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PINK at Piedmont: Life beyond breast cancer

For women with breast cancer, a strong support system, regular exercise, proper nutrition and stress reduction can be exactly what they need to get through one of the most difficult times in their lives. That is where PINK at Piedmont comes in. “PINK is exercise, support, education and learning how to deal with cancer on a long-term basis,” Barbara Robey, a life coach and PINK at Piedmont facilitator. The 12-week program includes twice-weekly exercise classes, nutrition consultation and education, and stress reduction through guided imagery and yoga classes. PINK is designed to pamper, support and restore participants while they return to the basics of good nutrition, exercise and a sense of well-being.

PINK’s support group

“I was introduced to the PINK program by the nurse navigator at Piedmont after my first surgery,” says Nora Levesque, a breast cancer survivor and PINK participant. “I said, ‘That sounds like a great program.’" PINK at Piedmont offers participants several opportunities that they might not have otherwise, explains Robey. “It’s a group experience where you have other women who are in the same situation,” she says. Levesque especially valued the support group led by Robey, where she met other women dealing with many of the same issues she was facing. “You could share with other people about what was going on,” she says. “We’ve developed some nice friendships.”

Exercise classes

In addition to the support group, Robey says participants enjoy exercising together and motivating one another. Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center exercise physiologist Paige Jones, ACSM CES,  says a major part of the PINK program is incorporating exercise to help participants regain a good quality of life after cancer treatment. “We do cardiovascular exercise for 30 minutes on the treadmills, bikes and ellipticals, followed by strength training and flexibility in our group exercise studio,” says Jones.

“We keep it mixed up and fun for them.” Levesque said she was drawn to the program because of the exercise physiologists’ expertise. “They have the background and the education to know what goes on inside our bodies. They’re not just trainers – they are experts in their field,” she says. “I wanted to gently ease back into working out with someone who knew what they were doing.” Jones says the PINK exercise program is tailored to meet the needs of breast cancer patients. “We treat breast cancer patients a little differently,” he says. “We’re looking to be gentle with them because we don’t want to cause any undue swelling due to lymphedema or any treatment complications.”

Life coaching

“I see women one-on-one, usually weekly, for life coaching,” says Robey. “Coaching is a very individualized process. [We talk] about the present and the future. We deal with what’s going on now and where you want to go from here.” Robey notices a positive change in most participants as they go through the 12-week program. “When people first come in, they talk a lot about their treatment – how difficult it is, the radiation burns, the pain they’re suffering, the doctors they’re going to and how many appointments they have,” she explains.

However, as time progress, the women start asking about each other’s lives, such as their families and vacation plans. “That’s what I think PINK is all about – helping women see that they have a life beyond cancer,” says Robey. All PINK at Piedmont participants are required to have a release to exercise from their oncologist and to make a 12-week commitment. Program participation is open to women currently undergoing treatment and up to eight months post-treatment.

This program is provided in collaboration with the Piedmont Atlanta Fitness Center and the Doris Shaheen Breast Health Center at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. It is sponsored by It’s the Journey, Inc., Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer. Cancer Wellness programs are offered free to Piedmont patients and anyone in the community affected by cancer, thanks to the generous support of donors. For more information about PINK at Piedmont and other programs, visit Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.