TYLER (KYTX) - After a cancer diagnosis, exercise might be the last thing you want to try. But research finds exercise not only improves a cancer patient's quality of life, it can also improve survival rates. There's a free program working to rehabilitate cancer patients and survivors, so they can achieve a better quality of life.
It's called Fit Steps for Life. The program was started by a retired East Texas Oncologist, Dr. Gary Kimmell, who realized there was a real need for a program tailored specifically to people going through cancer treatments and dealing with their diagnosis.
Every step in this aerobics class is a big step because every person is touched by cancer.
"My oncologist Dr. Gregory recommended it for me to come," says Karen Luce, cancer survivor.
Karen Luce was diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer tumor in March 2007. "After 2 surgeries. I am doing great. That part is fine, but I have put on a lot of weight. My blood pressure was high. My cholesterol was high, my blood sugar was high, borderline diabetic and he was real worried about me. I had let myself go," says Karen.
Like all of the men and women at Fit Steps for Life, Karen was referred by a doctor.
"Physicians each sign a release that they are ok to exercise. We start them in the program and tailor the program specific to whatever their needs are," says Haley Campbell, Fit Steps for Life.
Haley Campbell is a clinical manager at Fit Steps for Life. She says patients are all assessed first, then able to walk on the treadmill or participate in classes like stability, tai chi or yoga as their program indicates.
"It's now recommended for exercise to be a routine part of cancer care," says Campbell. "We serve all cancer patients all cancer types. We encourage their family members and caregivers to begin the program with them that actually helps with adherence to the program."
Karen's been sweating off those extra pounds that followed her cancer diagnosis since she started Fit Steps for Life in 2011.
"He said, 'do you realize, you have gained about 12 pounds per year since you've had the surgery,' and so, stress, social eating, stress eating, eating eating," says Karen.
Karen has now lost 68 pounds through Fit Steps for Life. "It has changed my attitude about everything. Fit Steps is a family. We take care of each other," says Karen.
And she gained a family of cancer survivors to lean on.
"It has really saved my life," says Karen.
There are 14 Fit Steps for life locations across East Texas and Dallas, one of their biggest is at the First Christian Church in Tyler where Karen goes.
The clinical manager says what makes this program so special, it's not just a free exercise program for 6 weeks, it's for life.