Recovery Fitness® is One of the Few Exercise Programs in the State Just for Female Cancer Patients
Thursday, January 19, 2012 • 12:44pm
When Newark resident Violet Williams was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, all of her immediate family who might provide support lived out of state, leaving her to face the process alone. Throughout her treatment and recovery at The Frederick B. Cohen Cancer Center for Blood Disorders at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBIMC), Mrs. Williams took advantage of all the support programs, including a cancer survivor’s support group and Recovery Fitness®, a free, all female exercise class for cancer patients.
“Those groups really carried me through the whole thing,” she says. “Both the support group and the exercise class helped me mentally and physically to recover and get my strength back.”
Recovery Fitness, a fun and supportive exercise class offered by Carol Michaels at NBIMC on Mondays and Wednesdays at the new Beth Fitness Center, helps female cancer patients to have fun, get strong and reduce stress in a welcoming, warm environment. It is one of only a few such programs in the state to specifically offer exercise classes tailored to the needs of female cancer patients. Recovery Fitness is made possible by grants from The Jewish Women’s Foundation of New Jersey and Eisai Co., Ltd., which were made through the Newark Beth Israel/Children’s Hospital of New Jersey Foundation.
“I like everything about it,” says Mrs. Williams. “Just being there and mingling with the other cancer patients is helpful, especially for the newly diagnosed women who can get a bit of hope from the ones who have been through it already.”
Mrs. Williams, who also suffers from Lymphedema, a condition of fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system, says that she has seen improvement in her arms with much better range of motion and less joint pain.
Instructor Michaels, a Certified Cancer Exercise Specialist, meets with each participant individually to learn about problem areas and to find ways to benefit each person. Goals of the class include increasing muscle mass, decreasing body fat, increasing flexibility, strength, posture and balance, strengthening the heart and bones, reducing stress and increasing self-confidence.
Many cancer patients experience secondary complications as a result of their cancer, such as frozen shoulder after a mastectomy and stiffness and discomfort as a result of lymph node dissection. Recovery Fitness addresses all of these issues.
“Some female cancer patients experience the added aggravation of chronic conditions after treatment, and through this exercise program they can increase their range of motion and feel stronger again,” says Alice Cohen, M.D., F.A.C.P., Director of the Frederick B. Cohen Comprehensive Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. “Exercise improves function and also helps with overall stress reduction.”
Studies have shown that exercise can aid in the recovery process during cancer treatment as well as to possibly decrease the likelihood of cancer recurrence, reports Dr. Cohen.
Most importantly, Recovery Fitness offers a warm environment for patients who are at all different levels of recovery.
“This isn’t boot camp,” says Mrs. Michaels. “The exercises are safe and gentle and we have an appreciation for every fitness level. Someone might be able to work out with weights while another person sits in a chair to lift hers. It is very individualized.”
Ms. Michaels says that the group becomes, in effect, a support group with each person learning from one other and offering words of encouragement.
“Many people do not feel comfortable returning to their gyms right after surgery or treatment,” she says. “Gym classes can be large and impersonal. At our class, the participants can even remove wigs and head wraps without feeling self-conscious. Gaining confidence through support is part of the whole recovery process.”
After a year of participation, Mrs. Williams plans to continue with the program.
“I even lost a few pounds,” she says happily. “I’m going to keep going.”
For more information about Recovery Fitness, please call 973-926-7155.