Classes for Cancer Survivors and Those Going Through Treatment

Are you a cancer survivor or know a survivor who deserves to get back into their daily routine but is struggling to figure out how? Sponsored by OSF cancer support services, OSF at the RiverPlex offers a Get Active class for any and all cancer survivors. This class is free for anyone of all ages, member or nonmember. Meeting on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9-11am, this class allows for individualized group training to build up strength and endurance.

A couple years ago, OSF cancer support services approached us (OSF at RiverPlex) because they wanted to have something like a walking program here in the winter time for anyone that was a survivor or just finishing treatment, or even going through treatment currently. The idea was that everyone could come together as kind of a support group but to work on improving endurance and strength together. This class was created in hopes that survivors could show up and walk to help improve and symptoms. In a setting where OSF staff can be there to address any issues that they were experiencing that day was ideal. “What we found was that as it started, we thought it would be us helping them get over the hump of that first step towards learning how to build endurance and strength back up and to troubleshoot the exercises that were bothering them.” – Lisa Hartwig, Lead Exercise Physiologist, Weight Management & Medical Exercise Program for OSF Healthcare St. Francis Medical Center. Lisa mentioned that most cancer survivors have chronic pain and fatigue. “So we wanted to start working through those things with them. We wanted them (the participants) to be integrated into a group and not separated from other people.” Having these survivors in a group setting allowed for them to realize that they can start to take part in almost everything in hopes of returning to pre-cancer activities. “It takes a few weeks, but they are already seeing an improvement in strength. We then just continue to chip away at it. We work on functional movements. They come upstairs for the first part of class time and walk or do the bike. Just something to get them moving and working on endurance. So what they’ll do is sign in at the table and go walk a little and then come back and sit. Then go walk a little more and then go walk a couple more laps. They always come back to their groups. A couple of them have talked about how a lot of them have the same elephant in the room. It just seems to be really empowering for them (the participants) but at the same time they are not going away from the group. They are all staying in the group so that’s helpful for those who don’t believe they can do those things that others are doing.”

How can someone sign up for Get Active?

There are flyers in doctor’s offices; anybody can be a part of the class. Any member or nonmember can come. “Usually if I get a phone call and someone is interested… I’ll usually ask for a doctors referral…but I’ll say go ahead and just come and ask for me when you get here. I’ll have them do some paper work, sign waivers, and then walk the track for a little while unless I see red flags. This way they kind of see that yes,  it’s a scary prospect, but then they see what we are doing and start to believe they can try.” The majority of how participants find out is through flyers, but also through navigators at the hospitals. There are navigators for all the different kinds of cancers that promote our Get Active class. “Some of the doctors/oncologists/surgeons are hearing good reports so they are starting to write referrals and talking to more people about it and say why don’t you go to the RiverPlex and try this out?”

You may be wondering how much does being a part of this class cost?

It’s FREE! “When we first started it we talked to Sue (Sue Wheeler, the RiverPlex building supervisor) and we were just going to pay rent for the space and she said no that won’t be necessary, just use the space. The cost is our salaries during class time. That gets charged to cancer services. Participants don’t have to be members. We give them a pass to come in. They can do that Wednesday/Friday at 9-11am. Or they can also come in Monday, Wednesday, Friday 1-2pm for the mind body connection class.”  There’s no time limit on this class. You could participate for years, or for a few months. However long you feel the need.

I asked Lisa, for someone who wants to come, but is afraid to step foot in the class…what would you tell them?

“Just that it is very individualized. We are doing our exercise in a group but it is all very individualized. In a group setting, but everyone is working at their own pace and dealing with their own issues. Whatever those issues are on any given day, we are there to work with them.” For most, it can be scary to get back into activities you were once able to do. Give this Get Active class a try if you feel you need some assistance. We are all here to help you reach your goals at the end of the day.

author: Angela Bland