Woman left ‘weak as a kitten’ after cancer diagnosis says CV Life’s rehab programme ‘rebuilt’ her

A Coventry woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer has said the CV Life cancer rehab programme has helped rebuild her life following surgery and radiotherapy treatment.

Sharon’s world came to a grinding halt when she was unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer at a screening in 2021.

She says surgery, followed by intensive radiotherapy treatment, left her feeling as ‘weak as a kitten’.

Prior to diagnosis, Sharon was a highflier in the world of finance, a regional manager whose job saw her travelling up and down the country. But recovery from surgery swiftly followed by radiotherapy left her feeling depleted physically, mentally and emotionally.

As part of her post-treatment care, Sharon was advised to try to get back to some form of normalcy. The doctor told her she needed to be active to get her strength back up, and recommended CV Life’s 12 week Cancer/Cardiac Rehab Programme.  

So Sharon reached out to instructor Lisa Boden. She’s never looked back.

Sharing her story, Sharon said: “The cancer was picked up on breast screening. I never considered in a million years I might have cancer. Luckily it was caught very early on.”

Diagnosed in late 2021, she underwent surgery to remove the lump straight away, followed by radiotherapy in early 2022.

“Radiotherapy was so debilitating,” Sharon admitted. “I underestimated just what it would do to me – I didn’t realise how tired I would be.

“I was left with no energy, no stamina. I’d always been very active, I worked full time, and kept myself fit. 

“So when the rehab was recommended, I thought ‘this will get me back to being me’. 

“I was as weak as a kitten at first. Lisa had put out these little steps, not high, but to me it might as well have been a mountain – I just could not see how I’d get up it.

“Throughout diagnosis, surgery and radiotherapy I’d lost a lot of confidence – it just left me a different person almost. I’d always been very active. I did exercise classes, I was driving all over the UK for work – but here I was unable to get up a little step.”

“So each week we built up a little bit more, walking, and a little bit of weights. All the while Lisa would talk to us to see how we’re getting on and discuss nutrition, our mental state, the whole package.

Discussing how the process works before you start the sessions, Sharon explained: “Lisa rings you up and goes through your details – she has heaps of knowledge. Then she relates to you individually so it’s really tailored.

“Lisa was like an angel, encouraging you all the time, giving advice, helping with specific niggles. It was so personal.”

But it wasn’t just Lisa who kept Sharon going – it was her classmates who were all in a very similar boat.

“We had such a laugh,” Sharon said. “We’d be taking the mickey out of each other and we always had a giggle. It got so I was looking forward to going each week. I made so many friends.

“Then at the end of the 12 weeks Lisa gives you things to go forward with – how to stay healthy, but not just exercise but about nutrition and protein and everything.

“It’s had such a massive impact and since the rehab I’ve started doing lots of other classes and courses and I now do different CV classes every day.

“I’ve been making friends, getting healthy and generally getting back to my old self – it rebuilt me, honestly it really brought me back to life.”

Talking about Sharon, rehab instructor Lisa said: “Sharon has been a great ambassador for the rehabilitation programme. She started very unsure that she would be able to do anything. She quickly gained confidence in her own ability though and flourished both physically and with confidence. 

“She was a joy to have in the sessions with her infectious enthusiasm and support for the other participants. She has reached a good level of fitness and continues with different classes across the centres. I see her regularly at my Pilates class at Alan Higgs where she keeps me up to date on what’s happening.”

Discussing her approach to these classes, Lisa continued: “I have been instructing rehab classes for Twenty-Three years. This experience has taught me that everyone has their own individual journey and although you complete all the necessary training courses, there is actually no one-size fits all rule book. 

“It’s very important for me to get to know every individual with a thorough consultation prior to starting to really get to know their requirements. We run small groups where I am constantly observing every participant as they move, to make sure the exercise is safe and effective.

“There is considerable research to show that exercise can prevent further Cardiac events and recurrence of Cancer. Exercise can significantly reduce side effects of medication and boost mood and self-esteem.

“Starting off with a structured rehab programme ensures you progress at the correct rate and gives you confidence to carry on with the correct type of exercise/activity.

“There are many benefits of exercising in a group – it’s very sociable and you are with other people going through similar experiences, so there are no preconceived expectations and no pressure to be at a certain level at a set time. The sessions are very relaxed and flexible, you can chat and meet new people.”

Explaining a bit more about how the sessions work, Lisa added: “There are four levels, everyone begins at Level One and then progress at a pace that suits the individual. We use the FIIT principle. This is Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type of exercise to progress. We use hand weights to encourage strength gain.

“For Cardiac rehab you can be referred straight form the Phase 3 post hospital sessions. The GP can refer as well if it is longer than Six months since any Cardiac event.

“For Cancer rehab you can be referred by your Cancer nurse, MacMillan services at UHCW or by contacting me directly.”

To find out more about the sessions, contact Lisa Boden on lboden@cvlife.co.uk. Group sessions are held weekly at Xcel, Alan Higgs and Centre AT7. 

Sharon has now been given the all clear, and will have regular checks with her specialist but in the meantime continues to get stronger through the classes while making friends along the way.