Jayne West of Bend was diagnosed with uterine cancer a year ago this October. The diagnosis set in motion what West describes as the worst months of her life: surgery, six rounds of chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation – treatment that left her with nerve damage in her legs and feet.
“I was feeling pretty bad,” she said. “I was sick from the chemo, and I wasn’t getting better and was barely able to move around. After a while, you start thinking, ‘Is this it? Is this how it was now for the rest of my life?’”
On the recommendation of her naturopathic physician, Dr. Katherine Neubauer, N.D., FABNO, West started seeing Meredith Wampler-Kuhn, PT, DPTSc, an oncology physical therapist with St. Charles Health System. That first appointment, West said, was a key moment in her continuing recovery.
“The first visit, I could hardly sit there with her, I was so weak,” West said. “By the third appointment, we were already pushing the 10-minute mark on the bike, I was doing all the exercises, and I felt a million times better. She really got me on the road to moving again.”
Such is the power physical therapy and exercise can offer someone affected by cancer, says Wampler-Kuhn, a message she hopes will resonate as people descend upon Atlas Cider Company’s taproom (550 SW Industrial Way, Bend) on Saturday, Oct. 10, 3 to 9 p.m., for “Press On: Moving Lives Through Cancer.”
A fundraising and outreach event hosted by area physical therapists, Press On invites the public to celebrate cancer survivorship with live music, food, drink, and bounce houses for the kids. Physical therapists, health care professionals, and exercise and rehab-related exhibitors will be on hand with information and demonstrations that spotlight the role movement plays in the lives of those affected by cancer
Free to attend, all funds raised through sponsorship and in-kind donations from clinics, health care providers and exhibitors during Press On will be donated to St. Charles Cancer Survivorship Programs, which provide a number of free services for cancer patients and survivors throughout Central Oregon. In addition, Atlas Cider will be selling a specially labeled batch of hard cider during the event, the proceeds of which will also be donated to these efforts.
“Physical therapy and exercise play critical roles in improving a person’s quality of life during and after cancer diagnosis and treatment,” Wampler-Kuhn said. “Being that it’s National Physical Therapy Month, we wanted to celebrate this in a meaningful way.”
Multiple medical studies have supported this idea. Along with helping cancer patients maintain strength, decrease fatigue, minimize pain and maximize function and mobility, physical therapists play a critical role in identifying possible complications during and after treatment. But there’s more, says Wampler-Kuhn.
“Beyond the physical benefits, physical therapy is a great way for people to feel in control of restoring their bodies during and after cancer treatment through exercise and good health practices,” she said.
West said she experienced this transition. Where just getting up and walking across the room felt impossible at times for the water quality specialist with the Department of Energy Quality, she now looks forward to enjoying the outdoor life she once enjoyed.
“You get to a point where you feel like you’re never going to be better again, and that thought is very dangerous,” she said. “You’re suffering, and you’ve just been through hell … but if you don’t have a good attitude, you can spiral down quick.
“Now, I just can’t wait to get in my kayak next spring. It means the world to me to get out there and to think that I’ll be walking and hiking and kayaking again.”