Cancer survivorship: Achieving optimal health

After being treated for breast cancer in 2014, Beth Lehman was ready for a fresh start in 2015. She just wasn't sure how to pull it off.

That is not unusual for cancer survivors, said Sue Masemer, exercise physiologist and manager of the LiveWell® Fitness Center of the Penny George Institute. "People go through this intense experience of diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and recovery, and then it's time to get on with the rest of their lives."

That's where the LiveWell Fitness Center's cancer survivor services can help.

Cancer survivor: new health goals

Lehman was already familiar with many Penny George Institute resources. She used integrative therapies to help her cope with the emotional and physical effects of diagnosis and treatment.

But as a cancer survivor, she had some new goals in mind. She wanted to lose weight to reduce the risk of recurrence. She had also just finished physical therapy for a pinched nerve, which had been aggravated in the course of her treatment. She didn't want to do anything that would cause a setback.

Lehman enrolled in the LifeWell Fitness Center's Take Action Weight Management Program. It offers individualized assessment, guidance and support on nutrition, fitness, exercise and lifestyle change. Although Lehman was highly motivated to lose weight, "given my past struggles with weight, I was not convinced it would work," she said.

This time it was different. Within 12 weeks, Lehman had met her goal in reducing her body fat percentage. "It requires a significant commitment and discipline, but Take Action has helped me achieve steady, measurable progress, which is very motivating," Lehman said.

The Take Action nutritionist helped Lehman develop a flexible eating plan that was adapted for her own preferences and lifestyle. And Lehman appreciated working with an exercise physiologist who understood her complex medical history. "I didn’t feel that I was ready to work with a personal trainer at a fitness club. It gave me great confidence to work with someone with the academic and medical background to help bridge the medical issues," Lehman said.

Gaining confidence

The LiveWell Fitness Center has a range of services that help cancer survivors achieve optimal health. Weight gain, deconditioning, fatigue and changes in metabolism are common concerns among survivors, along with specific physical or orthopedic limitations related to surgery or other treatments. "Another big piece is helping survivors gain confidence and develop a strategy," said Masemer.

Health and wellness coaches help survivors develop their own vision for optimal health, and exercise physiologists and nutritionists develop customized programs that bridge the gap between cancer treatment and living as a cancer survivor.

"Our team has a level of expertise and the credentials that set us apart from other fitness centers," said Masemer. We help bring together all the pieces that someone needs to move from cancer treatment and recovery to optimal health and wellness.