Winship at the Y: Program aims to keep cancer survivors healthy - CBS46 News

Winship at the Y: Program aims to keep cancer survivors healthy after treatment

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Coach Morgan Rowe works with Victoria Holbert Coach Morgan Rowe works with Victoria Holbert

People have long been told exercise is good for the heart and our health. 

Recently, experts linked exercise with lowering the risk for recurrence in cancer patients. The new guidelines recommended by the American Cancer Society prompted a new partnership in metro Atlanta.

Emory's Winship Cancer Institute teamed up with the YMCA to provide a specialized exercise program for cancer survivors. Coaches are trained to handle the specific needs of survivors so they'll stay with the program and live a healthy life after treatment.

Hearing the words "you have breast cancer" was a wake-up for Victoria Holbert.

"You think that this is it, I'm going to die from cancer," Holbert said.

She was aggressive with treatment, had a double mastectomy, and thought she had the cancer beat. Months before her five-year remission mark, Holbert found another lump.

"I cried. I went through the whole thing, 'Why me?' again. To go through it once is traumatic enough, but to go through it twice, I just couldn't imagine going through cancer a second time," Holbert said. 

Holbert has a lot to live for. She's a newlywed and they're raising her 8-year-old grandson. That's why she's working out with coach Morgan Rowe at the YMCA. Rowe received special training to work specifically with cancer patients and survivors.

"I think we really had to get into the mindset of what the patient is going through which is it's scary, it's completely scary," Rowe said.

The program is called Winship at the Y and is open to any cancer survivor. The idea came from nurse Joan Giblin, Winship Cancer Institute's director of survivorship. 

"People who have survived cancer, sometimes they say, 'OK, I've done enough.' We need to get them back to their normal state of being as much as we can," Giblin said.

In April, the American Cancer Society released new guidelines for survivors that reveal eating healthy and working out can reduce the chance of cancer coming back. Those findings forced Giblin to develop the program.

"We have so many early interventions. People are living a lot longer, living with cancer, that we need to give them that quality of life so we need to think beyond the box of curing them," Giblin said.

The Y tailors a workout for each survivor through their coach approach program.

"We'll be able to spend the time with them to take them through these different exercises in the different stages of their progress and the journey," Rowe said.

Holbert started her program while undergoing chemotherapy. She likes that Rowe understands what she's going through and knows her limitations.

"I think that it will help other women that have never exercised before, will give them a platform to want to exercise," Holbert said.

Holbert pushes towards living a healthy life after cancer. She's already feeling more like herself.

"You feel like you're gaining some control over something going on in your life. I feel like this helps me to know this is going to help me reach that five year mark again," Holbert said.

The specially trained coaches are at seven YMCA's right now. Winship hopes to expand the program to all Y's in the state in the next year. Survivors have to join the Y to enroll in the program.

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