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Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Bone Density Revelation
by Pamela G. Milling 

Maintaining and increasing bone density with certain types of Water Fitness exercises has been a subject of interest questioned in our field.  There seems to be a lack of good quality research which measures the many factors involved concerning bone density and Water Fitness exercise.   This deficiency opens the way to incorrect ideas by searching non-weight-bearing environments such as swimming, scuba, and even astronaut research.  

I’ve been teaching different types of Water Fitness since mid-1980.  Often my experienced students who exclusively do Water Fitness exercises have shared their physician’s comments. These comments all bare a positive common factor: their doctors were pleased with the improvement when the results of their two most recent bone density tests were compared.  I had a similar experience and would like to share my personal testimony.

In July 2006 my doctor called for a bone density test since I had never had one.  The results of the first test were in the normal range, and my doctor did not call for a second test until almost five years later when it was actually necessary.    

Why was this second bone density test a necessity? Strangely the account begins with a mammogram ordered to check a specific area.  Every six months a single mammogram was required since a bead had been placed in a benign area in the right breast in 2009.    Prior to the 2010 mammogram exam, the technician and I were having interesting discussions on Ancient Greek translations.  Ancient Greek translations are difficult to interpret; even professionals have varying opinions.    The discussion can be viewed  Quicklinks, Faculty Homepages, Milling, Pamela, Documents. 

We were so immersed in the conversation that I did not notice the technician was taking a mammogram on my left side instead of my right side.  Nor did she notice the error until the test was completed.  With apologies she then took a right side mammogram.  Ten minutes later I was told I needed to have an ultra sound since they needed to check an area of concern discovered in the left side.  The left side was not intended to be examined that day. “WOW!”  The ultra sound results determined further investigation was needed.  Within four hours on a Friday (during the December holiday season!) I had two mammograms, visited two doctors, had two ultra sounds, one needle biopsy, and the tissue was sent to the lab.  This all occurred before noon on the day I had my mammogram. This type of four-hour medical process does not happen often.  On Monday I received a telephone call from the cancer surgeon saying, it’s cancer; you need to come into my office this week.

Was this an accidental discovery?    Did the mammogram technician really make a mistake?  In today’s healthcare system is it normal for the following to occur within a four-hour period?

1.     Discovery.

2.     Confirmation.

3.     Extraction of tissue.

4.     Sample sent to the lab. 

Absolutely “no!” to all three questions!  Plus within 17 days of detecting cancer, I had extensive cancer surgery consisting of a double mastectomy and removal of six lymph nodes.  After the surgery I needed to have a bone density test before I could begin an estrogen blocking medication (since my cancer was estrogen related). 

This second bone density test was scheduled in January 2011; the test results become more interesting when the following are examined:

1.  It had been almost five years since my first bone density test.

2.  I was within weeks of my 65th birthday.  

3. I do not perform sessions of land exercise, machines, or weight lifting.  For many years, the only exercise programs I have been using are vertical in the pool.  I do not swim even though I remember being an excellent swimmer in the 1950’s.   My past and current exercise programs consist of:

a. Deep Water Running:  correct body alignment with water line to the chin.

b. Water Walking:  water line above the waist.

c. Water Aerobics:  exercise levels 1, 2, and 3 with water line to the mid-chest area.

d. Hydro-riding:  water line above the waist.

Even though my students use resistance and buoyancy equipment, I personally do not use either one for my workouts.  I have always performed each move in good alignment with upbeat music, exerted to the point of needed recovery, and then repeated the cycle.

Everyone was pleased with the results of my second test.   My bone density revealed significant improvement.  My OB/GYN stated, “Your numbers are the ones hoped for by all.” (Dr. Cecil D. Odom).  It is not difficult to understand how certain types of Water Fitness exercises can be this beneficial.   I do not slice through the water; I do not move slowly in the water; nor do I dive below the surface.   My bones receive benefits from the mechanical act of running with less impact while my head is above water.   Normal range bone density is especially important during episodes of chronic disease. 

These personal experiences are an example of how cancer patients are confronted with daunting and complex choices and possibly may help others in making decisions.  After a large amount of research and consideration about a multitude of issues, I made two arduous decisions. 

1.     I investigated reconstruction surgery thoroughly.  I declined since back and/or abdominal muscles are used in the recreation of breasts.

2.     After surgery, results of my oncotype dx breast test showed a high number in the gray area; yet, my tested lymph nodes were not cancerous.  Knowing chemotherapy by IV affects the immune system and kills more than cancer cells, I declined the treatment. 

These two decisions, in addition to having a good level of physical fitness, enabled me to return to teaching on deck only 28 days after surgery.   Performing Water Fitness exercises prior to surgery and continuing proper nutrition throughout helped me to cope better with the difficult post surgical phase.  Once my tissues were healed, I could return to Water Fitness exercises in an effort to regain (as much as possible) my pre-surgery exceptional quality of life.   Post surgical Water Fitness is an advantageous method of recovery that would work for nearly everyone.  

Another personal experience that may help others is understanding the damage that can occur  when placing estrogen blocking (chemotherapy medication) into the body.    Months after taking two different types of estrogen blocking medication, my side effects continued to increase drastically.    As the side effect increased, my tissue damage became a threat to my daily activities such as the whites of my eyes became more severely scarred and burned constantly.  I lost the strength in my fingers and grip in my right hand.   Fearful of more seeded damage than had already occurred and knowing the quality of life I wished to maintain during the length of time cancer was at bay, I gathered courage to stop the prescribed cancer medication.   There are many side effects I did not mention; unfortunately, all these horrible side effects that occurred will remain with me for the rest of my life.  Then, I discovered things I did not know about estrogen.  The body stores estrogen in the fat cells; and it continues to make a small amount of estrogen daily even after a complete hysterectomy.  Unfortunately, that small amount of estrogen is not enough to correct my permanent tissue damage as a result of chemotherapy medications.  However, this small amount of estrogen may be enough to feed cancer.  Estrogen has a very good purpose, but current studies show it can also be deadly – more research needed on estrogen being deadly please!  During these difficult times, I am thankful for many things such as the availability of Water Fitness exercises and proper nutrition. 

The well known cliché, exercise and proper nutrition go hand in hand, holds true. Class #315 at the AEA 2011 Conference referenced the importance of nutritional vitamin D and bone strength.  “Vitamin D deficiency is highly associated to bone strength and falls; data suggest that most older women in the US are low in vitamin D….” (Dr. Len Kravitz).  Proper nutrition is vital especially when a person realizes they are dealing with chronic disease.   Robert G. Wright’s book, “Killing Cancer Not People” is an excellent read.   He discusses nutrition and the pH scale.  Acidic bodies are prone to be unhealthy.  However, mildly alkaline bodies (7.3 to 7.4 pH) are prone to be healthier. Water Fitness professionals will easily understand this book as they relate to balancing pool water.  Alkaline buffers!  Eating fruits and vegetables, taking juice plus vegetable and juice powders are advised by oncologist, and drinking ionized alkaline water recommended by cardiologist are good choices to make.    For more information on vegetable/fruit powders and ionized alkaline water, please e-mail  Today even in spite of everything available to try to keep cancer dormant, a cure for cancer that prevents major human suffering needs to be released to the world. 

In conclusion, estrogen blocking medications can be associated with affecting bone density. My personal May 2011 Aquatic Exercise Association conference notes indicate a prolonged estrogen deficiency can lead to unhealthy joints and irreversible damage.    I honestly do not know the effect these cancer medications have had on my bone density.  I will discover that particular information when another bone density test is ordered in 2013.  However, today I can reveal the results of my personal bone density tests prior to taking estrogen blocking medications, and I can simply say my exercises in Water Fitness are working for me in a positive way.   They can for you also.  Water running is an important part of life!


CMMC. March 2006. Central Mississippi Medical Center “Radiological Interpretation”.

MBMC. January 2011.  Mississippi Baptist Medical Center “Ancillary Results”. Quicklinks, Faculty Homepages, Milling, Pamela, Documents. Athletics, Water Fitness.    

Dr. Cecil D. Odom MD.  1020 River Oaks Drive, Flowood, MS  39232.

June M Lindle Chewning, MA. “Bone Density Issues in Aquatic Exercise”.

Dr. Len Kravitz Ph.D. “Women’s Health Report #315” AEA 2011 Conference, Orlando, FL.

Robert G. Wright.  2010.  “Killing Cancer Not People” .

Pamela G. Milling, Aquatic Fitness Professional (AEA), is Aquatic Director Mississippi College Alumni Hall Pool, Clinton, MS.  She produced a cross training Water Fitness DVD series “When Water Moves Miracles Happen” to use with her instruction for her PE classes.  She presents “The Water Fitness Package” to Health Education Workshops and Psychology classes.   She directs Water Fitness Plyometrics for voluntary NCAA III MC Athletes.  Her study with MC Athletes, “Jumping Height Increased through Specific Aquatic Exercises”, was posted under Editor’s View in the Aquatic Fitness Research Journal Spring 2004.     Syllabi listed  Athletics, Water Fitness.

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