Leonie's Story

“My breast surgeon referred me to cancer rehab physiotherapist Hope Spencer at The Positive Health Project so I could improve my shoulder movement prior to breast reconstruction surgery, and I haven't looked back.”

Leonie was diagnosed with breast cancer Stage 2, Grade 2 in April 2020 just as the first wave of covid restrictions started. Despite having a good circle of support, getting a cancer diagnosis during this time meant that Leonie completed her oncology appointment and treatments on her own. She felt stressed, anxious, and very lonely. The pandemic had added even more stress to what a very emotional time, and Leonie was impacted by high levels of anxiety throughout.

Leonie had a single mastectomy with an expander and sentinel node removal in May 2020 and after five months of chemotherapy, unfortunately, the pathology showed the cancer had spread. That meant Leonie had to return for more surgery, an axillary clearance, followed by four weeks of radiation treatment.

“After my mastectomy I had difficulty moving my left arm. I had some exercises given to me before I left hospital which helped me get my arm moving but it was never quite right. During chemo I gained 20 kilos, I was so sad as I had lost weight prior to my diagnosis for my daughter's wedding which had been cancelled due to covid restrictions. I was relieved to have gotten through chemotherapy but I was now left with neuropathy in both feet and could barely move my arm. I was in a lot of pain, overweight, miserable, and worse of all I felt alone in my battles.”

Leonie’s breast surgeon referred her Hope Spencer at The Positive Health Project for cancer rehabilitation.

“Hope literally gave me hope towards the future. She worked with my abilities and my arm started to move again. I was still battling my weight; I had a very expensive mother of the bride dress to fit back into. I knew I needed to start physical exercise again but it was overwhelming the thought of the pain I'd be in if I started, so I just didn't.”

Leonie thought that was the extent of her rehabilitation. Her arm was moving well but she was far from satisfied with her experience of what life was like after cancer.

“I thought I would be this way for ever an email turned up in my inbox from Hope with a special offer to do the Next Steps Program, I took this a sign. It was just what I need to motivate me to get moving again. Previously I had been too fearful to go to a gym or exercise at home as I knew it was going to hurt and didn't know what I could or couldn't do, I really felt broken. I took the opportunity and signed up and so glad I did. I was so nervous to start. I'm uncoordinated, lacked energy and physically looked a lot different to how I used to look. But I needn't have been worried.”

The exercise program enabled Leonie to get moving in a safe friendly environment. The cancer rehab physio was able to tailor the exercises to suit Leonie’s individual experience, including helping her manage the side effects she was experiencing due to hormone treatments. Leonie starting to not only be pleased with being able to complete the exercises but she was really enjoying the sessions and looked forward to the class each week.

“The program is perfect for cancer survivors, just diagnosed or going through treatment, it's the right combination of cardiac exercising and stretching. It is enough to get the heart rate up but then not feel like you are going to pass out as you have the yoga, stretching and mediation to bring the heart rate back. The bonus to this specific exercise class was that it is done with others in the same or similar situation as you. We can all relate to our struggles with image, abilities and the crap cards we have been dealt, there is no judgement, only support and a lot of laughs. We actually have fun while doing our bodies good. I'm hooked.”

“I would thoroughly recommend all breast cancer patients give it a go, even if you think you can't, you'll surprise yourself that you actually can.”

Ps I got back into my mother of the bride dress and after another two cancellations my beautiful daughter was finally married on 4/2/22 and I danced the night away!



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