Healing in Motion: Article by Lesley Snelson

Healing in Motion
by Lesley Snelson, Senior Pilates Trainer, MFA, PMA-CPT

So, what does one do after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis? Well, after all of the activities one does to manage the shocking news and the onslaught of doctors appointments slows down, for me, I saw this as a new era of self-education. My journey thus far shifted perspectives from “How does this fit into my life” to “How can I own this experience as growth within my life”.

As an educator of human movement with over 30 years of experience, I knew from the start I was forever going to move differently, post treatments and surgeries, and thus I would gain more lived experiences I could share with others in the future. This led me to connect with an organization called CETI (Cancer Education Teaching Institute). CETI, led by Andrea Leonard, is an international educational institution which is considered the gold-standard of education in oncology exercise and has trained more individuals than any other organization in the world.*  It was just what I needed personally: connecting the dots of my own treatments to my experience as a movement educator, specifically as a Personal Pilates Trainer, Barteniff Fundamentals and Redcord Trainer. I chose this program to gain the knowledge that would eventually empower anyone going through or post cancer treatments by regaining their range of motion and strength to resume any physical activity or sport they wish to do.

Anyone accepted into this program must have extensive training and certifications within their own specialty – be it Personal Trainer, Yoga, Pilates, Physical Therapy or Nutrition. I was lucky enough to have all the above in my cohort allowing us to ask questions and learn from one another’s expertise. I happen to be selected as the group’s “Guinea pig” for our Anatomical Assessment, which is how a Trainer or Therapist will start any personalized program for a client or patient. My participation allowed my classmates to create their own program for me given my 1) scoliosis 2) lateral mastectomy 3) preparations for the other lateral mastectomy 4) address my lymphedema and neuropathy. Each classmate provided a personalized plan from their expertise, and it was interesting to see the overlaps and their differences in perspectives.

If you live in North Texas, you can join my free Pilates class geared to cancer patients and survivors every Monday, 5:30PM at the Red Door, 1st floor of the Cancer Center on the Presbyterian of Dallas Campus. I also volunteer to teach a free Mindful Movement Dance class on Tuesdays, 5:30PM at the same location. Come play with me! Visit www.cancersupporttexas.org/dallas-clubhouse/ for more detail. We are healing in motion at the Cancer Support Community of North Texas where programs are free day and night. For those of you living outside this region, please visit www.thecancerspecialist.com/user-directory/ to search for the nearest Cancer Exercise Specialist in your area.

For private or semi-private custom physical training programs for you or a loved one who is in or post cancer treatment,  please contact me directly for guidance.  Here is a great beginners stretch that can be performed 6 weeks post-surgery:  The Door Frame Chest Stretch:

  • Stand at the edge of the wall with the rest of body outside of the door.
  • Place the palm of your hand (of your affected arm) flat against the wall resting the elbow at a 90-degree angle.
  • Firmly pressing the forearm into the wall, walk a few steps forward of the elbow through the door frame, gently stretching the pectoral and anterior rotator cuff muscles.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and remember to breathe. If you find the stretch is too painful, walk back just a bit, but continue to hold.
  • Slowly walk in to recover. Do a couple of shoulder rolls to reset, then repeat 3 to 5 times.

Also remember as the great movement healer Moshé Feldenkrais said, Movement heals.

Lesley Snelson is currently undergoing treatment for Stage 3 breast cancer. She is Senior Pilates Trainer, RedCord Trainer, Professor of Dance and a soon to be CET (Cancer Exercise Trainer) through CETI. To learn more about Lesley visit www.PilatesByLesley.com or contact her at 214.986.5384, PilatesByLesley@Gmail.com