Free exercise classes offered to cancer survivors


by TERRI GRUCA / KVUE News and Photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @TerriG_KVUE

Posted on October 28, 2013 at 6:31 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 28 at 7:54 PM

AUSTIN -- New research shows a link between weight and breast cancer, and it's even more pronounced for survivors.

Working out when you don't feel your best can be challenging. Try doing it after chemo.

"Before I found the lump I was overweight, and I had worked really hard to lose weight. I had lost almost 70 pounds," said Elaine Gonzales.

Surgery and chemo made it difficult for Gonzales, a two-year breast cancer survivor, to keep the weight off.

“I tried to control it, but it was impossible. I had a lot of side effects, and I couldn't eat a lot of foods that you kind of want to stay on," she said.

Part of the problem is how things taste.

"For me food tasted like a mouthful of dirty quarters with ketchup on them. That's really what it tasted like," said Charlotte Biggerstaff.

Biggerstaff is just now wrapping up a year's worth of treatment.

"There's just no justice. You lose your hair and you gain weight," she said.

Dr. Debra Patt is Gonzales’ and Biggerstaff's oncologist. She recently looked at more than 8,000 women. Half underwent chemotherapy treatment, half did not.

"You're much more likely to struggle with obesity and weight gain if you'd undergone treatment with chemotherapy than if you hadn't," said Dr. Patt.

In fact Dr. Patt found the body mass index of survivors who had undergone chemotherapy rose by about five points.

"It increases your risk of breast cancer recurrence, but also for many other diseases. If you have excess weight, [are] overweight or BMI, you're more likely to have diabetes, heart disease [or] stroke and so many other medical problems,” she said.

It's changing the way doctors treats patients.

"We know people suffer after treatment, especially breast cancer treatment. So supporting them is so critical. It's important to get exercise [and] health professionals involved in their recovery," said Dr. Patt.

Texas Oncology now partners with the YMCA. Patients get a free three-month membership after their treatments.

"It's a nice way to guide individuals back into health,” said Dr. Patt.

Classes are often filled with survivors like Sherry Washington.

"It's a great avenue for cancer survivors. It’s great exercise great camaraderie and you feel better," she said.

As a three-year breast cancer survivor, the transition hasn't been easy.

The goal is to make it free for patients like Washington. That way they will have an easier time stepping back into a healthy lifestyle.

Livestrong is part of this partnership, so all cancer survivors can take advantage of these free memberships with the YMCA.

We invite you to join us for this year's Austin Race for the Cure, Sunday, November 10th. To register go here.

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