TRAVERSE CITY — Don’t wash your hair. Don’t lift the milk. Don’t button your shirt, brush your teeth or hug the kids too hard.
Lisa Parks’ post-operative “don’t do” list was beyond long — it was psychologically undermining to the independent mother of three. Recovering from a double mastectomy restricted Parks from any overhead movement and daily tasks like laundry and driving were off-limits.
“You lose so much muscle and strength that you start wondering ‘what can I do?’” Parks said.
A spike of the volleyball answered the question this month when Parks played beach volleyball for the first time in her life — an accomplishment born of time, attitude and The Journey Program, she said. Parks, a reverse mortgage specialist, celebrated one-year cancer free in Cancun, Mexico, and is a member of The Journey Program’s most recent graduating class.
“It’s amazing,” Parks said. “You get confidence in your own body back.”
The Journey Program is a 10-week “cancer exercise wellness program” run out of Traverse City’s Anytime Fitness and Fast Physical Therapy and Frankfort’s Betsie Hosick Heath & Fitness Center.
It’s free to cancer patients who are newly diagnosed, undergoing treatment and in remission for up to two years post treatment. Classes meet twice a week to build core strength, improve cardiovascular endurance and increase energy levels.
Exercise helps people tolerate cancer treatment better, said Jean Mahoney, who directs the program with Annemarie Wigton. Building strength also helps people transition back to “normal activities,” Mahoney said.
“You get into a situation where people are going back to work after long absences and want — or are expected — to do everything they used to do, plus make up for lost time,” Mahoney said. “We want to give them some good core strength and a good strong base, so they don’t get hurt.”