Pilot Program Helps Cancer Survivors Regain Fitness

By Gabriella Cuzzola

WOODBRIDGE—Starting on July 14, the Woodbridge YMCA will collaborate with the Lance Armstrong foundation to aid cancer survivors in their journey back to fitness.

The Woodbridge YMCA is one of only 10 in the nation piloting this program at this time. “We’re introducing new exercises to help them help themselves in the strength room” says Wellness Director Kim Cole, “Our goal is to help them regain their confidence.” They aim to do this by teaching the survivors safe and healthy ways to exercise.

Cole, along with YMCA staff members Deepti Kamboj and Patti Joyce, went through extensive training in order to learn how to best serve these cancer survivors. They studied the work of Dr. Katie Schmitz, a researcher at The University of Pennsylvania, who specializes in breast cancer recovery.

The YMCA recently welcomed the 12 breast cancer survivors who will be piloting the program with a meet and greet gathering in the upper lobby of the Community Center. Knot Just Bagels donated food and Floral Expressions donated yellow roses, which lined the tables. The survivors were able to meet one on one with trainers to discuss their goals for the program.

YMCA member Elyse Medvetz said she was ready to begin exercising and rebuilding the strength and muscles she had lost after her battle with breast cancer, but she didn’t know where to start. “I came to the YMCA and I just didn’t know how to start exercising again. I would only use the treadmill because I was so afraid to hurt myself,” Medvetz recalls, “And that’s why this is so exciting, because now survivors have a place to go.”

Research finds that exercise is extremely important in battling and recovering from cancer. Karen Sherman, a representative from the American Cancer Society, gave out hope stars at the meeting and spoke to the group. “We have found that women who exercised did better than those who didn’t,” Sherman said. “Many women, in every community, can benefit from a program like this.”

Representatives from Vito Mazza Spa in Woodbridge showed their support by giving free hand massages and raffling off a gift certificate. Spa director Christie Citsay gave a talk about cancer massage therapy.

“Massage is a necessity. It will decrease your stress levels and improve your immune system. If you’re battling cancer, it is beneficial to have a therapeutic touch, not just a medicinal one.” All massage therapists at Vito Mazza have gone through training to learn how to work with those battling cancer.

Other YMCA staff members, such as Nancy Drum and Sherril Rudy, hope to use the pilot program as a way to learn how to serve these cancer survivors outside of the training room.

In the fall, the program will be open to all cancer survivors. Contact Kim Cole 732-596-4182 for more information.

Elyse Medvetz talks with members of her support group

Vito Mazza massage therapist gives a free hand massage to one of the pilot program members

YMCA staff and breast cancer survivors

from left YMCA Wellness Director Kim Cole and staff members Patti Joyce, Deepti Kamboj

(Photo Credit: Gabriella Cuzzola)

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