Daily Herald American Cancer Society
Survivors commit to be fit Naperville woman drops 56 pounds with support from Fit Club

"It's much more than a simply a gym membership."

That's how breast cancer survivor Dorothy Caracciolo, describes her experience with Fit Club, a new program emphasizing support, physical fitness and nutrition for cancer patients and their families at St. Alexius Medical Center, Hoffman Estates.

Dorothy Caracciolo of Naperville joined Fit Club at St. Alexius Hospital in Hoffman Estates and lost more than 50 pounds.
Dorothy Caracciolo of Naperville joined Fit Club at St. Alexius Hospital in Hoffman Estates and lost more than 50 pounds, above. Caracciolo's "before" photo, below.
Dorothy Caracciolo's before photo.

When You're Not Motivated to 'Just Do It'

Getting motivated to start or resume an exercise program - or adopt healthier eating habits - can be hard even when you are not dealing with breast cancer. Here are some tips to help you get moving:

• Find an exercise partner or group. Getting motivated to exercise is easier when you have someone to share it with - and be accountable to. Commit to meeting someone at a specific time and place. Join a class that is appropriate for your fitness level. Hire a personal trainer to help you get started.

• Build exercise into daily activities. Walk your dog. Park a little farther from the office. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

• Set modest fitness goals at first. When you start, you may only be able to handle a 10- or 15-minute walk a few times a week. Build your endurance slowly; you will see progress.

• Be realistic. If you are resuming an exercise regimen, don't compare your current fitness level with where you were before treatment. Your body has been through its own marathon and needs time to regain strength.

• Make small dietary changes at first. Sticking to a new way of eating is easier if you introduce changes one

or two at a time. Go from full-fat milk to 2 percent; switch from white bread to 100 percent whole grain;

from white rice to brown.

• Track your progress. Buy a heart-rate monitor or pedometer and record your results. Weigh yourself at

least weekly and write that down, too.

• Set a longer-term goal. Aim to participate in an event such as a fundraising walk or run to help keep you focused and connected to the universe of survivors like yourself.

Source: Breast Cancer Network of Strength

"It's much more than a simply a gym membership."

That's how breast cancer survivor Dorothy Caracciolo, describes her experience with Fit Club, a new program emphasizing support, physical fitness and nutrition for cancer patients and their families at St. Alexius Medical Center, Hoffman Estates.

Caracciolo, a 62-year-old sterile supply processing manager at the Hoffman Estates facility, was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly two years ago.

"It was a routine mammogram that first alerted doctors to a two cm spot on my left breast," recalls the Naperville mother of three. "A lumpectomy, positive sentinel node biopsy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and recommendations for five years of oral medications to help reduce the risk of recurrence left me reeling."

'I was a yo-yo dieter'

Like many breast cancer survivors, Caracciolo says she began searching for other ways to reduce that risk.

"I weighed 196 pounds, was sedentary and a self-described yo-yo dieter," she explains. "I felt I had the very best of health care, a top notch medical team and was determined to do whatever I could to beat cancer."

In addition to joining Weight Watchers and working out at a Lifetime Fitness facility, Caracciolo says her surgeon, Dr. Robert Maganini, pointed her in the direction of Fit Club, a now one-year-old program with strong fitness and nutritional ties.

"Since joining last April, it's been full steam ahead," Caracciolo says. "The support and camaraderie gave me the lift I needed to drop 56 pounds and jump start an exercise program. I now tip the scales at 140 pounds, eat lots of fruits, veggies and lean meats, lift weights and do cardiovascular exercise every other day for an hour or more, rest when needed, take my medicines and am feeling great."

Caracciolo says she's made a dramatic lifestyle change, thanks to the Fit Club's weekly walking and exercise sessions at Prairie Stone Sports & Wellness Center, Hoffman Estates consultations with the Sue Rodig, program dietitian, and the support of fellow Fit Club members.

Fit Club spurred changes

Opal Wilson, a 74-year-old Streamwood breast cancer survivor and Fit Club member says she couldn't agree more.

"We walk the treadmills and track, ride the bikes and everyone supports everyone else," notes Wilson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 shortly after finding a suspicious lump. "We can literally discuss anything from breast cancer to families, work and life."

Wilson says her Fit Club experience also spurred major lifestyle changes, including a commitment to walking for wellness. During a recent family reunion vacation, Wilson insisted on working her walking regimen into the planned activities, taking her husband and sister along for the two- to five-mile trek each day. She recently toured downtown Chicago's sites on foot - logging more than eight miles in one daylong visit.

Focused on survivorship

Kathleen Baronello, breast care coordinator at St. Alexius Medical Center, says Caracciolo and Wilson's experiences aren't unique. "Our survivorship program has always had a strong physical fitness component," she says.

"Fit Club solidifies this commitment as we stress the importance of physical fitness for all ages and abilities, and good nutrition for those affected by cancer."

Baronello says cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can contribute to an increase body fat mass and even weight gain. Body changes, she says, may lower self-esteem and add anxiety to an already stressful situation.

'It's our goal to have patients complete their treatment with better physical fitness and nutrition awareness than when they came to us," says Baronello, who has more than 21 years in surgical practice management nursing.

Fit Club programs are divided into weekly indoor/outdoor stretching and muscle strengthening workouts with varied levels of resistance, walking, running and cycling. Practical approaches to good nutritional management also are emphasized, including recipes, lectures and food preparation tips.

"From an initial core group of 10 to 15 members, the Fit Club membership continues to blossom and welcome new members," Baronello says. "The program has become a true cohesive community focused on survivorship, jump starting personal fitness commitments and enhancing activity levels for others."

For information, call (847) 755-8626 or drop in from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays at the Prairie Stone Sports & Wellness Center, Hoffman Estates.

 

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