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New program eases post-cancer pain, tightness

December 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Getting your life back after cancer treatment can be tough. Chemotherapy and radiation take their toll and can end up affecting even basic activities, like walking or getting around. But a new post-cancer program ensures that treatment doesn't end after you leave the hospital. That's helping people on the road to recovery.

Vonda Jones is moving again, good news after a breast cancer diagnosis sent her reeling 18-months ago.

"I wouldn't say it was tragic for me, it was more of like an interruption," said Jones.

Chemo and radiation treatments beat back the disease. But before this year's Race for the Cure, muscle problems hit her hard.

Cancer treatment can cause muscle tightness, impairment and fatigue. And with more than 11 million people now survivors of invasive cancer, relief is key.

"Regardless of the stage of the cancer, people want to be independent," said Dr. Curtis Whitehair, National Rehabilitation Hospital. Whitehair helped Jones by getting physical.

She dove into six weeks' worth of specific rehab exercises to regain movement.

"One size doesn't fit all when you're talking about cancer, because the cancer itself can attack any part of the body," said Whitehair.

For Jones, exercises included "walking the wall": Simply inching her hands along a wall to improve mobility. Also, a wand exercise that boosted her strength by stretching with a cane or weighted bar. It's therapy so new, no medical texts existed until last year and for Jones it was a lifesaver.

"Each time, you can see the progression and I definitely have been able to notice a lot of benefits from doing the therapy," said Jones. "I highly recommend it."

That progress led to a cancer-free, pain-free Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.