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Personal Training Program for Cancer Survivors Resumes

4/10/2022, U.S. News & World Report

A cancer survivorship training program that provides free personal training to support Columbus cancer survivors resumed April 4 after a two-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is the result of a collaboration between the West Central Georgia Cancer Coalition and the YMCA of Metropolitan Columbus, Georgia. It is an eight-week program that provides one-on-one personal training for cancer survivors to help them build muscular and cardiovascular strength, flexibility and endurance.

The program is free for participants, said Cheryl Johnson, president and CEO of the WCGCC.

“They don’t have to pay for a thing because we have sponsors,” Johnson said. “We have collaborations. We’re just that community organization.”

Most personal trainers in Muscogee County start at around $40 per hour, said Jeff Mobley, a personal trainer at YMCA. The cancer survivorship program participants will get three sessions per week, he said, saving them around $960.

After surviving cancer, people need help to get back in shape and be motivated, said Diane Karnes, a survivor participating in the program.

“Since it’s a free program, you can come down here and workout,” she said. “Everybody down here is so helpful and just wonderful.”

The trainers in the program are certified fitness professionals, and have undergone specific training to know how to work with cancer patients, Johnson said. The workout will be built around each individual based on what their needs are, she said.

There are many limitations after cancer treatments, and the program is a great way to help those survivors, said Andie Blanchard, the wellness coordinator at the YMCA. The trainers can help participants with mobility, flexibility, balance and strength training.

“And, more than anything, build those relationships to let them know that there’s a place for them to be able to come into and make some friends and build a community,” she said.

Before the hiatus, Blanchard had a client in the program whose goal was to get off the floor without needing help. At the end of the program, which was 16 weeks long at the time, her client was able to exceed that goal working with Blanchard two to three times a week. Many of the survivors who participated before the pandemic also had positive experiences in the program, Johnson said.

“We had people come tell us what a big difference (the program) made in their lives and how they’re still being active,” she said.

Although the program is returning, the pandemic is not over, Johnson said. Social distancing and vaccinations will be required, she said, and masks will be optional. It is important for this group to stay safe from COVID because cancer patients have compromised immune systems, Johnson said.

‘IT’S VERY PERSONAL’

Karnes has been in cancer treatment for over four years and had several surgeries. She has one year of treatment left, she said. Throughout her treatment she’s been unable to work and became depressed, Karnes said, and she’s looking forward to getting her life back.

By participating in the program, Karnes hopes to become stronger and get back to doing the activities she used to enjoy.

“Let’s say if you used to walk five miles a day,” she said. “And now you can only walk two or two and a half or whatever the case may be because everything has taken its toll on your body.”

Another participant, Darla Spencer, said she hopes to get in shape and get rid of the fat around her abdomen. She also hopes to develop better eating habits over the course of the program.

“I’m interested in becoming vegetarian-ish, should I say,” Spencer said. “So, I’m hoping that this will give me a foot towards that door.”

Spencer is a survivor of breast cancer and was first diagnosed in 1998. During her journey as a survivor, she met Johnson through “divine intervention,” and became involved with the West Central Georgia Cancer Coalition. She now works for the coalition as the cancer care access navigator, a position that allows her to help others find the resources and services they need.

Supporting others dealing with a cancer diagnosis is important for Spencer because she remembers the difficulties that she experienced.

“I wore scarves. I didn’t wear a wig,” she said. “I was on the elevator, and I walked in. And people kind of started backing up as if I had something that they could catch.”

One of the best things people can do for those with cancer is to just give them a smile, Spencer said.

The key to success in the program is to not overshoot goals, Blanchard said, and to focus on things one day at a time. The trainers will be there to support and encourage them through the journey.

“We call it personal training because it’s very personal,” Blanchard said. “We learn a lot about our clients inside and outside of their workouts.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Georgia CORE is a statewide nonprofit that leverages partnerships and innovation to attract more clinical trials, increase research, and promote education and early detection to improve cancer care for Georgians in rural, urban, and suburban communities across the state.