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Exercise for Cancer Patients

“You can lift that much weight?”

That’s the question Debra Carter got at Health Directions, Lexington Medical Center’s fitness and wellness gym, recently.

Her 30-pound presses on a strength training machine would be impressive to anyone. But what was even more impressive – and that no one knew – was that Carter was a cancer patient, still undergoing treatment, too.

The Cayce woman, age 52, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2011. She underwent a lumpectomy and dozens of radiation treatments. During the end of radiation, she started going to Health Directions for Cancer Exercise Training, a program run with the help of the Lexington Medical Center Foundation.

Cancer Survivors 0144That’s where she met Thad Werts, who, with a Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET) certification from the American College of Sports Medicine, is an expert in helping people with cancer exercise correctly. A CET understands cancer patients’ diagnosis, surgeries, treatments, symptoms and side effects.

“With cancer, you can be active,” he said. “I look at what we can do to make everyone’s cancer experience better.”

In March, Werts put Carter on an 8-session, twice-per-week program to increase her strength and endurance, including a mix of cardio and weights.

With his training, he understands how cancer impacts exercise, and what it’s important for patients to do – and not to do. For example, chemotherapy can lower cardiovascular endurance. And, that it’s important to be careful with range of motion for breast cancer patients who’ve had surgery, especially with chest exercises.

“I can help them build back up their muscle so that they have more strength,” he said.

Carter liked it.

“It makes you feel so much better because you have more energy,” she said.

Since beginning the program two years ago, Werts has built up the program to train about ten patients each month, including breast, prostate and colon cancer patients.

The importance of such exercise is well-documented among cancer clinicians, who stress the importance of incorporating wellness activity into regimens for people who are moving into the survivor phase of life.

This exercise has emotional benefits, too.

“There’s a depression factor that I didn’t understand until I went through the training,” Werts said. “Women who have gone through hormone therapy have a tendency to gain more weight, so they feel more self-conscious.”

He says exercise can help them feel happier.

“I love the clinical aspect,” he said. “I knew I never wanted to be a doctor, but that I wanted to help as many people as possible.”

It’s made a difference for Carter. Werts has inspired her to exercise for the long-term.

“He has given me a second chance,” she said.

The Lexington Medical Center Foundation provides important programs and services that help people in our community, including cancer patients. Please consider giving to the Lexington Medical Center Foundation during the Central Carolina Community Foundation’s “Midlands Gives” challenge on May 5. Learn more at MidlandsGives.org.

Colon Cancer Challenge 2015

Thank you to the more than 150 people who took part in Lexington Medical Center’s 6th annual Colon Cancer Challenge bike ride on Saturday, April 18. The ride, which ranges in length from 5 to 65 miles, raises money for the hospital Foundation’s Cancer Care Fund, which provides programs and services for cancer patients in need.

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Healing Icons: An Art Class for Cancer Patients

Lisa Phillips is a breast cancer survivor. She also works with cancer patients at Lexington Oncology.

Today, she’s taking a break from work to participate in an art class for cancer patients called Healing Icons. She’s making the border of a frame for artwork representing the healing process of her cancer journey.

“It’s so calming,” Phillips said. “And it helps bring into focus feelings about your cancer diagnosis that you were not even aware you had.”

amberg_120802_326Columbia artist Heidi Darr-Hope leads the class. It’s open to any cancer patient at the hospital for free and paid for through the Lexington Medical Center Foundation.

Each week, students meet on the hospital campus.

During a series of six weekly classes, students create art including black and white pencil drawings, masks and paintings. They are in all stages of treatment from the beginning of chemotherapy to grappling with a recurrence of cancer.

“It’s an amazing experience,” Darr-Hope said. “It seems simplistic, but there’s rich information under it,”

Darr-Hope says the artwork helps patients express the range of emotions they often feel about a cancer diagnosis and how it will impact them and their family.

“Once people can freely express the anger and anxiety, they lay them on the shoulders of their artwork and become lighter,” Darr-Hope said.

Darr-Hope calls it a different kind of support group.

“I’m encouraging anyone who feels lost in their cancer diagnosis to consider it because it’s a wonderful group,” she said.

For more information, visit www.lexmed.com/cancer-care or call the Lexington Medical Center Volunteer Services office at 803-791-2573.

The Lexington Medical Center Foundation provides important programs and services that help people in our community, including cancer patients. Please consider giving to the Lexington Medical Center Foundation during the Central Carolina Community Foundation’s “Midlands Gives” challenge on May 5. Learn more at MidlandsGives.org.