Kathy and Ruth’s Story: Cancer, Exercise Program Rekindles Friendship

Old friends Kathy Hatton and Ruth Macon were brought together again by shared cancer experiences and the Oncology Exercise Program at Miami Valley Hospital South.

The women worked together at Dayton Power and Light and were friends for several years. But their interaction waned when they began working in different areas of the company.

Hatton’s cancer journey began with an ovarian cancer diagnosis in January 2015, followed by surgery, treatments, and a hospital social worker’s suggestion that she try the exercise program. “It helped me get back to myself both emotionally and physically. It was the exercise without a doubt,” Hatton says. “I saw I was improving, and it really helped to be around the camaraderie of the group.”

She stayed with the program for two and a half years. During that time, Hatton heard about Macon’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in April 2016 and reached out to her.

“Dr. Barney had suggested it, but I am a shy person and thought ‘I don’t want to go where I don’t know anybody,’” Macon recalled. “So, when Kathy suggested it and said, ‘I go at this time,’ I thought, ‘I have a friend there. I am willing to give it a try.’”

She’s glad she did.

“For me, the caring staff and the ladies that were here when we both came were wonderful,” Macon says. “We could laugh, we told about our journey. On that treadmill, you talked and walked. It was a wonderful time.”

Macon stayed in the program about a year before moving on to exercise with her daughter.

Individualized Attention

The Miami Valley Hospital South Oncology Exercise Program has met on Tuesdays and Thursdays for nearly five years. It is part of the integrative therapies program that provides resources to help patients as they travel on their journey, says Christine Broomhall, MS, RN, BSN, registered nurse and exercise physiologist in the Oncology Exercise Program.

Each patient referred to the program receives an initial assessment, including a basic fitness test. The patient’s journey, barriers to exercise, and any other health concerns also are discussed as part of the development of a customized exercise program.

Surgeon Linda Barney, MD, says most of her patients could be eligible to utilize the exercise program as part of a longer-range program with breast cancer.

“It is a wonderful component of recovery from cancer,” she says.

Some patients participate in the exercise program at the same time they’re receiving treatment, while others do it following therapy.

“The key is knowing when to introduce the program to patients as an option,” Dr. Barney says. “If it is too early, they may be too overwhelmed” with other daily tasks and can’t think about adding another.

The Oncology Exercise Program class setting is a plus. “It is recovery with others on a journey with you. It is a comfortable, safe environment to recover with people who are knowledgeable about the types of exercise needed,” Dr. Barney says.

Mutual Support

The patients exercise in the program for six weeks in one-hour sessions. The goal is to combine aerobic exercise, strength and conditioning, and balance, along with nutrition information, Broomhall says. More than 200 people have been assessed for the program. The exercise program offers sessions for women, a prostate-specific male class, and two classes with both men and women.

The first 12 sessions over the six weeks are complimentary thanks to Miami Valley Hospital Foundation services. After the 12 sessions, participants can graduate to home exercise or community partners, or continue in the Oncology Exercise Program on a self-pay basis. “As a pleasant surprise, some people have been involved for years,” Broomhall says.

Those participating in the program become like family, Macon and Hatton say. When Hatton missed an exercise session, they called to see if she was OK, she says. “What exercise program really does that?” she asked.

“It is great to hear patients’ experiences. The support is mutual,” says Cara Dalton, MS, exercise physiologist.

“This is a space where we can celebrate the triumphs but also rally in really tough moments. Cara and I see the support every day. It is unwavering,” Broomhall says.

Macon and Hatton say the program was key in their journeys. “This was not just physical. It was emotional, psychological. It really, really helped,” Macon says.

“I appreciate them very much because they really did nurse me back to health,” Hatton says.

Headshot of Linda Barney, MD

Linda Barney, MD

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