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Interview with Rikki Stern - Women in Sport Champion!

Posted: 17-Mar-2020 by Maccabi NSW

By Mandy Penkin

Recently, I caught up with Rikki Stern who is a cancer survivor and champion of the Australian Cancer Chicks support group. Rikki has an important message to share about looking after yourself through regular exercise and a positive relationship with food. She also is a great example of what a positive can do attitude can do for you as you go through a significant challenge as well as for those around you.

Here’s what Rikki had to say …

1.You have recently come through a battle with lymphoma. What was your physical and general wellbeing going into treatment and what impact do you think it had on how you dealt with the challenge?

Before I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, I was the fittest I had ever been. I had been working in my dream job and exercising regularly. What I came to learn was that not all chemotherapy effects everybody the same way. My mindset going into treatment was optimistic, and somewhat naive. On my first treatment, I decided the best thing to do right after my infusion was to go for a walk… a very long one. I walked and walked until I realised I couldn’t walk back and I then I had to shamefully ask for help. Not only was I drained from the experience, but I was sick as a dog for days. It was the cruel awakening that I was not going to find my physical and mental health as easy breezy as it had been up until then. 

Regardless, I learnt to listen to my body better and if some days, I found it hard just walking up-stairs then maybe my boyfriend or brother would have to carry me. Being sick is a challenge, my way of dealing with it was to try my best to remain positive and I can now say I’m healthy, even if I had sugar here and there.

2.What techniques and activities did you use to support you mentally and physically through your lymphoma treatment?

The best thing I found during my treatment when it came to mental health was to keep myself stimulated. Projects were a life-saver. I created Cancer Chicks Australia, not just because there was a need for support within the young female Australia cancer community, but also because it would keep me very busy. What I didn’t realise I would get from it, is lots of support mentally myself. Other survivors and fighters of cancer are able to empathise with your hardship in a way that others can only sympathise. They are a really powerful tool to help alleviate stress and fears. When it came with physical health, I had bone pain so I found swimming the most beneficial for me and, in many ways, it helped my mental health too.

3.How are you planning to recover, rebuild and be your best you going forward?

Today, I still find exercising hard, my lungs have been affected by the chemotherapy treatment. I am not yet able to join my old mixed-touch football team yet, but I have started working out and building up my cardio day by day.  I am finding that my physical health is getting better the more that I exercise, and it is something I am very proud of. I now know how important your health is and I will never take it for granted again - you shouldn’t either. 

 
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