After a breast cancer diagnosis, many patients and survivors focus on doing what they can to stay as physically healthy as possible. Many also seek to improve their mental health by joining support groups with people who understand. A new group in Minnesota is looking to tackle both needs at the same time.
New Ulm CrossFit has become a fitness-oriented meeting place three times a week for women impacted by breast cancer. “Survival Fitness,” created by a breast surgeon and a CrossFit coach, allows members to get together for strength training, yoga, and health coaching. The group is funded through B the Light Foundation, a local breast cancer survivor organization.
Dr. Cori Jordan, co-creator and a board-certified surgeon who specializes in general surgery and breast surgery at New Ulm Medical Center, says, “It’s an opportunity for these women to take the power back from cancer. You can leave your wig at the door! No one’s looking at your bald head. No one’s looking at your surgical differences.”
Dr. Jordan says the women tend to stay for a while after each session to talk about the difficulties of recovery, share stories, and offer tips to get through things. The specific exercises they do during the session are also very helpful to breast cancer patients.
She explains, “Studies show strength training and mind/body exercises such as yoga and meditation significantly improve symptoms associated with breast cancer treatment. Regular survivorship exercise will decrease breast cancer recurrence.”
Member Sara Schultz says that sometimes having breast cancer can be an isolating experience, so the community has provided an important bond for her. She also says that after cancer, the body is wrecked, so these sessions are important physically, as well.
Fellow member and cancer survivor Amber Faulstick Melby echoes these sentiments. She had decreased stamina and muscle mass as a result of her treatment. The program has helped her get back on track, while giving her some connections along the way.
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She says, “You come out of treatment very weak and deconditioned. Exercise is vital to getting back to some normalcy. It helps so much with your mental health as well. We want to connect survivors at all stages of their survivorship. Having this small group also function as a support system where survivors connect and help each other is important for their emotional health too.”
Survival Fitness is currently a pilot program, but organizers are hoping to keep it going with another group of survivors.
Women impacted by breast cancer may want to see if there’s something similar in their area. Studies have found that there are several benefits to breast cancer group exercise, and it may be helpful for doctors to recommend this kind of activity to patients.
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