Coping With Cancer: Treating the body means more than fighting the disease
Lisa Mancini-Johnson, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Founder and Director, Body In Balance
Lisa wanted to help children who were trying to resume their lives after cancer. Some were coping with a physical impairment, a lack of endurance or loss of agility or suffering from ongoing pain. So in 2006, Lisa—along with three fellow State University at Stony Brook (SBU) faculty members led by Dr. Ray McKenna—launched the Play Fit-Stay Fit program, which helps pediatric cancer survivors return to the physical activities they enjoyed before they had cancer. The program is hosted at Body In Balance and was a collaboration with SBU, and supported by an evolution grant from the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF). The program, now in its third year, is running independent of the LAF grant with the assistance of the Sunrise Fund in Stony Brook.
As clinical director, Lisa oversees the 12-week program that is conducted by a group of experts, including physical therapists, exercise physiologists, nutritionists and social workers, and is free to pediatric cancer survivors and their families. The program is unique as it not only focuses on fitness, but also helps with the nutritional and psychosocial aspects of healing.
Lisa gave me a tour of the Body In Balance facility, where the brightly colored, spacious fitness and play area is used twice a week by 17 children enrolled in the fall program. The siblings of survivors are encouraged to join in the fun, and they also offer parents the use of the gym or yoga classes while their children participate in the program. Giving families the opportunity to get well together in an upbeat, fun atmosphere is an important part of Play Fit-Stay Fit.
“We need to dispel the myth that you can’t exercise [after having cancer treatments],” Lisa says and she described her newest initiative for breast cancer survivors, the Breast Cancer Wellness Program.
“We screen [the women] to determine if there is a need for rehab or not. We test them and design a program with recommended exercises to work with in our gym or with another trainer,” Lisa explains. “It amazes me to work with the breast cancer population and how positive they are. They are so inspiring.”
In an effort to reach as many women in need as possible, Lisa recently met with members of VIBS (Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk), an agency that assists the survivors of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault. She will be working with VIBS to create a special Body In Balance program for these victims.
Many survivors say that having been through a life-changing experience like cancer has made them feel like a different person. Lisa is working hard to ensure that the person that emerges after participating in her program feels physically fit and emotionally ready to get back to their new normal.
For more information call 631-232-5350 or e-mail Lisa at BodyInBalancePT@aol.com.
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