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IN APRIL 2013, MORRISTOWN RESIDENT COLLEEN RUSSO completed the last of 37 radiation therapy sessions that followed surgery to battle invasive breast cancer. At first, she felt fine. It seemed she was not going to be plagued by the fatigue that sets in for many undergoing radiation treatment. A few months later, however, the exhaustion hit just as she was facing some difficult family matters.

Russo realized she needed to concentrate on caring for herself, so she followed the recommendation of a fellow radiation patient and began attending a support group at Morristown Medical Center’s Carol G. Simon Cancer Center. At the center, she also found a handout about the benefits of cancer exercise, specifically designed to help people recovering from the disease gain strength and stamina. The flier also advertised free classes at the center, led by certified cancer exercise specialist Carol Michaels.

So Russo started working with Michaels in the classes, doing Pilates one day a week and strength building on another. More than a year later, she’s still at it and says she feels better, has more energy and is “in a much happier place.”

Cancer exercise is “improving (my) balance, improving flexibility. The muscle tone is better,” Russo says. “The exercise is so good to keep you moving, and forces you to read your body and know what’s going on.”

It’s a given that exercise is important for anyone to maintain good health. Now, research is pointing to it being particularly vital for optimal recovery from cancer, which, along with treatment to combat it, can cause a range of physical and psychological side effects.

Studies also suggest that exercise can even decrease the risk of recurrence of certain cancers.