Cancer survivors step up to YWCA program

YWCA Encore group members, all of them breast-cancer survivors. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN
YWCA Encore group members, all of them breast-cancer survivors. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

For Austinmer's Svenja Franke-Bruhn, finding out she had lymphoedema was worse than being told she had breast cancer.

The condition can follow breast cancer and it continually causes swelling in the body.

But when she attended YWCA's Illawarra Encore free exercise program, she found a support group, regained her confidence and realised she could still be sporty.

"It's really important to learn to live with it; if you do nothing it can get worse," she said.

"I have two girls and I want to show them I can go on living well."

Mrs Franke-Bruhn was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 while she was living in New Zealand and she developed lymphoedema while undergoing radiotherapy.

"You meet lots of people when you have breast cancer, but quite a few friends also drop off because they can't handle it," she said.

"[Suffering] is human nature, some people just can't face it.

"It hurts, but I try not to judge."

When she arrived in Australia in 2012, the mother-of-two turned to the YWCA exercise program to access its resources, but mainly for the companionship with women who had similar experiences.

"I learnt to let go of the worries I couldn't change," she said.

"The class is not scary, it's gentle, gradually building up strength."

Now, Mrs Franke-Bruhn can add dragon boating to her hobbies - something that was unthinkable three years ago.

The eight-week program has been running since 2009, but YWCA NSW Encore manager Kate Guthrey said that this year new exercises and an aerobics component have been introduced in line with the latest research.

"We aim to improve mobility, flexibility and strength, as well as overall general fitness," she said.

"It's a stepping stone back into life for a lot of women."

The Wollongong Encore program begins on February 4, running for eight weeks on Tuesdays from 5pm to 7pm.

Email or call 1800 305 150, or 02 9285 6264 to book.

Participation is free.


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