Vail Health Magazine 2013 - page 32

There’s a camaraderie
among cancer survivors that isn’t
easily replicated.
“We’ve been through all the
same things together,” says Eagle
resident Holli Snyder, who was
diagnosed with breast cancer in
March of 2010. By August of that
year, she was working out with a
trainer at Shaw Regional Cancer
Center in Edwards as part of the
center’s Fit for Survival program.
That’s where she met Rita and
Dana and a slew of other cancer
survivors with the same simple
goal: Stay healthy.
The Fit for Survival program is
one component of Shaw Regional
Cancer Center’s recently expanded
survivorship program, called Spirit
of Survival, which also includes
nutrition counseling and emotion-
al support.
“Spirit of Survival addresses the
mind, body and spirit of survivors
because we know that a cancer
diagnosis is much more than a
medical diagnosis: It affects the
whole person, so we want to treat
the whole person,” says Margaret
Brammer, a licensed clinical so-
cial worker at Shaw who oversees
the program.
A person is considered a cancer
survivor from the time of diagno-
sis through the balance of their
life, as defined by the National
Cancer Institute Office of
Cancer Survivorship.
“Cancer survivorship is an
emerging field,” Brammer says.
“As of 2012, there were 12 million
cancer survivors, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention. More than ever, people
who are going through treatment
are surviving, which wasn’t the
case 20-some years ago.”
More than 48 percent of survi-
vors report symptoms of post-trau-
matic stress disorder, and between
40 and 80 percent of survivors
have persistent fears the cancer
will come back, according to re-
search published in the Journal of
Psychosocial Oncology in 2002.
“A lot of research is pointing to
post-treatment being a critical
time for cancer survivors. There are
so many issues — fear of reoccur-
rence and increased anxiety. The
transition from seeing their medical
team every day to one day getting
a graduation certificate and then
not following up for six weeks can
be very hard,” says Brammer, who
meets with individuals and runs
support groups. “When patients
complete their initial treatment,
there is a tendency to reflect back
on their experience. This is often
when I see the emotional impact of
their cancer diagnosis set in. Our
goal is to support our patients as
they transition from active treat-
ment to survivorship.”
Shaw Regional Cancer Center
also has a pastor on staff, Worth
Whitley, who listens and guides
patients during what is often a
challenging spiritual time.
Fit first
The Fit for Survival program start-
ed about 2 ½ years ago. During any
given month, around 100 survivors
and current patients participate
in the program. Two exercise
physiologists, Sarah Giovagnoli
and Hilary Welch-Petrowski, cus-
tomize workouts for each patient.
From supervised one-on-one
sessions, to boot camps in the gym
at Shaw, to yoga, tai chi and pilates
classes at nearby Jack’s Place, and
even group hikes in the summer or
snowshoe excursions in the winter
months — survivors have many
options when it comes to exercise.
It’s been nearly nine years since
Dana Williams, 56, was diagnosed
with stage three prostate cancer.
“I was 48 when I was diag-
nosed,” says Williams, who lives in
Edwards. “Technically insurance
won’t cover the PSA test until
you’re 50, but my dad had it, that’s
why I had the test. There weren’t
any symptoms, but the doc said.
‘Let’s throw it in,’ when I had my
physical. I got lucky. If I had waited
three months it would have proba-
bly been too late. It was just at the
point where it was metastasizing
and getting ready to go into the
lymph nodes.”
The day after Memorial Day,
2004, Williams underwent a nearly
eight-hour surgery at Vail Valley
Medical Center. The following
winter he completed three months
of radiation, followed by a round
of chemotherapy a year later. It
wasn’t until Dr. Patricia Harden-
bergh, his oncologist, used the
word “cured” and kicked him back
to seeing her once a year that he
decided to check out the “Fit for
Survival” program.
“I was extremely out of shape,”
Williams says. “I couldn’t do
10 minutes on the treadmill. I
lost about 40 pounds and now
I’m doing jogging intervals on
the treadmill.”
Three days a week Williams
works out at the gym— twice a
week at boot camp and once a
week doing cardio on his own. He’s
one of the most familiar faces of
the program, in part because of
how long he’s been going, and in
The Shaw Regional Cancer Center’s ‘Spirit of Survival’ program helps
cancer survivors stay healthy spiritually, physically and emotionally
Don’t Merely Survive…Thrive
By Caramie Schnell
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