HOPE Exercise Program (Helping Oncology Patients Exercise) at UHS benefits patients
Of all the symptoms related to cancer, one of the most common across the board is cancer-related fatigue syndrome. This differs from everyday fatigue in that a good night’s sleep doesn’t help, those affected are easily tired out during or after an activity, or are tired unrelated to an event or activity. Sufferers may feel confused or unfocused, and tiredness may impact activities of daily living.
So in November 2016, UHS oncology staff, exercise physiologists and physical therapists teamed up to begin the HOPE – Helping Oncology Patients Exercise – program. “Adding one more thing to an already-tired person’s schedule might seem counterintuitive, but evidence-based research has identified exercise as a means to combat cancer-related fatigue syndrome,” said UHS Cardiac Rehabilitation nurse Cathleen Eggleston, RN.
Cardiac rehab nurses and exercise physiologists lead the twice-weekly sessions in the cardiac rehab gym in Phelps Hall at the UHS General Hospital campus. The group is open to all UHS oncology patients – those currently in treatment as well as cancer survivors who still suffer from cancer-related fatigue. Classes are geared toward improving endurance and functional capacity through use of equipment such as treadmills, bikes, rowing machines, cross-trainers and ellipticals, plus strength training and balance exercises to improve core strength and prevent falls. Patients can attend free for 12 weeks; at that time patients have the option to join the UHS Health and Wellness Program – a self-pay, medically-supervised exercise program – or to continue exercising on their own.
Mike Boyko, 60, is a current HOPE participant. Diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer two years ago, the Binghamton resident – who continues to live with the disease – has had chemotherapy, oral chemotherapy and hormone therapy treatments. He credits the program with reducing his cancer-related fatigue. “Having a place to talk with others also affected by cancer was another helpful aspect. And the staff are wonderful, supportive people,” he said. Staff note that the extended social support network is a highlight for many participants, and a reason many continue beyond their 12 week session.
Alayne Costin, 69, also of Binghamton, underwent lumpectomies and proton therapy, a type of external beam radiotherapy, to treat bilateral breast cancer diagnosed in January 2016. She participated in the 12-week program and elected to continue supervised exercise with the UHS Health and Wellness Program. She saw a dramatic improvement in her strength and energy: “I felt great, and comparing the before and after data showed an astounding improvement. Program staff are knowledgeable, kind, gentle and genuinely caring. It’s a wonderful asset to have an exercise program specifically tailored by an exercise physiologist for my particular needs and condition,” she said. Now in remission, Costin recommends the program to other cancer patients, highlighting the camaraderie with others in a similar situation, and the expert supervision of medical personnel.
About 20 patients currently attend the sessions and benefit from the expertise of exercise physiologists, who offer a more clinical approach to exercise development based on their knowledge of medical conditions and how they can affect or limit the ability to exercise. Each patient’s workout is tailored to his or her clinical needs and functional limitations. Said Eggleston, “We work closely with oncology providers to identify any potential cancer-related issues – such as lymphedema – to ensure safe and effective exercise programs.”
Programs like HOPE have shown to improve patients’ functional capacity levels and increase strength, which helps to improve recovery, increase independence, promote improvement in general well-being, as well as improvement in disorders such as anxiety and depression that often accompany a cancer diagnosis.
For more information about HOPE, call (607) 762-2178 or visit www.nyuhs.org/care-treatment/cancer/hope-program/
UHS is a locally owned, not-for-profit hospital and healthcare system serving Greater Binghamton and surrounding counties. Founded in 1981, UHS provides a full range of medical, surgical, rehabilitative and long-term care services throughout New York’s Southern Tier.
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