Class boosts health, outlook of people with cancer

South Suburban program helps participants find encouragement from others

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Sometimes, just one chair stand without assistance is the greatest victory, Sandy Dickman said.

Dickman, a certified cancer exercise specialist and personal trainer for South Suburban Parks and Recreation, leads a group fitness class designed specifically for people with cancer.

Living Well with Cancer is a 75-minute class that adult cancer patients can attend twice a week. It has been part of the Goodson Recreation Center in Centennial for 13 years. Cancer patients from all over the south metro area attend the class.

“Exercise is medicine,” Dickman said.

New participants go through a one-on-one assessment with Dickman. The assessment covers agility, strength, cardiovascular and overall physical ability. It is used to create a personalized exercise program for the participant’s differing goals and needs.

“Everyone is different,” Dickman said. “It is based on what kind of cancer they have. Some are in treatment, others are out of treatment.”

Cardiovascular, strength, flexibility and core fitness are the focuses of the classes, which are $5 per session.

The class registration is renewed monthly. Dickman recommends committing at least six months to the program to see signs of improvement. There are approximately 12 people in the program each month.

Anyone who currently has or once had cancer can join the class. The goal, Dickman said, is to work with people going through treatment. She said some people cannot take the class because of the physical strain that treatments can have.

The reason exercise is so good for cancer patients, Dickman said, is that it stimulates the lymphatic system, which helps filter out impurities in the body.

Dickman said the class is not for mourning or feeling down about having cancer.

“We call it a support group on the move, but it’s not depressing,” Dickman said. “If you have ever been to a support group, you know it is depressing. Everyone goes in and tells their sad story, and it is a sad story. But if you want to get better, you need something more positive than that.”

Some people have participated in the program for years. Dickman said it becomes part of their lives.

“I have been involved with this group of cancer survivors and (Dickman) for nearly six years,” said Mary, a class participant, who did not give her last name. “I was able to think I could beat this as I came to realize I was not alone; I am a survivor. We maintain a positive and upbeat attitude due to (Dickman’s) guidance as she keeps us moving. I always leave class glad that I attended that day.”

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