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Thriving after Surviving Breast Cancer

Sandra Sweet of Boise says classes specifically geared to cancer survivors like herself have improved the quality of her life, such as helping to lessen stress and neck pain. “I feel incredibly fortunate, and I can share that support out there.” she said.
By Sandra Forester, News and Community
May 8, 2013

By Sandra Wurdemann St. Luke's News 

When Sandra Sweet was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, she just wanted to figure out what treatment was necessary and be done with it.

Then she started thinking, “Is there any way my own lifestyle and volition could make it so it doesn’t happen again.”

Sweet joined one of St. Luke’s first Moving On After Breast Cancer classes, which review late and long-term effects of the treatment, evidence-based information about nutrition and physical activity, and psychosocial stressors and coping strategies for healthy survivorship. Funds raised through the Komen Race for the Cure help pay for class materials.

Sweet said she found out she could do better and how, such as modifying favorite foods to lower bad fats.

“It was wonderful,” she said. “The folks who were teaching it were exceptional. My life outlook has changed. I was more rigid in my attitudes about I don’t need that kind of help.”

The classes opened the door to relationships with cancer survivors and other support programs, such as the YMCA’s LiveStrong, the Cancer Connection Idaho and Mountain States Tumor Institute’s Integrative Medicine.

LiveStrong is an eight-week small group program for adult cancer survivors who have recently become de-conditioned or chronically fatigued from their treatment or disease. The goal is to help patients build muscle mass and muscle strength, flexibility, endurance, and improve functional ability. The Cancer Connection provides support and educational wellness programs to empower individuals, and give them tools, resources and healthy coping strategies. MSTI’s Integrative Medicine program offers complementary therapies like yoga and massage that can help strengthen patients physically, emotionally and spiritually.

"Yoga is a tool for coping with all of the stress and the anxiety that comes up, not only for the patient but for the caregiver," said Ann Wildman, a yoga instructor for MSTI's Integrative Medicine.

“I can’t say enough about the programs,” Sweet said.

Sweet says everyone has a different experience when dealing with cancer.

Some survivors find treatment and its side effects overwhelming. Others feel lost when the battery of treatments has ended but recuperation continues.

These cancer support programs give survivors options, and can help them regain strength physically and emotionally, she said.

“Chose what works for you,” she says. “Don’t reject it outright. You don’t need to hurry up and be done with this. Everyone is different in their diagnosis and treatment. I want to learn as much as I can and use what I want. It’s like building blocks. These are fabulous resources for survivors.”

Komen Race for the Cure Boise

Join the Komen Race for the Cure Saturday, May 11 at the Albertsons headquarters’ parking lot, 250 E. ParkCenter Blvd., Boise. Race day registration begins at 7:30 a.m., a Survivor Parade at 8 a.m. and the race at 9 a.m.

About The Author

Sandra Forester works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.