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So, what comes after cancer treatment?

So, what comes after cancer treatment?

A unique rehabilitation program helps patients regain their lives

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and the sound of Shania Twain’s “I Feel Like a Woman” is coming from a gym within the St. Jude Centers for Rehabilitation and Wellness. Inside, Jason Tse, occupational therapist, is helping Julia Cook Muneer master a new line dance.

But if you look beyond the music and laughter, you’ll see a highly effective, evidence-based therapy for improving balance and stamina as well as memory and concentration — areas often affected by chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

“Some patients are able to simply step back into life, but others leave cancer treatment with serious side effects, wondering where they will find the energy to step out of bed, much less back into their lives,” explains Jean Dean, PT, who helps lead the widely-respected program. Although problems with fatigue, weakness, pain, insomnia, depression and incontinence are common among cancer survivors, programs designed to help are still rare — and outcomes like those being created at St. Jude are rarer still.

“We see significant improvements in physical and emotional well-being, as we address each side effect or symptom — whether it’s a swallowing issue, loss of balance, pain or anxiety,” explains Jason, who says the one-on-one therapies are customized to fit a patient’s specific needs and can benefit those still in treatment as well as those who celebrated the end of treatment years ago.

The comprehensive program features a multidisciplinary team of oncology rehabilitation experts who, together, offer the entire range of therapeutic interventions, from pelvic floor rehabilitation and stress management, to vocational rehabilitation and neurocognitive recovery.

Julia’s treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma left behind issues with fatigue, balance, and concentration — all of which have vastly improved through weekly therapy. “It’s made a tremendous difference,” says the 61-year-old buyer for a local school district. “The therapy focuses on my priorities, which on one day might mean improving my ability to focus at work, while on another, learning how to reduce stress and anxiety.”

According to Sue Potts, PT, Outpatient Therapy Manager, creating a nationally-recognized rehabilitation program is familiar territory for St. Jude physicians and staff. “In areas from stroke recovery to sports injuries, we exceed national benchmarks and create higher standards of care,” Sue says. “It’s exciting to bring that same expertise to cancer recovery.”

To learn more about the St. Jude Cancer Rehabilitation and Wellness Program, please visit stjudemedicalcenter.org/cancerrehab.

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