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Program at UofL Health specifically aims to provide cancer survivors with rehab

WLKY Louisville logo WLKY Louisville 7/14/2021
a man and a woman looking at the camera: new rehab program for cancer survivors © Provided by WLKY Louisville new rehab program for cancer survivors

After a successful breast cancer surgery in 2017, it was being rear-ended at a red light two weeks after her release from the hospital that Sandra Lawson thought would change her quality of life forever.

"I didn't have any quality of life altered from the surgery but after the wreck, my whole life changed for a number of years," Lawson said. "I'd gotten to a level of pain I thought I'd have to live with."

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The crashed caused issues she didn't have before, like muscle stiffness around the neck and headaches, and made effects from the surgery worse. After failed attempts at rehab, she was reluctant but took advice from her doctor to go to UofL Health's cancer rehab program at the Frazier Rehab Institute.

The cancer rehab program includes a multidisciplinary team — physical therapists, speech therapists, mental health professionals, nurses, social workers, etc. — that meets with patients and creates a personalized rehab plan for each.

Physical therapist Kelli Bisig described what she saw when Lawson first came in.

"Lots of soft tissue restrictions due to not moving over months and months, years and years from her surgeries, a lot of scar tissues binding her down," Bisig said. "Her feeling that she's not supposed to move."


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Program at UofL Health specifically aims to provide cancer survivors with rehab
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Lawson has been working with physical therapists for six weeks and is already seeing a difference.

"Every single week I come, there's just such an improvement," Lawson said.

Dr. Megan Nelson sees the need for medical professionals from different areas, considering cancer survivors commonly experience symptoms of fatigue, weakness, memory loss, anxiety, insomnia and more.

"It may be due to the cancer diagnosis itself, it may be due to the cancer treatments," Nelson said. "It's important that patients know and are aware that you may have symptoms that you think come along with the cancer journey experience but maybe some of those symptoms and issues can be helped and help you have a better quality of life, day to day life."

Wednesday, Lawson stood side by side with the doctors who helped her and described what the rehab has brought back to her life.

"I feel myself again," Lawson said.

The rehab services are for cancer survivors as well as those still undergoing treatment.

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