By Tim E. Renzelmann
Note from Tim: This is the second in series of articles exploring the question “What is Survive, Thrive & Be Fit?”
Part One is available here: https://scccf.org/post?s=what-is-survive-thrive-be-fit-part-1-of-2023-02-09
Survive, Thrive & Be Fit is not really an exercise program (although you can get plenty of exercise) and it’s not a typical or traditional support group (although you can get plenty of support)! It’s both... and so much more!
Ever since I began this work, I have spent considerable time reflecting on and writing about my personal cancer experience in an effort to better understand what might be helpful for others along their own personal journey.
Behind me, as I sit at my computer, is a shelf lined with binders that are filled with many of those writings from past issues of the TLC Supportive Newsletter and the Local Cancer Community Update.
If I did an analysis of my writings from the past 23 years, I suspect several themes or principles would emerge that I consider essential elements to me and possibly others throughout their journey and their life. I will list them here in no particular order:
I have always tried to incorporate these essential elements into the events and activities in our Local Cancer Community.
Survive, Thrive & Be Fit would obviously fit within the “Exercise” element. However, as a lifelong athlete and fitness enthusiast who has personally experienced the profound and seemingly infinite benefits of exercise and activity that have impacted EVERY meaningful aspect of my life, it spills over into every other element. Additionally, there are many benefits of exercise that have specifically enhanced my personal cancer experience from the day of diagnosis (May 11, 1992) throughout treatment and continuing well into survivorship (today, almost 31 years later)! NOTE: In the next article I share one such experience that offers a bit of anecdotal evidence and supports why I have long believed that physical exercise and activity should be a part of every cancer patient’s treatment, recovery, and survivorship plans and why I am so passionate about Survive, Thrive & Be Fit!
How Survive, Thrive & Be Fit Came About:
In the spring of 2005 (about five years before Survive, Thrive & Be Fit even existed) I began offering “TLC for the Body” Wellness Walks for area cancer patients/survivors. I wanted to explore what I thought of as a “walk and talk” Survivorship Session (or support group) during which participants could experience the many psycho-socio-emotional-spiritual benefits of a traditional support group setting along with the added benefits that come from moderate physical exercise and activity. “Two birds with one stone,” as they say... or “DOUBLE PRIZES!!” Add the additional benefits of being in nature while walking outdoors and you get “TRIPLE PRIZES”!
Eventually, in the Fall of 2009, I proposed the expansion of this idea to SCCCF’s Board of Directors and shortly thereafter Survive, Thrive & Be Fit was born. Our first ST&BF activity was a “Gentle Yoga for Cancer Survivors” session that was held on February 1st, 2010, and attended by more than twenty cancer patients/ survivors! Since then, we have offered a wide range of activities.
Even though Survive, Thrive & Be Fit is not your typical support group, the support that cancer patients and survivors receive from one another AND offer to one another during their participation is a critical and essential component.
Frankly, I have always been more than a bit puzzled as to why more cancer patients/survivors don’t take advantage of all that a supportive community (such as TLC and/or ST&BF) has to offer. But that may be a topic for another time. In the meantime, consider this article from the National Cancer Institute which states, “Even though a lot of people receive support from friends and family, the number one reason they join a support group is to be with others who have similar cancer experiences. Some research shows that joining a support group improves both quality of life and survival.”
As this article indicates, there are many practical reasons to join an effective support group or supportive community that includes learning more about the disease and treatment options, finding helpful resources, learning effective coping strategies, considering different perspectives, and having a place to share and discuss your feelings and emotions.
These are all valuable benefits. But, as someone who has been involved in support groups for over 30 years (as both a participant and a facilitator), the greatest benefits (and gifts) are are simply the PEOPLE (kind, compassionate, and so supportive), the STORIES (inspirational, profound, and life-altering), and the ENJOYMENT (yes, having fun even amidst cancer is not only possible, it’s the healthy thing to do)!
I have much more to share about the efficacy and the enjoyment of Survive, Thrive & Be Fit, so watch for Part 3. In the meantime, allow me to share this link to an article that includes thoughts and comments about the benefits of exercise from Dr. Bettag that appeared in this update several months ago:
And let me end by sharing one of my favorite personal stories that offers anecdotal evidence of one of the many benefits that a cancer patient (or anyone, for that matter) may experience through physical exercise and activity!View PDF