Moving For Life has been blessed to host internships with some amazing students. Our most recent intern, Tatiana Valencia, a sophomore at Marymount Manhattan College, wrote a wonderful reflective essay about her internship. Here is a short excerpt about how her experience as a Moving For Life intern has turned her passion for dance into a desire to share its powers with the community around her.
In my opinion, dance encompasses a universal form of communication and embraces an endless array of possibilities. Through dance I developed an immense sense of gratitude for the vast amount it has given me: freedom of expression, a connection and love for my body, awareness of internal and external forces, a heightened appreciation for the health of my body and its flexibility to adapt and openly handle whatever comes its way…the list goes on. Reflecting on this, I started to ask myself: If movement could give me this much – and if there are so many people in the world who live their entire lives completely disconnected to their bodies because of too many different/individual reasons – then how special would it be for me to one day be able to dissect each one of their personal reasons and alleviate or even extinguish it?
It is often thought that as people get older they become jaded to society and lose their youthful spirit. The truth is that one NEVER loses their youthful spirit. It simply gets compiled with responsibilities, more awareness, knowledge and fears… but one never loses it.
As one gets older, however, “life happens,” a saying that means responsibilities exhaust, disorders get stronger, traumas develop or deepen; and although one may argue that this is what is making someone who they are, this clutter often detracts a person from their true internal life. A rebuilding of connectivity to the self – and in turn, to the world – happens only when specific attention and energy is given to the issue. Many people find it extremely difficult to do this on their own, thus, it can only be fully realized through the help of a professional. I want to be that facilitating figure in people’s lives; someone who bridges the mind/body disconnects.
My internship ranged from administrative tasks to actively participating in the field. Occasionally I would attend Dr. Martha Eddy’s lectures, which helped broaden my understanding about cancer as a whole, and in doing so, helped me feel more comfortable interacting with patients. I also translated several documents including the Moving For Life Guidebook for Safe Exercise During Cancer Recovery. Translating material helped me learn Spanish anatomical terms and other vocabulary related to cancer that I otherwise would not have known how to translate to a Spanish speaker. I was also able to assist Martha with research for her new book, Mindful Movement.
On Saturday, March 12th, Martha presented me with the opportunity to represent Moving For Life at a Domestic Violence Health Fair in Harlem. The fair was formed by an organization called CONNECT, which is dedicated to preventing interpersonal violence and promoting gender justice. I led a gentle aerobics class to social workers, children and parents who are all part of the domestic violence movement. It felt amazing to make people feel comfortable in their own skin and ultimately take them to a place of healing. I was able to observe through people’s eyes how grateful they were for the hour I provided to solely connect with their bodies. At the end of the event, participants were interviewed and asked what their favorite activity was throughout the health fair (yoga, nutrition, self-defense, massage therapy, etc.), and the two girls I listened in on said that it felt so good to move to music in such a meditative way because they were able to feel fully alive again. This was so beautiful to hear.
This internship gave me the opportunity to learn through observation and active participation. The unexpected challenges I was presented with helped me grow as a student in the Dance, Body, Science and Motion concentration, but most importantly, as a person. My internship experience with Moving for Life gave me a real life opportunity to see with my own eyes how uplifting movement can be towards a dwindling human spirit. Being a part of Moving For Life has also motivated me to eagerly engage in my next learning experience because with love and great care, I am fully capable of completing whatever I set my mind, body, and energy to.
Judging from a recent Wall Street Journal article by Lucette Lagnado, entitled, “Sloan Kettering’s Quest to Prove Exercise Can Inhibit Cancer: Trying ‘exercise oncology’ to stop or delay the spread of a malignant tumor; a trial for women with stage 4 breast cancer,” it is clear that exercise is being taken more seriously as a way of preventing, recovering from and treating cancer. According to the article, “The new research at Sloan Kettering includes randomized, controlled studies—considered the gold standard for scientific inquiry—seeking to prove that exercise can alter the biology of a tumor, thereby inhibiting or slowing its growth, says Dr. Lee Jones, who is leading the Sloan Kettering effort.”
Moving For Life is thrilled by MSKCC interest in this research as it will undoubtedly build upon the growing body of scientific knowledge to and from which we have been so privileged to contribute and learn since our inception. In the following blog entry, Moving For Life’s, Dr. Martha Eddy sheds light on how Dr. Lee Jones’ research dovetails with our own work and findings, and identifies the gaps that still exist in our knowledge.
I salute Dr. Lee Jones of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in his excellence of research design and his pursuit of a greater understanding of how exercise affects people going through treatment. When we began Moving For Life in 1999 (formerly called Moving On Aerobics in order to emphasize the importance of aerobic- and cardio-stimulating activity – such as fast walking, non-impact aerobics, dance, biking and swimming – in “moving on” from cancer), Dr. Alison Rosen and I located 4 controlled studies, mostly from Europe, that stated that recovery rates improved when survivors were actively engaged in aerobic exercise. As Dr. Jones reports, no one was doing viable studies about whether exercise could be a positive intervention during cancer treatment.
Over the next ten years, worldwide research organizations, including major health institutions in the USA, completed studies with survivors, which yielded the following findings:
1) Exercise improves quality of life in survivors
2) Exercise speeds up recovery
3) Exercise can prolong length of life
4) Exercise reduces the chance of recurrence
Replication studies have validated many of these findings; but the whys of each of the above are still being discovered and just what is perfect for people during treatment needs more randomized controlled research.
Driven by even the small amount of data available and her own experience in going through treatment, Dr. Alison Rosen motivated Jan Albert and myself to design a GENTLE exercise program that could contribute to survivors’ improvements. We focused first on women dealing with the side-effects of breast cancer treatment. In creating the program I followed the traditional intervention guidelines that women should only begin exercising six weeks after surgery and with physician clearances.
Right away we partnered with SHARE Cancer support and Gilda’s Club. Since these support centers offer programming to diverse people with different types of cancer, we saw the anecdotal positive effects of our program with women with various types of reproductive cancers (breast, uterine, cervical, ovarian) and men and women with brain, colon, lung, pancreatic, appendicular, metastatic cancers among others. While mostly post-surgery – a few people came to prep for surgery – many were active in their chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Many still are.
Here’s what we hear:
“Moving For Life makes me feel better about myself.”
“I am no longer just identified with my cancer.”
“Even if I feel exhausted, I am surprised that I feel better once I’ve finished class.”
”When I take class regularly I have more energy for the rest of my life – housework and work.”
We could go on and on….
Related to in-treatment research, Dr. Freya Schnabel, Head of Breast Surgery at NYU Medical Center, observed that of her patients, the ones attending these classes were feeling better. Apace with the findings that aerobic exercise was also reducing rates of breast cancer recurrence, Dr. Schnabel initiated her own pilot research. Moving For Life was invited to be the central intervention (together with two nutrition classes) with NYU Langone Medical Center’s Breast Program to see what impact twice-a-week Moving For Life classes could have on BodyMass Index (BMI) in an eight-week period (Click here to see the NYU research poster). We found that women were motivated to exercise and that a majority of the women lost a pound per week (6 – 13 lbs in 8 weeks of training). Because of Hurricane Sandy, the study stretched out over 10 weeks.
Longitudinal data is still being collected by NYU Langone as to determine whether women continue to exercise once the study ended. The post-6-month study revealed that losing the support of the group had negative impact. NYU then instituted a Sunday morning class, but it wasn’t well attended either. Barriers to exercise post-treatment will hopefully continue to be revealed through this research and that of other labs like Dr. Jones’.
As a side note we also found that there was lots of research showing that music is an anti-depressant. Since depression is another common side-effect to having a life-threatening illness, we decided it was important that I design a program with music. Jan Albert, an award-winning video and TV producer and former DJ stepped up and helped us select winning music.
Middle-aged and older women with breast cancer often suffer from other conditions, including osteoarthritis, heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Tai Chi has been shown to be an exercise that helps women with all of these common conditions.
A meta-analysis of 33 studies revealed that Tai Chi tended to improve walking distance and knee extensor strength in people with these conditions, and it also relieved the pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis.
How Moving For Life Incorporates Tai Chi
Martha Eddy has incorporated some of the key qualities of movement found in Tai Chi into the Moving For Life DanceExercise™ classes. A simultaneous combination of grounding, sustained flow, spatial awareness and balance are evident in the Eddy’s gentle aerobics cool down. The section of the class called ‘Tai Chi Ice Skating’ is a time for each mover to find her or his personal dance – like a figure skater enjoying solo time on the ice (but in this case in the company of other appreciative colleagues). The Moving For Life instructors compassionately guide newcomers so they are comfortable ‘doing their own thing’ along with other participants.
“Soul Train, Fame, Dancing with the Stars… Notice a Pattern?”
by Angela Tranquille
For decades Americans have been fascinated with watching television shows that revolve around dancing. My only question is: Why should we sit back and watch everyone else have all the fun? Why deprive ourselves of all the health benefits that can be obtained from dance? This is specifically important for people who are recovering from illness and cancer survivors. The National Cancer Institute reported that women who are physically active after diagnosis have a 26-40% lower risk of recurrence.
My experience at Moving For Life’s dance exercise class at JCC was truly memorable. I would encourage anyone to take advantage of these free dance exercise classes available each day of the week across the NY area. I am sure some of you maybe thinking, “I’m’ too shy to go to a dance exercise class” or “I have two left feet” There is no need to worry about any of that!
Moving For Life’s dance class is nothing like what you have seen on television (an overbearing dance instructor screaming at the top of her lungs because a student missed a step). On the contrary, one of the distinguishing features of the class is the high level of patience and encouragement exhibited by the compassionate instructors.
Moving For Life’s dance exercise class is specifically targeted towards cancer survivors. For individuals battling cancer, every day is different. Some days you feel stronger than others. Recognizing this, the instructors do not push the students beyond their limits. The instructors demonstrate genuine care for the well-being of their students. Every class begins with the instructor asking “Does anyone feel pain anywhere?” If any of the students have responded in the affirmative, the instructor proceeds to do specific exercise moves designed to provide relief to that particular part of the body. After addressing areas causing pain, the warm up begins.
The warm up consists of gentle stretching and breath-based moves. As students move into the aerobics portion, the music becomes more upbeat. One of the songs played during this section is Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady”. As stated in the lyrics,
“Step and move your hips
With a feelin’ from side to side
Sit yourself down in your car
And take a ride
While you’re movin’ rock steady
Whether you are standing or sitting, the song emphasizes one thing: rock steady! Keep moving! The class is an hour long. For those who are unable to stand for the entirety, chairs are provided and exercise moves are adjusted to accommodate a seated position.
It is truly inspiring to be surrounded by a room full of women who in spite of their diagnosis, have huge smiles on their faces and are so lively and encouraging. Moving For Life provides not only an amazing workout, but also a community of support for cancer survivors. Many students enjoy the class so much that they have become regulars and are known by the teachers by name.
Today, I challenge you to grab your remote, press the “off” button and join us as we dance, sweat, laugh and form new friendships at Moving For Life’s dance class at the JCC. See you there!
“For My Aunt Sandra”
By Ashley Somwaru
June 1st, 2013- the day Sandra Lallman was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
And also the day I became acquainted with cancer’s cruelty. Sandra was vacationing in Florida when she felt a sudden pain in her back. Initially she had ignored it, until she felt that it was something more than just a sore back. You can imagine the family’s surprise when we heard she had this disease. “How could this happen?” I wondered constantly to myself when I was told that my aunt not only had cancer but that she had a time limit to her life. Six months. Six months to enjoy the last moments with her family. Six months to come to peace with her fatal situation. Six months to deteriorate slowly and painfully. Six months until her “date with death”.
We had hope though. We believed that the cancer treatments from Sloan would work and the right diet would help her get better. She had to get better. She was our rock. Sweet Aunt Sandra, who always did for others but never asked in return for herself. We couldn’t fail her now.
But we never succeeded. Week after week I would visit my aunt and week after week I saw her withdraw into herself. First, she stopped talking. We would all sit around the dining room table and reminisce on funny tales of Sandra’s adventures; hoping to get a smile, a laugh, a word. However, she just sat and listened with a dazed look in her eyes that used to be filled with life but had dulled into a silhouette of sadness. We took turns blaming the medicine and the pills, saying that it needed to be changed. We had to believe that there was a way for Aunt Sandra to survive. We stuck to the undying hope that she would recover.
But then Sandra started losing her hair. I thought nothing could be worse than that. I was proven wrong when I could barely recognize her four months later. I thought, “Is this what cancer does to all the good people in the world? And finally, Sandra stopped coming out of her room altogether. She didn’t want to see anyone. I guess she knew she was coming close. We all told her repeatedly that she could fight cancer but she saw through the false optimism. Maybe she wanted to make it easier on us by distancing herself so we would feel less pain when she really went. But the pain couldn’t have been worse.
December 5th, 2013 – Sandra went on her “date”.
My aunt was one of the victims that didn’t get to make it. However, the people that do survive have a second chance at life, to be happy that they’re alive and appreciate the time they have left to spend with their families. They can get renewed hope; something that I saw first hand when I witnessed a Moving For Life class. This organization does not just encourage people to exercise because it’s healthy, they inspire people to have a future that is joyous and cancer free. It gives hope to people so that they can bounce back from cancer and the side effects of treatment and get back to how their lives and bodies were before.
I decided to be an intern for Moving For Life because I wanted to see people gain confidence after their experience with cancer. Sadly, I wasn’t able to instill hope into my aunt. However, I found that working for Moving For Life gave me a chance to help the wonderful people who are giving hope and happiness to cancer survivors.
Dr. Martha Eddy, the founder of Moving For Life, does an incredible job of making cancer patients and survivors feel more positive and get active in their daily lives. They go from not being able to get up, to having fun dancing to upbeat tunes without an ounce of pain. Moving For Life reminds this community that they are victorious. These survivors gain a renewed healthy life style that helps them for many more years to come. They fought their rough battle with cancer and now it’s time to “dance to recovery”. (Dance to Recovery is also the name of Moving For Life’s exercise DVD.) I wish my aunt had this chance to smile and dance with such a caring group of people. I could just imagine her dancing to the beat with her infectious, big laugh. Aunt Sandra would’ve gotten a kick out of Moving For Life.
Moving For Life – THIS is the Career that I Want!
by Chelsea Rose
It was a little past midnight in the midst of finals week. I was putting the finishing touches on my final paper “The Biological Underpinnings of the Physiological, Emotional, and Social Benefits of Body-Mind Practices” and very much in need of a break. To switch gears and not disrupt my friend asleep on the bed and other starring bleary eyed at his laptop screen, I decided to check my email. The top message in my inbox read, “Martha Eddy.” I froze. I took a double take. I had literally just cited her in my paper! I admired her work and couldn’t fathom that an internationally known scholar would contact me personally! I assumed it must have been the night getting to me. But as tired as I was the email was real! I quickly read it and startled my friends screaming, “I have an internship!” Needless to say my excitement broke the 24-hour quiet rule but I felt it was justified.
I was fortunate enough to meet Martha Eddy at the 2014 National Dance/Movement Therapy Conference in Chicago this past October. I ended up attending her seminar by accident and am very thankful that I did. Throughout the conference I was trying to decide if dance/movement therapy was the career for me. I found the seminars intriguing and insightful but for whatever reason didn’t feel it was the right path for me to take. But Martha had a different perspective with Moving For Life. She was not a dance therapist but used dance as holistic therapy for women with cancer. All her movements and exercises were based on Laban Movement Analysis, Bartenieff Fundamentals and the physiological and emotional effects of cancer treatment. I was absolutely floored by her presentation. I was amazed at how she used dance and dance science in such a ground breaking way. The whole concept of the organization as well as the astounding amount of empirical evidence supporting the overall effectiveness of Moving For Life’s programs made me realize that THIS was the work I wanted to do! This is the career I want!
After the presentation I immediately spoke to Martha, which lead to my internship with Moving For Life this summer. And what an incredible summer it has been! From coordinating the annual Hike-a-thon fundraiser through the little know green spaces of Manhattan in only my second week to personally assisting Martha with somatic publications and connecting with numerous Moving For Life instructors, this summer has been a dream come true. I was even lucky enough to attend the second annual International Somatics-Based Dance Education as Martha’s assistant where I aided her during her keynote speech, met somatic dance icons, and further solidified that I was going in to the right career field. In the office I was always kept busy organizing teacher schedules and prepping for events such as the many cancer awareness walks I have been working with for the past couple of months. Although I love the administrative work I do and love being surrounded by the hundreds of scholarly dance books in the office, the best part of my internship was attending Moving For Life classes.
Experiencing classes first hand was an amazing experience. Seeing Martha teach was incredible. The amount of knowledge and care she brought to each class was truly remarkable. Each different class was a tight knit community not held back by illness but full of excitement, laughter and willingness to learn about and nourish their bodies and life! Everyone came in with a smile and left feeling rejuvenated and connected with their bodies. Despite the classes having a specified structure Martha tailored some of the exercises to the aches and pains of the class participants, which was much appreciated and enjoyed. The community, hope, and health Moving For Life fostered was truly inspiring.
However, what has really made this internship so profound was its effect on my personal life. A few weeks in to the summer I learned that a very close relative of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer. She has been a role model for me since childhood, which made the news of her diagnosis all the more devastating. After her surgery I spoke to her about my internship and explained Moving For Life’s purpose. The next day I was in the office a little post-it note by the desktop caught my eye. Scribbled on it was my relative’s name and number. As it turns out she had called the office to find the class nearest her and was eager to attend. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face the rest of the day. To see Moving For Life touch the life of a loved one infinitely increased my admiration and understanding of the gravity of this organizations work.
I experienced a lot in the short time I was able to work for Moving For Life this summer and don’t want my time to end as I head back to college. In the future I hope to become a certified Moving For Life teacher and give these life-changing experiences to many more people for years to come.
This is just a quick message to say that Moving For Life (MFL) believes that the process of dealing with health difficulties is on the continuum of working for equity for all. As we each seek balance and equilibrium, MFL helps people harness their own creativity and joy to recuperate from the challenges of life. Nevertheless we come across bumps in the road – the cost of things, the access to what we need or want, the extra burdensome bits of bureaucracy and yes, still the injustices. There continue to be disparities in health services – in insurance, in health care delivery, and in health education.
Moving For Life is an allied medical service – a wellness model – focusing on healthy lifestyles with expertise in movement, exercise and dance as well as in mindfulness, meditation and rejuvenation. We also are committed to partnering with groups like Cook For Your Life that teach about healthy eating and guide us to better nutrition.
We are also committed to overcoming disparities in health care delivery. It is an uncomfortable fact that fewer African-American women in the GREATER NYC area experience breast cancer but MORE die from it. For Latina women – there is a large percentage of women that just never get the services that others have access too.
In 2014 a team including Holly Mills nutritionist, Darlene Nnanyelugoh and MFL director, Martha Eddy were accepted to present Moving For Life’s model at the Columbia University, Teacher’s College Health Disparities conference. Dr. Eddy also presented a case study from Latina SHARE.
We invite you join us in this drive to bring knowledge and active guidance in safely changing habits to life-enhancing behaviors to ALL. We appreciate your spreading the word about Moving For Life programs, and our need for tax-deductible funds as well as volunteers for events and office administration.
Moving For Life’s co-founder and program designer, Martha Eddy who is also an Exercise Physiologist. Somatic Movement Therapist, Certified Movement Analyst and Dance Educator wasfeatured in Dance Teacher Magazine. Learn all about our history and how inspired our teachers are around the country. Thank you Caitlin Sims for writing a thorough and sensitive account of Moving For Life! She includes quotes from our Bay Area MFL Certified Instructor (MFLCI) Melinda Teustchel and highlights the poignant story of one of our most active New York area MFLCI – Catherine Gross.
Martha Eddy has created a movement class to counter the side effects of cancer treatment.
As Melinda Teutschel begins teaching an early afternoon Moving For Life class in Pleasant Hill, California, the dancers stand in a circle and close their eyes. “We’re going to find our breath,” she says. They move from a gentle warm-up through exercises that isolate and coordinate legs and arms, to a flowy aerobic section focused on balance and strength-building, then scatter to the walls for stretching. It takes a careful eye to realize that the program is created specifically for breast cancer patients, because, well, the participants are having so much fun. But this class is meticulously designed to be therapeutic, as well as invigorating.
It is clear, however, that this has evolved beyond a movement class into a supportive community. When one student, who has had recent foot surgery, needs to elevate her leg, others offer ice, pillows and a blanket. Another who has had recent reconstructive surgery confers with Teutschel and rejoins the class with minor modifications.
Moving For Life is an innovative program for breast cancer patients created by Martha Eddy in 1999. Eddy drew upon her knowledge of physiology, deep understanding of movement science and somatic education and the compassionate soul of an artist in creating MFL, which has spread beyond its New York roots across the U.S. to Japan, Canada and the Netherlands.
The initial concept, not surprisingly, came from a breast cancer patient herself. Dr. Allison (Annie) Stern Rosen was fatigued, depressed and struggling to get off the couch after surgery and radiation. She flipped on the TV and saw exercise guru Richard Simmons. Although she wasn’t strong enough to do many of the exercises, she swayed to the music. After 10 minutes, she was surprised to feel better. From this came an idea: Why not create an exercise DVD for people recovering from breast cancer? Rosen turned to Jan Albert, a friend, television producer and documentary filmmaker. Albert knew Martha Eddy, a certified movement analyst trained in Laban/Bartenieff studies and licensed Body-Mind Centering teacher, who also has an EdD in movement science and education from Columbia University.
Eddy spent hours talking with Rosen about the symptoms of breast cancer treatment, which can include joint pain, peripheral neuropathy and lymphedema. Each symptom impacted how Eddy designed the class. “That’s where my expertise in somatic movement came in really beautifully,” she says. “Annie’d say her joints hurt, and she didn’t want to get down on the floor or do level changes. She also said, ‘I’ve got fire feet,’ which is peripheral neuropathy. From chemotherapy, the nerves in people’s feet become a little numb or overly sensitive. In either case, it throws off balance. The third symptom she had was lymphedema, or swelling particularly of the lymph nodes.”
Eddy drew upon the diverse elements of her own training to design the class. “From my kinetic studies of Body-Mind Centering, I understood how to help lymphatic fluid flow as well as how to calm the nerves. And through my understanding of movement therapy, I was able to design exercises to meet each of those issues. Because of my background in exercise physiology, I could create a program that is gradated and safe. I used the dance education knowledge to parallel the use of the music to the gradation for the aerobic effect, and to make it fun.”
MFL centers around a set “classic” class that progresses through specific exercises set to music. Eddy piloted it at Teachers College, Columbia University, with breast and ovarian cancer patients. When Rosen and Albert realized how expensive creating a video would be, they tabled the idea. But Eddy had already designed the class, so she took it to hospitals and cancer support programs in New York City.
She was ahead of the curve; most other cancer exercise programs then shied away from an aerobic component. For Eddy, it was essential. “The number-one side effect to cancer is fatigue,” she explains. “But exercise combats fatigue. It’s the same way that working with weights strengthens muscles. You tax the muscles, and when they heal they come back stronger. It’s the same with cells. Unless you actually work yourself into the target heart range, they don’t get taxed, so they don’t work to become more efficient.”
The class was successful enough that Eddy soon needed to train other teachers. She had already created her own teacher-training program called Dynamic Embodiment, blending elements of Laban/Bartenieff work and Body-Mind Centering; this program became the initial source of teachers for MFL. As the program has expanded beyond New York City, Eddy has set prerequisites for the teacher-training that can be completed elsewhere. Students then attend 30 MFL classes as apprentice teachers, complete a pedagogical workshop in New York and take an exam. In all, it’s about 100 hours of training.
The training is comprehensive enough to enable teachers to adapt the “classic” class to fit the needs of their students. “We are also trained to be improvisational,” says Teutschel, who completed MFL’s teacher-training program in 2004 and started classes in the Bay Area in 2010. “So we have tons of tools in our basket to address many different students.” Teutschel calls the students in her Pleasant Hill class her rotator-cuff group. “They’ve all either had surgery or are in line to,” she says, “so we do a lot of experiential anatomy, learning how the shoulder girdle works. They soak it up because they know that it’s helping them.” Teutschel thinks this self-knowledge is one of the most valuable lessons of MFL. “The healing process entails education,” she says. “This is highly educational, but it’s accessible.”
As Teutschel’s class in Pleasant Hill comes to a close, one of the dancers turns to a friend. “We all know how important exercise is,” she says. “I’m beating this. Psychologically it’s so empowering.” DT
San Francisco–based Caitlin Sims is a former editor in chief of Dance Teacher.
In August, the initial vision of Rosen, Albert and Eddy was finally realized with a professionally produced DVD, Moving For Life, Dance to Recovery, which includes a 50-minute workout, a seated exercise class, a dance lesson and interviews with participants and doctors, plus health tips. movingforlife.org
From Student to Teacher
Catherine Gross came to Moving For Life as a participant and was so transformed by her experience that she became a MFL teacher.
Catherine Gross was introduced to Moving For Life while she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. “I felt at home right away,” she says. “It was safe; it was organic. The fact that I could move made a huge difference psychologically.” Gross appreciated the fact that the class could adjust to her changing needs during recovery, and that it was tailored specifically for breast cancer patients.
The class buoyed her spirits as well as strengthened her body. “I felt uplifted. The music was fun. And it was a place where we focused on what can we do, as opposed to what are the problems. It was getting back to who we really are, our own essence, our own bodies, our spirits. You can lose that when you are dealing with surgery and chemotherapy.”
She immediately wanted to learn more and eventually trained to become a MFL teacher. “I felt there was so much that was deep within it,” she says. “You learn how to tap into your internal energy through rhythm and music. I thought that was so powerful.”
When asked if she brings something extra to teaching because of her own experience as a patient, she demurs. “I think that all the MFL teachers are very sensitive to students’ needs,” she says. She acknowledges it can be inspiring for students to see the journey she has taken from student to teacher. And that she understands completely the feeling of having the world turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis.
MFL classes can be a respite from all that. “You’re moving, and for a moment you’re really forgetting about it,” she says. “Being able to express how something is feeling nonverbally is so healing. It’s a positive way of getting back into your life and getting back into your body.”
You might like to know about a new research study involving Moving For Life that has to do with cancer recurrence reduction and exercise – specifically aerobic dance and weight loss. Here is the abstract. The full article is published in the Journal of Cancer Therapy: Journal of Cancer Therapy, 2014, 5, 1031-1038
Published Online October 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=50451#.VIvfsWTF_G8
The bottom line: Moving For Life can assist in maintaining healthy weight levels and body mass ratio of lean tissue to fat which in turn can support NOT Having a Recurrence of CANCER. However its imperative that women have easy access to on-going classes even 6 months after treatment. We are working to raise funds to provide MFL’s safe, MD endorsed, finely designed classes for women in recovery from breast cancer. Moving For Life is open to participate in other studies on its impact on other types of cancer recovery and illness reduction.
Abstract for the MFL and NYU Langone Breast Cancer Lifestyle Study
Purpose: Weight loss after breast cancer diagnosis has been associated with a decrease in risk of breast cancer recurrence and mortality. The purpose of this study is to examine the barriers, acceptance, and sustainability of an exercise intervention program offered at our institution to over- weight women with newly diagnosed breast cancer.
Methods: The Breast Cancer Database was queried for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer and a body mass index (BMI) ≥ 25 kg/m2. Eligible patients participated in the Moving for Life (MFL) exercise program for 16 sessions. Questionnaires were administered. Statistical analyses included descriptives and paired t-tests to summarize patient characteristics and assess changes over time.
Results: Of 40 patients, 22 declined, 18 consented and 13 (72%) completed the study. The mean age was 61 years (range: 38 – 76). The mean BMI was 31 kg/m2. After the intervention, there was a decrease in weight and BMI (p = 0.04). The average weight loss was 10 lbs. Participants reported greater enjoyment of exercise (p = 0.02) and decreased pain related to treatment (p = 0.05). These initial positive results were not maintained after 6 months and 1 year.
Conclusions: The MFL intervention had a high rate of acceptance among overweight women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. These results demonstrated significant benefits of exercise immediately after cancer diagnosis and highlight the importance of developing sustainable lifestyle interventions. Interventions targeted at modifiable lifestyle factors in women with early stage disease may provide benefit that is comparable to certain adjuvant systemic therapies. Therefore, adjuvant lifestyle interventions supported by clinicians may improve breast cancer survival outcomes.
Please join a community that wants to help promote longevity through active engagement in healthy lifestyles. Visit www.MovingForLife.org
After my mastectomy, I was bowled over by the extent of the surgery. I worried about restoring my range of motion and strength. That was bad enough. And then I heard about lymphedema—a permanent swelling of the arm, hand, fingers or chest after breast cancer treatment. In other words, potential for lifetime of discomfort and diminished use of my arm.
I was lucky to have been physically active before my diagnosis, and was eager to get back to that. Imagine my relief to learn that exercise—at the proper time after healing—was not only possible, but good for me. I never did get lymphedema, and decades after my treatment I have full use of my arm, although it does get a bit tired and achy if I overdo something, like kayaking for hours on end.
Recently, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued new guidelines. The guidelines say exercise will not make the lymphedema worse and could improve well-being. Their experts say that women who suffer swelling following breast cancer treatment should be encouraged to exercise.
I’d never heard of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) before they issued their important new guidelines. NICE is a non-departmental public body of the Department of Health in the United Kingdom that
publishes guidelines in four areas: The use of health technologies, clinical practice, guidance for public sector workers on health promotion, and guidance for social care services and users. NICE has a high reputation internationally as a role model for the development of clinical guidelines, especially regarding cost–benefit boundaries. So, it behooves us to listen.
The new NICE guidance, recommends that doctors and nurses discuss with patients how exercise may improve their quality of life—especially the one in five people treated for breast cancer who will go on to develop lymphedema.
Although they say that the current evidence shows “exercise does not prevent, cause or worsen lymphoedema”.
Lymphedema can happen when your body’s lymphatic system becomes damaged –in the case of breast cancer, by surgery or radiation–and is unable to drain fluid in the normal way.
Many people are confused and may be leery of exercise, thinking it could cause or worsen lymphedema.
Jackie Harris, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, said “Lymphoedema can be controlled but will never go away and we know that regular exercise has many benefits for those living with or at risk of lymphedema.”
“Regular movement in everyday life or work can help keep joints supple and aids lymph drainage and extra exercises can also be useful if swelling restricts movement of the arm.”
Moving for Life Dance classes are specifically designed to encourage lymph drainage.
Martha Eddy has studied and taught about the movement flow of lymph and how our own movementnchoices can help in increasing the flow, even after the adversity of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. She has created the Lymphatic Warrior Phrase that can be done seated or standing. Women who have practiced MFL report reduced swelling, less pain, and the ability to fly without swelling worsening when they do the exercises at home or while traveling.