Breast cancer team exercises mind and body

An exercise program for women who have had breast cancer surgery can help them regain strength and flexibility, but perhaps its greatest benefit, say participants, is in bringing women together to share their experiences.

Encore is a program of gentle exercises and educational talks run by YWCA NSW that has helped a number of Wollongong women in their recovery from breast cancer surgery.

Coniston's Zach Feneri, 44, took part in the program earlier this year after having surgery last October.

"There's a lot to be said for being in a room with people who understand what you're feeling and what you've been through and are going through. Just sharing experiences calms you," she said.

"Emotionally, psychologically, physically your body is pushed to the limits, so being with people who understand what you're going through is very important."

While friends and family can offer love, support and sympathy, talking to somebody who has been through the same thing is invaluable.

"This was my second dose of breast cancer," Ms Feneri said. "My first was 14 years ago, then I had my second diagnosis last October.

"The first time I had chemotherapy, the second time radiotherapy and in both cases I had surgery.

"The radiotherapy affected my body in a way the chemo didn't so speaking to women who'd had radiotherapy was great because I could get tips on how to handle certain muscular problems and movement restrictions."

Encore co-ordinator Monica Russell, 47, said the program had been running in Wollongong for two years and had received a very positive response.

The program runs for eight weeks with one two-hour session each week, is free and is available to anyone who has had breast cancer surgery. It involves gentle exercises for the first hour and a guest speaker for the second.

"It increases strength, mobility and flexibility, especially in the shoulder and chest area, which can be very tight after surgery," Mrs Russell said.

Research suggests the exercises can also help prevent lymphoedema.

Encore is open to women of all ages regardless of when they had their surgery - a recent course included women who had their surgery only a few months earlier.

Registration for the program is required and participants need clearance from their GP to take part. For information call 1800 305 150 or email encore@ywcansw.com.au.

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