Support groups that move

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Exercise and camaraderie go hand in hand in Exercise and camaraderie go hand in hand in the Cook Cancer Wellness Program

“I’m not a gym person,” admits Judy Miller. But working out at the Community Cancer Center gym has helped Miller grow stronger in body, mind and spirit.

“Exercise empowers cancer patients,” explains Cancer Exercise Specialist Matt Schmitz. “It’s something they can do for themselves. It can help with side effects. And there’s a social aspect that’s very important, too.” That’s why Schmitz calls the Community Cancer Center’s wellness programs “support groups that move.”

In Judy Miller’s case, exercise was never part of her daily routine. She says, “I was concerned by my lack of physical fitness, but I wasn’t concerned enough to do anything about it.”

Then came Miller’s 2013 breast cancer diagnosis. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Miller began exercising regularly during open gym time at the Community Cancer Center. She quickly discovered a camaraderie she did not expect. For Miller, who had moved to the Cedar Rapids area shortly before her diagnosis, other cancer survivors she met during open gym and Tai Chi classes at the Community Cancer Center became a source of friendship and support.

“We’ve all been through similar experiences,” explains Miller. “The first time you meet someone, you already know them in a way.” Miller, who was struggling with memory issues—a side effect of chemotherapy—made a point of introducing herself to everyone and remembering names. Today she feels mentally sharper and adds, “I have a much better outlook about my health.”

Barbara Berquam and her husband, Jim, are regulars during open gym time, too. Barbara has battled breast cancer and melanoma, while Jim is both a caregiver and a prostate cancer survivor. The Berquams like getting to know people who have gone through similar challenges. “It’s good to see friendly faces when you come to exercise,” says Barbara. “And Matt is there to answer questions and help you when you need it.”

Judy Miller agrees, calling Schmitz “an amazing person.” Miller adds, “Matt doesn’t believe in no pain, no gain. He’s sensitive to the needs of someone who may be struggling because of their illness or the effects of treatment. He genuinely cares about how to get you in a better place, physically and emotionally.”

The Berquams love the Community Cancer Center’s wellness facility and its convenient location. Says Barbara, “The doctors we see are in the same building, so we get our medical care and exercise in one place. There’s covered parking, too, so you’re protected from the snow and rain.”

Another great aspect? The gym and most of the wellness programs are free for cancer patients, their family members, caregivers and to any cancer survivor regardless of where you received treatment or care.

“All of our wellness programs, from the open gym to our classes and integrative therapies, are designed to benefit cancer patients and their support team members physically, mentally and emotionally,” says Schmitz. “Our goal is to help you move beyond cancer with wellness for life.”

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