Cancer survivors want to take advantage of every opportunity to become healthier after they complete their cancer treatment. A healthy diet and the addition of exercise are just two simple lifestyle changes survivors can choose to help their cancer recovery. In June 2004, we developed an innovative new exercise program, Return to Wellness, to meet the needs of cancer survivors who had completed their treatments and wanted to take an active role in their physical recovery. The success of this program has been overwhelming.
Survivors often do not know what to expect of their bodies after completing treatment. Side effects such as extreme fatigue, pain, weakness, loss of flexibility, insomnia, swelling, neuropathy and depression are frequent complaints. Many survivors believe they just have to “live with” these side effects permanently, and that they have to adjust to the changes in their bodies as a result of treatment and cancer recovery. Our research has shown that adding exercise to one’s lifestyle has a great benefit in reducing lingering symptoms. One of the goals of this program is to instill confidence in each survivor that it is safe to introduce exercise into their lifestyle. Many patients are afraid to push their bodies after treatment because they are afraid of harming themselves during cancer recovery.
Before they start the program, each patient meets with our physical therapist for a detailed, individualized assessment of their physical status. Range of motion, strength, balance, endurance and general physical activity level are all assessed and, in many cases, attendees are given personalized exercises to do on their own besides what they do in class. The program is designed to incorporate a wide variety of exercises, such as Yoga, Pilates, aerobics and weights, and during each class the exercises are shown with modifications to meet the special needs of each participant who is going through cancer recovery and, because the class is filled with people who have had cancer, it also works as a cancer support group. Even though time is not built in to the class to sit and talk about specific things, people chat before, during and after class. They get to know and care about each other, and help one another through tough times.
After the successful completion of the Return to Wellness class, we meet with all participants again for a post-assessment. We have been very excited to be able to clearly document the benefits that exercise has on cancer recovery and the quality of life of a cancer survivor. Some of the major benefits we observe from participants completing the program are weight loss, pain reduction, strength gains, improved flexibility, healthy sleep patterns, balance with less complaints of neuropathy, ability to manage stress, and improvement in their overall confidence and moods.
You do not have to be treated at DeKalb Medical to participate in Return to Wellness. This is a free service we offer to our community to help you complete cancer recovery and find that life after cancer can be better than you dreamed possible. If you are interested in signing up for our program, you will need a signed consent form from one of your physicians. This one-hour class meets Wednesdays at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. in eight-week sessions. Sign up via e-mail or call 404.501.5701.