THE BLOG

Thriving After Cancer

05/19/2015 05:23 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2016

The majority of the population has been touched by it, be it in their own household or enduring the suffering of someone they know or love--it is safe to say nearly everyone in the world has been affected by it. It's the word no individual wants to hear--cancer.

We all know of somebody who has struggled through treatment and lost that heroic battle. Billions and billions of dollars have gone into research and today, due to new forms of medical treatment, many are surviving and thriving after cancer. I want to take you on a journey that began in 2005 and has helped nearly 700 women and their families find hope and get their lives back after cancer.

In March of 2005 my Wellness Director and I attended the annual International Health, Racquet & Sports Club Association (IHRSA) convention. We had the privilege of sitting in on a presentation by Julie Main, former IHRSA president, club owner and partner of three clubs in the Santa Barbara area. Her presentation centered around the Cancer Well Fit Program, which she put together with a hospital there. I was so impressed with Julie's presentation that I asked permission to allow us to borrow and customize her template at The Claremont Club. Julie, being the wonderful person that she was, agreed, and in 2005 we started the Living Well After Cancer program in partnership with Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center's Robert & Beverly Lewis Family Cancer Care Center.

The Claremont Club hosts an annual Art of Giving charity event in partnership with PVHMC to absorb the cost of the program and one hundred percent of the net proceeds go directly to LWAC. Our complimentary 13-week program emphasizes activity-based therapy and consists of a support group, cardio and strength training, Pilates, yoga, oncology massage, and nutrition and cooking classes. Participants meet twice a week and are encouraged to use the club as often as they wish. Complimentary childcare is offered if needed. They go through an initial assessment and post assessment at the end of the program that measures quality of life outcomes implementing the concept of Exercise as Medicine. Seeing the transformation after 13 weeks--regained strength, flexibility, confidence and self-esteem--is extraordinarily rewarding and has changed all of our lives.

What became crystal clear to us during our initial run of the program was that the effects of cancer extended beyond the person who had it--it affected the entire family. Boys and girls at home were terrified of losing a parent. They were not interacting with their friends at school; they were withdrawing and having trouble concentrating and doing their homework. Immediately we knew it was essential to open up the club to the entire family to give them all some time to "get away" from cancer and have some fun.

The extensive success of this program prompted us to start a program for children and young adults affected by cancer. Our Pediatric Cancer Program works with youth ages five to 18 and runs for one full year. The younger children are involved with fun activities in our childcare department, including all 11 weeks of our summer camps and field trips, our kids' Friday Night Out program and all social activities. These children are encouraged to bring a friend to attend the program with them for the entire year. Young adults work with cardio and strength conditioning exercises. We have also put together a program for the parents of participants. We are in our third week of the program and the input we are getting from both the kids and their parents is simply heartwarming.

We are currently working with several medical physicians and clinicians at multiple hospitals on a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) grant application that if funded will study the benefits of exercise on children affected by cancer.

Is it possible to thrive after cancer? Watch the video below and decide for yourself.