Cancer: Survive or Recover?

What’s the Difference?

By Nancy McCarron, PT

SWF Health and Wellness MagazineUndergoing cancer treatment is a life changing experience. First, there is the fear created by the diagnosis, the unknowns about the possible surgical procedure and the treatment – chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both, and the constant fear– the “what if,” about the future. So, you make it through this trying time when very little of your life seems to be in your control and the physicians call you a survivor.

But, have you recovered? The surgeons and oncologists feel that they have done their job and you should “get on with your normal life.” But what was normal before your diagnosis is probably feeling like a distant dream. Fatigue, movement impairment, surgical wounds and scars, and general weakness are all a part of what is left after cancer treatment.

So, where is that path to the former you? Most oncologists will recommend exercise before, during and after cancer treatment. In fact, research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston shows that daily exercise can reduce the chances of dying from breast cancer recurrence by 25% to 50%.

So how do you get started when it is a struggle just to get through the day?

Ask for a Prescription for Physical Therapy

In the beginning, you need to advocate for yourself and ask your physician, oncologist or primary care provider for a prescription for physical therapy. Then, the members of your licensed physical therapy team will be your advocates and create an individualized plan for you–goals that are achievable and that set you on the road to feeling whole again.

Daily Exercise Improves Feeling of Well

Being Your team will guide you toward these goals and communicate with your physician as to your progress and your needs. Plus, your team will motivate you to keep on and truly recover. Once you are able to fully participate in and feel the difference that daily exercise makes to your feeling of well being, you can become independent at home, at a fitness club or, you may feel more confident with a personal trainer at a health club. Finally, you will feel in control of your path to recovery.

Survivorship Treatment is Key

Survivorship treatment is so important that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Centers and NCI cancer centers have begun developing recovery programs: Moffitt Cancer Center has R.E.N.E.W. 180, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston has RESTORE, and Livestrong is, also, active with survivorship issues. We may not have a NCI cancer center in our immediate community, but we do have dedicated professionals, like those of us at Progressive Physical Therapy, who want to help our community be a positive place for cancer survivorship and recovery. Each of our clinicians has had cancer touch their life in some way and understands the hurdles that need to be overcome. We also have strong ties within our community so that if you need support outside of our profession, we will help you find it. Our health club has a dedicated group of members who are shining examples of recovery! We’d love to see you eventually join their spirited success.

To learn more, call Progressive Physical Therapy at 941-743-8700, or visit our website at

Check Also

Oral Cancers

Screenings Help Detect Head, Neck and Oral Cancers at Early Stages

While not as common as some other types of malignancies, oral cavity and oropharyngeal (head …