Regaining strength from cancer
After Darien resident Carol Wilder-Tamme completed treatment for Non-Hodgekin’s lymphoma, she began going to Revive, a free, three-month health and fitness program at the Darien YMCA.
The program, which is not limited to Darien residents, is for adults currently undergoing or have undergone cancer treatment in the past year. They could have any type of cancer to qualify.
It’s designed to transition cancer patients from treatment to having a renewed stamina for everyday living.
All participants in the program, which is ongoing, receive 12 30- to 60-minute personal training sessions with a certified cancer exercise specialist who has been trained by the Cancer Exercise Training Institute.
Revive participants also receive a complimentary three-month membership to the Darien YMCA, which includes access to its Wellness Center, pools, group fitness classes, and other amenities.
“Typically, those who are in remission from cancer, their bodies need to progress back into exercise and movement,” said Jessica Van Sciver, director of health and fitness at the Darien YMCA. “[The Revive program] is a way for them to feel safe and confident and guided through their journey of coming out of cancer.”
Participants typically hear about Revive through referrals from staff at Stamford or Norwalk Hospital, those who have received cancer treatment, or friends who know someone going through treatment.
The program is fully subsidized by donors. “Because we are growing, we need donations to be able to continue the program,” Van Sciver said.
To donate to Revive, visit darien-ymca.org and click the red Donate Now link.
Prior to beginning training with the program, all participants need medical clearance.
They also fill out a physical and medical history assessment given by Revive’s certified medical coach. The coach learns their specific health and fitness goals, as well as their limitations.
Seventy-five percent of participants complete the program within three months, but some are still in it after five months, according to Suzanne Adiletta, wellness center supervisor.
The coach will be in contact with the participant throughout the entire program.
Revive participants have their own set of goals and the trainer works with each one individually to achieve them.
“We’ve had 85 participants total since 2014. This year, there are 19 incoming,” she said.
Van Sciver said the biggest part of the program is “it caters to the community and their needs and what they thrive off of.”
The CES trainers “understand the entire cancer process,” according to Van Sciver. “They help improve the patients’ ability to cope with the mental and physical stress following cancer diagnosis and treatment,” she said.
She added that all the participants have a “wonderful” rapport with the trainers.
“They feel comfortable, safe, and they are enjoying it,” she said. “They gain their energy back and get stronger.”
Building back strength — slowly
Once Wilder-Tamme was in recovery from her cancer, she said she knew she had to start slowly and not overdo it.
“He knew what things I should do to build up my strength and aerobic capacity,” Wilder-Tamme said.
He showed her some exercises including “special hip rotation movements that helped drain some of my lymph glands,” she said.
She worked one-on-one with her trainer twice a week for six weeks. At that point, she was “pretty close to getting back to what I had been doing prior to her cancer,” she said.
She is now back to the active lifestyle she had before her diagnosis.
“I do hydro-fit three times a week, and water exercises and classes,” she said. “Twice a week, I lift weights and do a Zumba class and use an elliptical trainer.”
“When you have Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, they don’t have a cure. Your treatment will put you in remission for a while,” Wilder-Tamme said. “I knew that I needed to build myself back up because down the road, when I fall off remission, I’m going to need treatment of some kind. I want to be in the best physical shape as possible.”
“You want to get stronger and no matter what kind of a patient you are, after you go through treatment, you are really debilitated and weak and so having a trainer that knows how to work with a post-treatment cancer person gives you a very positive outlook on life,” she added.
For more information on Darien YMCA’s Revive program, visit darien-ymca.org. Click Fitness. Under Therapeutic Programs, click Revive Cancer Rehab Program.