Moving Forward After Cancer With Survivorship Exercise Fitness Program

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August 11, 2020


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On a rainy Miami afternoon, Stephany Goyla and Carla Walker pull on their workout clothes and prepare to run through a series of bicep curls, burpees, lunges and other exercises. It wouldn’t be that notable, except that they are cancer survivors and they are Zooming in to train virtually from the safety of their own homes with Miami Cancer Institute exercise physiologist James Cleary.


Stephany Goyla exercises from the comfort of her home through a virtual class with Miami Cancer Institute exercise physiologist James Cleary.

The women are taking part in a special program the Institute offers to a growing population ― cancer survivors. Thanks to earlier detection and new, sophisticated treatments, there are nearly 17 million cancer survivors in the U.S. today, according to the American Cancer Society. June is National Cancer Survivor Month. And while business is returning to a new normal as the nation continues to grapple with COVID-19, Miami Cancer Institute has turned its programming ―including many services for cancer survivors ― virtual.

The Institute’s Cancer Patient Support Center offers survivors everything from yoga and tai chi to mindfulness workshops and support groups. “We have a full spectrum of comprehensive clinical services for survivors with an emphasis on healing, recovery, wellness and disease prevention,” said M. Beatriz Currier, M.D., director of the program. There are also nutrition and cooking classes, massage therapy and acupuncture, and talks given by physicians and other experts. Many programs are free, others are low cost or reimbursed by insurance.

“Miami Cancer Institute clearly understands the financial stress that patients and survivors go through,” said Ms. Goyla, a cervical cancer survivor. “Outside of the Institute, these programs are very unaffordable, but they make it possible.”

Ms. Goyla was referred by her physician to the 10 week/20 session personalized gym program, which requires an evaluation and pre-approval. Like many of the Institute’s survivor programs, it is designed to transition patients who have completed cancer treatment to an active lifestyle beyond cancer. The course is not covered by insurance and costs $100.

“I’ve never been crazy about fitness, but it’s been great. Not only does James know how to motivate and challenge me, he is also very aware of the problems I have due to my illness,” she said. Ms. Goyla has so embraced exercise that she began an Instagram page to feature her workouts.


Carla Walker, who was surprised to discover how much she enjoyed working out, is a breast cancer survivor.

Ms. Walker, who underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery for breast cancer, also found the exercise program to be beneficial.  “At first I was disappointed when we transitioned from the in-person gym sessions to our homes,” she said. “I didn’t know how well that would work. But James demonstrates every exercise and talks me through my breathing. He has listened to me and made on-the-spot changes for my arthritic knees. It’s been wonderful.”

Mr. Cleary says that clients seem to like the virtual classes, even with minimal equipment on hand. “It has been eye-opening for patients,” he said. “They are able to see that you don’t necessarily need a gym to get a good workout. There are many different variations to exercise using your own body weight and even regular household items.”

Cancer Patient Support Center

Research shows that exercise, nutrition, and stress reduction and mindfulness programs, help to improve everything from the fog of “chemo brain” to strength and balance and overall quality of life. If you’ve received cancer care at Miami Cancer Institute and would like to know more about the survivorship programs, call the Cancer Patient Support Center at 786-310-3560.

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