One of the biggest struggles for patients after completing cancer treatment is finding their own new normal. After months or years of treatments, picking up activities where they were left off can feel overwhelming. For patients who are used to being active, resuming a fitness routine can be especially complicated following treatment.
Nichole Taylor of Monmouth was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in July of 2013. As a yoga instructor and personal trainer, Taylor was used to being physically fit and staying active in her personal life. But 16 weeks of chemotherapy left her anemic and weakened.
“Before treatment I ran and taught a barbell class and yoga. During treatment even taking a shower would leave me out of breath,” said Taylor. “It was so hard because I’m used to having my body there for me.”
Then Taylor learned about SurvivorFit — a fitness program for created specifically for cancer survivors.
SurvivorFit offers free, individualized fitness instruction and a three-month membership to SamFit, the fitness facilities operated by Samaritan Health Services, during or after cancer treatment. SamFit has locations in Albany, Corvallis and Lebanon.
“Depending on the type of cancer, patients may fear injury if they resume a previous exercise routine of resistance training,” said Brad Betz, manager of the Samaritan Regional Cancer Center. “We want our patients to safely return to their healthy lifestyle, so we help them find a way.”
After completing chemotherapy and beginning radiation at Samaritan Regional Cancer Center, Taylor was accepted into the SurvivorFit program and began going to SamFit regularly.
“I had to be in Corvallis for radiation, so it gave me something to look forward to before or after treatment,” said Taylor. “Being in the gym returned a sense of normalcy to my life. Mentally it was my lollipop.”
During the winter months, Taylor appreciated having a controlled environment to regain her strength.
“As a fitness professional, I actually have everything I need at home but it’s much more motivating to go somewhere and work out.”
Taylor also felt comfortable with her post-chemo physical appearance at SamFit. “I didn’t worry about being bald and having no eyebrows or eyelashes at SamFit,” she said. “I could take off my hat and not feel self-conscious. At another club I might have worried about it, but since SamFit is part of the hospital-based health care system, I felt comfortable being myself.”
Funding for the SurvivorFit program comes from the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation. Local cancer survivor Linda Blair founded an annual run/walk event called Give Us 5 that raises money specifically for this foundation effort.
“This is an amazing program for people and I’m glad it’s there,” Taylor said. “SurvivorFit was a huge part of my recovery.”
For more information on SamFit, visit AreYouSamFit.com. For information about local support for patients with cancer, visit samhealth.org/Cancer.