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Posted On: 04-09-2019
Posted In: Leisure

Image of Kerry in front of the treadmills at Culm Valley Sports CentrePatients recovering from cancer treatment can now benefit from a new rehabilitation service provided by specially qualified fitness instructors at Lords Meadow Leisure Centre in Crediton, Culm Valley Sports Centre in Cullompton and Exe Valley Leisure Centre in Tiverton.

Former patient turned Mid Devon Leisure employee, Kerry Rowland, can testify to the success of the service. In May 2017, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After 8 months of intensive treatment including chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy and targeted treatment, she was left physically unfit, overweight, bloated and struggling to carry out every day physical activities. The stress of treatment also took its toll on her mental health.

Whilst waiting for an appointment with the breast care team following her surgery, she noticed a FORCE Cancer Charity poster stating that ‘the most underrated prescription you can have is exercise’.

She started going out for walks with her husband and dog, all the while trying to increase the distance she covered each time. Whilst out one day, she passed Culm Valley Sports Centre and felt compelled to go inside and enquire. The staff instantly put her at ease and advised her to book an induction with their cancer rehab specialist.

Kerry was extremely anxious about attending her induction due to the stereotypes usually associated with a gym environment. To her surprise, she found that it was quite the opposite of what she had feared. It was full of friendly people of all shapes and sizes, and all with the same aim – of getting fitter.

Kerry’s Physical Activity Trainer, Ali, devised a series of specially tailored exercise programmes and closely monitored her progress, providing regular reviews and pushing her slightly harder each time. Ali helped to restore her confidence and after a while, encouraged her to sign up to some of the regular classes offered at Culm Valley.

Initially, this was outside Kerry’s comfort zone and not always successful – she had to admit defeat on a couple of occasions and accept that she just wasn’t ready. However, through her attendance, she became familiar with other class members and what started out as small talk, turned into friendship, motivation and support for one another, as well as the occasional night out.

Kerry starting following Mid Devon Leisure’s Facebook page to keep in touch with her new network of friends and in January of this year, she saw a post about a job vacancy at Culm Valley. Given that she was already familiar with the environment and friendly staff, she felt confident about fitting in and applied for the role. She was later interviewed and offered the position of employment, and now works part time as a recreation assistant alongside her other job as a beauty therapist.

Kerry said: 

“For anyone who’s on the journey to recovery after treatment from cancer, I’d highly recommend getting in touch with one of Mid Devon Leisure’s cancer rehab specialists. I feel much healthier, both physically and mentally, and my confidence has improved. I’ve increased my strength and cardio fitness, and I’ve dropped two dress sizes!”

Cancer and its treatments can cause physical changes such as reduced energy levels and fatigue as well as low mood and anxiety. In the past, doctors would advise people to rest as much as possible during treatment but that has changed. Evidence now shows that simple physical activity can reduce many of the side effects of cancer treatment and also the risk of recurrence in some cancer by up to 60 per cent.

Mid Devon Leisure partnered with Force Cancer Charity in April 2018, as part of a growing movement across Devon to help with the rehabilitation of cancer sufferers at each of their centres.

Patient rehabilitation starts with an individual assessment by an experienced Oncology Physiotherapist offered through FORCE Cancer Charity, or as in Kerry’s case, patients can enquire directly with Mid Devon Leisure. Advice and practical help is given, as well as signposting to exercise programmes, other health professionals or community services as appropriate. Patients who are referred to Mid Devon Leisure are seen individually, accounting for their state of mobility and medical condition, to ensure exercises are undertaken safely.

The exercise programmes offered include an 8-week gym-based exercise programme run by Physical Activity Trainers from Mid Devon Leisure (with a Cancer Rehab level 4 qualification).

Health & Fitness Leisure Manager Corinne Parnall said:

“New research now estimates that 1 in 2 people are at risk of being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, so we're really proud to be able to offer this service as part of patients' rehabilitation. Physical activity can help make a positive change to the lives of patients. They may be nervous about building up their activity levels if they haven't been active for a while, however, being active carries fewer risks than being inactive.
“I'm really proud of Kerry and what she's achieved whilst on her journey to recovery. It's a win, win for us as we've not only gained a new member of staff, but a new friend too!”

Being active during and after treatment can:

  • Reduce tiredness and fatigue
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Improve your mood and alleviate depression
  • Help look after your heart and bones
  • Help keep your weight healthy
  • Improve your sleep patterns

Cabinet Member for Community Well-being Councillor Dennis Knowles said:

“Our three leisure centres have always helped people in Mid Devon get fit and stay fit. Now they’re playing a real part in helping those with serious conditions recuperate and get back to full health again. I would encourage everyone to make the most of our excellent facilities”.

If you are interested in either individual advice or an exercise programme and would like to make an appointment, please contact:

Louise
Oncology Physiotherapist
FORCE Cancer Charity
Tel: 01392 403094

Alternatively, you can contact Mid Devon Leisure’s centres directly:

Culm Valley Sports Centre
Tel: 01884 234320

Exe Valley Leisure Centre
Tel: 01884 234900

Lords Meadow Leisure Centre
Tel: 01884 234970