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Ask the Expert: Physical and Integrative Wellness at the Community Cancer Center

physical and integrative wellness

As part of our celebration of 10 years of the Nassif Community Cancer Center, our team members will give an inside look into the services available to our patients and how they can help them along the cancer journey.

Next up is Cancer Exercise Specialist and Integrative Wellness Program Manager Matt Schmitz, sharing more about the Physical and Integrative Wellness Program the importance of wellness in the cancer journey.

What is Included in the Physical and Integrative Wellness Program?

The physical and integrative wellness program consists of group and individualized exercise programs, massage, acupuncture, healing energy, meditation, and aromatherapy. I like to think of it as ways we can use our mind, body and spirit to help improve our health and better our lives both during and after treatment.

How Does the Program Benefit Cancer Patients and Survivors?

Wellness benefits everyone, but can be especially important for cancer patients and survivors. It is a way that patients can empower themselves. Many times, at diagnosis and during treatment it feels like things are out of our control. Integrative Wellness can be used to reduce stress and anxiety, help with treatment related side effects and just help with overall health and wellbeing. It’s something you can do to better yourself and get back some control.

How Did the Program Start? And How Has it Grown in the Last Ten Years?

The program started about 10 years ago. At that time, we offered exercise and massage therapy. When first starting, the exercise component was individualized one-on-one training, and I still individualize routines for the patients today. People have different goals and are affected differently during treatment. Their exercise program should be built around their individual needs.

As a staff, we realized early on that one component that was missing was a group atmosphere. As we realized this need, we put focus into having group exercise classes. It’s amazing to watch the group interaction between patients. This is very evident seeing the smiling faces at a healing art or grow happy class. The Center is a place where people feel comfortable asking for help or talking about things they are going through. They know that every person in these group classes has had an experience with cancer.

Outside of the addition of group exercise we knew we needed to provide more to support patients dealing with the anxiety and stress that happens during and after treatment. We have added healing energy, different styles of massage, acupuncture, and aromatherapy. This list will continue to grow with the needs of our patients. We have always taken great pride in focusing on the patient first. This patient-centered approach allows patients to individualize their care.

What Have Been Your Favorite Additions to the Program?

My favorite additions have to do with programs centered around stress, anxiety, relaxation and the effect that these feelings have on our body. We continue to see studies showing how physical exercise has been proven to provide both physical and mental benefits.

Our Integrative Wellness program has taken this a step further and allowed for other ways to rest, recover and relax. We now have massage, healing energy, acupuncture, meditation and essential oils. Every person is different, but we all have stress. Finding ways to relieve this stress and what works best for you is extremely important for lifelong health and happiness. I also think that it is extremely important as we add additional classes or integrative wellness programs that they are taught by specialists.  Each instructor, therapist or practitioner has been specially trained in their field.

Lastly, one thing that continues to set us apart is we provide all our care in one space. When patients come into the Nassif Community Cancer Center, they know that each person who works here specializes in cancer care, and every patient that comes through the door has been affected by cancer. All those experiences are different, but there is a bond between all our patients. It’s this bond that allows them the comfort of opening up to each other in a safe place.

What Do You See Happening with the Physical and Integrative Wellness Program in the Next 10 years?

We have always tried to provide for the needs of our patients. As these needs change, we will evolve. We stay on top of all current studies and trends and try to provide all the most current, effective care possible. We will continue to be patient-centered and treat each patient and their own unique and individual needs. I am excited to see how we continue to evolve not only with the treatment of cancer but in the treatment of “people.”

Matt Schmitz
CSCS, CES, AFT

Matt has been a cancer exercise specialist at the Nassif Community Cancer Center since April 2011.

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