[email protected] is a community-based chronic illness rehabilitation service whose Move-On programme is geared towards individuals that have completed their cancer treatment.
The classes, held at WIT Arena by qualified fitness instructor Anna Hawrylak, are held in a group environment but the exercises are adapted to the participants’ level, initially working on their basic movements, before building their basic strength and cardiovascular fitness.
Not only does it help eradicate cancer-related fatigue, it improves people’s physical fitness, sleep, quality of life, aerobic fitness, strength and mobility, with one participant Sheila Norris of Dungarvan saying affirmatively that it has given her her life back.
The programme grew from a research study conducted by Patricia Sheehan from Dungarvan, a recipient of the WIT President’s PhD Scholarship. Her study demonstrated that cancer-related fatigue improves considerably following a 10 week exercise intervention in individuals with moderate to severe fatigue at baseline. This exercise effect is greater than that achievable with a non-exercise health education intervention.
Speaking of what led her towards this research, she says: “There was nothing there for cancer survivors and so many people’s lives are affected by it. While we will see a huge increase in cancer diagnosis we will see a huge increase of cancer survivorship as well. Something needs to be done for these people to help them move beyond things like cancer-related fatigue which can affect people for years.”
The fact that the sessions do not take place in the hospital environment helps and, importantly, it is a fantastic way to meet people who share your experience without dwelling on it. Ultimately however, the participants are the best people to speak of its worth.
Fresh out of a session, Tramore man Billy Collins told the Waterford News & Star: “This morning was my third morning and it was fantastic. I feel much better afterwards and that impact is straight away. I regard the hour here as the most important hour of the week. For anybody who is a little bit afraid starting off, and I was, it is a great way to take small steps to progress and do what you can do.”
Sheila Norris said of her experience: “When I came out of intensive care my muscles had all collapsed. Afterwards, they wanted to get me into a programme in DCU but I’m living in Dungarvan. I couldn’t go up there each week. My attitude was get into my house and lock myself in. I’d see people older than me passing my house and I would cry. I just find this brilliant. Somebody in Solas whispered this in my ear and it gives you your life back.”
Anne Marie Phelan from Waterford and Slieverue woman Breda Kenneally have integrated into non-MedEx classes afterwards and they credit it for allowing them to do things they weren’t able to do post-treatment others took for granted.
Breda says: “When I finished up my cancer treatment they told me ‘don’t pick up anything heavy’, ‘don’t put your arms up too high’, and you were afraid to do anything. Now I have much more energy and my standard of life is much better. My day feels much more normal and I can do simple things I wasn’t able to do like open a bottle of bleach or mash potatoes. I couldn’t drive my car properly and then one day I fell asleep at the wheel. Now that doesn’t affect me anymore.”
Anne Marie echoes this, saying: “The brown envelopes for hospital appointments stop coming through the door and you have to get back into your routine. I think this has given me the energy for work and to get my social life back. Everything has improved and my family would tell you the same. Everybody sees the benefit.”
For more information on MedEx or the Move On programme, contact WIT Arena on 051 834444 or email [email protected]