How cancer rehab is helping survivors return to an active lifestyle

WINNIPEG — Cancer treatment has come a long way, with more people surviving. But as many are left with side-effects from treatment, more Manitobans are turning to ‘Cancer Rehab’ for help.

Nic Fischer is working on balancing her life after cancer. In 2018, she was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer. Her treatment involved chemo, a full hysterectomy, and more chemo after that. She says it physically drained her.

“I couldn’t even get up the stairs to my house,” Fischer said. “It was that bad.”

To regain her strength with the goal of returning to work full-time, Fischer was recommended to Denise Dreikluft, a physiotherapist who focuses on cancer rehab.

It’s an area Dreikluft says is backed by more and more research showing the benefits of exercise before, during and after cancer.

“Back in the day when I was in school, the oncology segment was mostly focused on palliative care,” she said.

Because each person’s diagnosis is different and their reactions to treatment aren’t the same, each person’s program is just as unique.

Michaele Rivet is a breast cancer survivor. She noticed after her reconstruction surgery that her back was always stiff and sore.

“What I didn’t realize is, with the surgery on my right side, is how it affected my shoulder and my arm with weakness,” Rivet said.

With Dreikluft’s help, Rivet is recognizing and improving on treatment side-effects she never knew they had.

“Cancer kind of kicks you in the behind and I don’t think you know how much it affects you until you start to try to get back to normal,” Rivet said.

Fischer says an added benefit is knowing her confidence and independence are coming back too. And Dreikluft has another finish line in mind for Fischer and all the people she sees.

“When they are done with me, it’s my goal to graduate them to start going to community gyms and programs to keep up that active lifestyle.”

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