December 27, 2013

Getting her life back

Exercise class for cancer patients credited for saving Brumbelow’s life

CALHOUN — Chronic illnesses turned the once very active Sylvia Brumbelow into a self-described couch potato.

The retired Calhoun City Schools teacher says the pain from arthritis, plus a cancer diagnosis, completely halted her way of life.

“I was just about immobile,” she says. “I couldn’t even walk to the mailbox.”

Already suffering from arthritis, Sylvia was diagnosed with kidney cancer in December of last year. After having the diseased kidney removed a few weeks later, she simply resumed her inactive life on her couch.

“Having been sick for several months, I just didn’t feel like doing anything,” Sylvia says.

But this past spring, the mother of two and grandmother of five found her way back to the land of the living,

“My very good friend, Louise Baxley, who is also a cancer survivor, was taking an exercise class exclusively for cancer patients at the Harris Radiation Therapy Center at Gordon Hospital,” Sylvia says. “She asked me to join her and I agreed to go. Today, I can honestly say that it saved my life.”

Led by Exercise Physiologist Sam Shadburn from Gordon Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Department, the class is held every Thursday at 11 a.m. and consists of low-intensity exercises and stretching to help improve balance, strength, and overall quality of life for cancer patients.

“The first few times I went, I had trouble getting out of the car and going into the building,” Sylvia says. “But that has gotten much better, and now I look forward to it every week because I know I’ll feel even better.”

Since beginning the classes, Sylvia says she has experienced a ‘total person’ transformation.

“I still have arthritis so I still have some trouble getting up and down, but I feel so much better,” she says. “I can do my own grocery shopping and things I couldn’t do before. My balance is a lot better, too.”

Sylvia adds that her physical and mental strength is returning as well.

“Attitude has a lot to do with it, and Sam is so motivational,” she says. “I tell him all the time that he saved my life. It’s really hard to describe the feeling unless you experience it yourself.”

In addition to the weekly exercise classes, Sylvia also exercises at home as directed by Shadburn and attends the monthly cancer support group meetings also held at the Harris Radiation Therapy Center at Gordon Hospital.  

“Cancer is depressing and so many people just give up,” she says. “But the people in this class have not given up. Sometimes some of us can’t come because of treatment, but we’re always back the next week.”

Sylvia herself missed a week in July after having surgery for bladder cancer. Today, however, she is considered cancer-free and celebrates her survival with her exercise classmates each week.

“I just love this program and I love the God-based atmosphere,” she says. “It has given me my life back.”

For more information on the free exercise program for cancer patients, please call (706) 879-5853.

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