After months, even years, of battling their disease, many cancer survivors face another battle – a battle to get their health back. Most aren’t ready to pump iron at the local gym or start a P90X regimen. They simply need a place to start and a pathway back to a healthier state. Local YMCAs are shining a light on that path and teaming with health care providers to make it so.
A recent story in the Rochester Post-Bulletin shows the difference a pilot program called Livestrong is making for cancer survivors like Judy Jones of Rochester and Kay Jacobson, a retired Mayo employee. As the paper notes, the Rochester Area Family YMCA is partnering with Mayo Clinic, Olmsted Medical Center and a national YMCA program called “Partners in Recovery.” Fitness coordinator Pennie Eisenbeis says she and other Y staffers received extensive training to help survivors exercise despite limitations and to prepare them for potential treatment-related problems.
Judy Jones reports that she’s gone from barely making it through 10 minutes on a stationary bike to going 28 minutes with relative ease, stopping only (we’re guessing) to field questions from P-B reporter Jeff Hansel. Kay Jacobson says her doctor suggested she participate in the program. “My doctor had wanted me to exercise and lose weight.” The Livestrong program, she notes, “was a good way to get it jump-started.”
A similar program, called Survive and Thrive, is being piloted at the Chippewa Valley Family Y in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. The program is led by Carrie Malicki, a breast cancer survivor herself. Participant and cancer survivor Betty Jacobson tells the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram that “knowing Carrie has been there made me feel like we were kind of connected.” The programs incorporate discussions about cancer, treatments and overall health, in addition to the workouts. They focus on “the whole person,” according to the P-B, and are designed to “build muscle mass and strength, increase flexibility and endurance, and improve functional ability.”
Sarah Lewis, a cancer guide at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, tells the Leader-Telegram that, “there is a lot of research showing the benefits of exercising during and after treatment for cancer.” Betty Jacobson, diagnosed with lung cancer seven years ago, is still undergoing treatments and pulling a portable oxygen tank. During her 10 weeks in the program, the 77-year-old went from only being able to do 10 minutes on a recumbent bike to pedaling for more than 20 minutes, logging laps on the indoor track, and lifting weights, according to the Leader Telegram.