Cancer patients bond through exercise in movement therapy program

West Vancouver's Cancer Thrivers group enters second year

North Vancouver resident Lynn Fallow had never really been sick a day in her life, until the day she found out she had cancer.

“It’s a pretty ugly disease,” she says. “This comes up and, boy, there’s big changes.”

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That was back in 2014. Now going on five years cancer-free, Fallow doesn’t refer to herself as a cancer survivor, but instead as someone who thrives following her treatment and rehabilitation from the disease – a cancer thriver.

That may have something to do with the movement therapy program she’s been a part for almost a year, she says.

The Cancer Thrivers program, intended for cancer patients at any stage of their journey who are looking to stay physically active and connect with other people who’ve experienced the disease, has just entered the second year of its three-year pilot.

The District of West Vancouver program, which is hosted at West Vancouver Community Centre and funded through Enhance West Vancouver, offers movement therapy, an exercise regime, education and social connection for people who all share a journey with cancer as a common thread.

“It’s changed my life, just the support from all the people that are in the group,” says Fallow. “I really like the workout element, that has really improved my mental state as well. … It’s all about feeling better, having self-worth, and this program is stunning and I can’t say enough about it.”

The program includes a weekly yoga session, two exercise classes, as well as a social component, with participants welcome to attend as many sessions as they can or would like each week. A once-a-month outdoor nature walk has also been added to the program's roster of activities.

While cancer treatment is covered through health care, rehabilitation following a diagnosis generally is not, according to Dave Thomson, rehabilitation and sports training program co-ordinator at the community centre, who also oversees the program.

Thomson cites the importance of exercise oncology and how physical fitness can be beneficial when it comes to thriving following cancer treatment.

“It’s a safe place for them to express their feelings, to know others are going through other similar situations,” says Thomson. “We just see the importance of exercise for this group.”

Participants are free to sign up for the program whenever they want. For more information about the program, including days, times and prices, visit westvancouverrec.ca/fall-winter/adults-19-years/health-fitness/rehabilitation/cancer-thrivers.

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