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Listen to 'Defining Moment'

A week before final exams during the second year of our doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program this spring, we slipped out of a lecture on vestibular disorders 15 minutes early and nervously walked over to the cancer center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC). We were about to host our first complimentary exercise class for patients with breast cancer.

We had talked about offering the class for nearly 2 years, since our first semester in school. Working together during class breaks and late at night, we had written numerous proposals and emails, sought out meetings with physicians and researchers at several medical centers, researched exercise in patients with cancer, and spent hours posting flyers about the class and rehearsing exercise routines.

Developing an exercise program for people with cancer seemed like a no-brainer from a need standpoint: Numerous studies show the benefits of cardiovascular training for this population—both to counter the effects of cardiotoxic chemotherapy agents and to potentially reduce cancer recurrence and improve survivorship. Similarly, data show that yoga can decrease anxiety and possibly reduce neuropathy. Many patients with cancer want to participate in exercise classes with other patients because the group dynamic allows them to feel less self-conscious and offers an organic support network.

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