where it needs to be. Okay.

And now the side's always different. And I'm going to do the same thing and check it out once in a while and then reverse and reach it down. Okay. So again, because I'm working on my hips in the stabilization and the work they have and they don't have in them. I'm an enrolled like a ball, but I'm on a roll, like a ball with one leg, cause I want to see where it is that I kind of veer off the highway. So I roll back, I'm going to make sure I'm pressing into that foot, make sure the hipbones are up towards the ceiling. And then I'm going to come up. I'm not going to pop all the way through. I'm going to keep it back here. And I roll back and I come up and I roll back and I come up changing the feet and rollback and up and rollback and upkeeping the weight in the foot there.

One more. Okay. And now the stomach series. So the stomach series, I'm safe here, right? I'm going to still work my hips, how they need to be and switch. And I'm not going to go fast. I'm trying to keep equal pressure right in the top of my foot and the heel. I'm not gonna point too hard. I'm not gonna flex too hard. Now the double leg, there isn't a chance in the world.

I would be able to reach the arms behind me. So I'm going to be happy and just kind of reach them out. And again, equal in the legs, knees to the ceiling. Okay. Now here again, I'm focusing on my hips. So I'm going to take this leg, I'm going to try to reach it up before I pull it back and I'm going to reach it up and pull it back, work the hips and then release. And now spine stretch forward, fingertips down again.

If I kind of push and pull the fingertips away from the Mat, um, I'm going to immediately connect to the back where I want to be, where I need to be and now stretch forward and come back up and again stretch and come back up and maybe one more [inaudible] and come back up. Now I'm going to row and this is kind of the first time I'd be using my arms as much as I wanted to row on the reformer. That wasn't the place for it to be. There are many other places that the rowing can be done, but this is kind of a safer place. I have no spring, no nothing to worry about. All I have to do is figure out again what my range of motion is and the first time it's really, really, really small. And even just bringing the arms back here, okay, isn't going to be anything extreme.

But now I know after I've been here I'm kind of a little bit more confident that I can reach my arms back when I do stomach massage and reaching back that way, trying to keep my leg straight. Okay. So now I'm here and it's not gonna lift high because I couldn't really reach my elbows, my forearms on the wall that high [inaudible] so I keep them to where I can [inaudible] and these I do do all the reps of because I want to work as safe as I can, but what I can through the arms [inaudible] and again, so again, best without any spring attached. No wait, no nothing. CanNot be in a hurry to build what's not ready to be built. [inaudible] and [inaudible] your body gets exactly what it needs. [inaudible] okay.

And then I try shaving and I haven't really had my hands behind my head that much. So elbows are in and I know again, the further out that I go, okay, the more that's going to engage. So I'm not going to start there and then pull them in. I'm going to start here and see what it feels like and up and just the motion alone. Again, keeping everything where it should be is enough. I can feel my upper back and the chest is opening plenty. Okay. Then I'm bringing them down.

So I have this reach and I can get my arms out. So maybe in a few more workouts I might be able to start some type of twist on the stomach massage or some type of twist on the box and release. Then I'm going to move onto NEC poll. So I'm going to use the strap again and just like I did for shaving, I'm going to put the hands behind, but I'm going to keep him close in. So I'm going to roll up there. Cool.

Lift and roll it down. And I may, may even try to get my elbows closer together because it's a very good stretch in the upper back and around, under kind of almost under your armpit. Okay. Then I can do sidekicks cause there's nothing wrong with the legs, right? But I have to start them up because again, if I go out, that's going to take the arm further and further away from the center of the body.

So I take it and I bring it forward and I bring it back. And now again, I'm just going to work on my hips because I know they're off from not working. [inaudible] and then I can switch sides [inaudible] keep it up and forward and back. [inaudible] and I'm trying to get, use my foot in the correct position so I have equal weight, equal pressure and home. Okay. Then teaser. So I'm not going to do anything fancy. I'm going to keep my legs together, reach the arms out in front of me, work my position and I'm going to just roll back and see where I can go and hold it there. So now decide to work my legs right where they need to be.

Work my arms and come back and hold it and come back and hold it and come back. And now I'm going to finish with the seal, but I don't think I'm going to clap. Okay. I'm going to just keep it nice and tight. See if I can hold the position and I'm going to just roll back and come up and again, roll back and up. And now I'm trying to keep my hipbones up towards the ceiling so I don't want to pop through because I want to keep myself as stable as I can. [inaudible] and that is the end.


4 people like this.
Thank you for sharing your personal story, post-op struggles and journey. Sometimes our loses give more than what is taken. We gain beautiful awareness and gratitude for our bodies and life. Thank you.
I'm wondering when extension work started to be introduced to your workouts?
2 people like this.
Thank you Carol. I am humbled by your words. I am 20 weeks out now and I would say between 16-18 weeks I felt like I could lay on a spine corrector. My arm circles were slow and not incredibly large. Today at 20 weeks I feel significantly stronger, but I still have to slowly control any kind of pull from over my head. Hope that makes sense:)
2 people like this.
Bless you.
I had a placental abruption in 2008 so had a hysterectomy. Pilates has changed my life following that.
Cry,laugh smile and continue your great work.
2 people like this.
Thank you as well!!
2 people like this.
It takes a truly special person to take what has to be a tough time for you and use it to help others. Thank you for sharing your experience and I send my best wishes to you for your continued return to health. All the best.
2 people like this.
This video is so perfectly timed for me as a dear friend recently had a double mastectomy. She is itching to get moving again and I am so happy I will be able to give her some safe ideas. Would love if you periodically added workouts that showed your progression as the weeks pass... Any chance of that? ??
Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. You are an inspiration!
1 person likes this.
Thank you Lori and thank you Natasha for your kind thoughts and words! Laughter is the best medicine and you need to surround yourself by people that can make you do that.

I don't think that the filming process can work like that, but if you have any questions along the way feel free to reach out.
Mary L
2 people like this.
My dear Dana, You have been though a lot and to help others deal with similar challenges just shows what a special person I always knew you were. Great class like always!
love & miss you!!
1 person likes this.
Hi, great workout. Thank you for sharing. Could i please ask which reformer do you use?
Mavra i use a Gratz reformer.
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