A path to healing

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Pilot program set up to help cancer patients

By John Barnhart

A group of professionals will join together, donating their services for a pilot program to help cancer patients. It’s called A Path to Healing, and the progam starts on April 20.

    Nancy Johnson, who came up with the idea, knows about what cancer patients go through from personal experience. During her battle with the disease, she participated in the American Cancer Society’s Look Good, Feel Better program. It’s designed to help cancer patients learn to deal with the impact the cancer, and its treatment, has on a patient’s appearance. The information, plus the camaraderie of others with the same problem, was a great help for her.

    Another activity that helped her was that she was able to continue a favorite activity, riding horses. An equestrian group she was with included Dr. Dan Temeles, an oncologist, and this gave her somebody to ride with who understood what she was going through. The combination of these two experiences gave birth to the Path idea.

    A Path to Healing uses water exercise, massage, reiki, tai chi and yoga. Johnson said that these were chosen because they are physical activities recommended by the American Cancer Society. According to a brochure the program’s coordinating group has produced, massage and reiki promote relaxation and can relieve pain. Tai chi and yoga increases the patient’s body awareness through gentle, deliberate movement and breathing exercises. Patients who take part in water exercise after having chemotherapy have less fatigue than those who don’t.

    The therapy program is for people who have been diagnosed with cancer, those undergoing treatment and those in remission. It’s also a pilot program. The participants will help them evaluate the program, telling them what works and what doesn’t.

    “We are going to find out how people respond to things,” Johnson said, noting that each cancer patient is different.

    Dr. Temeles, who is with the Blue Ridge Cancer Center, is working on the project and has referred patients to it. Johnson said that he urges his patients to be as active as they can.

    “If you think you can do it, keep on doing it,” Johnson said Dr. Temeles tells his patients.

    All the professionals providing therapy are donating their services, so there is no charge to participants. Johnson said that the maximum number of participants per session is limited to eight. This is because they have four massage therapists who have committed their time. The sessions are being held at the Bedford Area YMCA.

    The first session will be held on Mondays starting April 20 through May 11. The second will be held on Thursdays from May 14 through June 4. All sessions run from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

    If the pilot program proves effective, Johnson hopes to be able to get funding to make it permanent. This will make it possible to pay the therapists and still keep it free to participants. Johnson noted that cancer therapy is expensive, with chemotherapy sessions costing thousands. Patients may be financially stressed, so keeping the therapy sessions free is important.

    For more information, or to register, contact Elizabeth Creasy, at the Bedford Area YMCA, at 586-3483. Participants will need to have their doctor’s approval before beginning the program.