Cancer fighters, survivors look to Edmontonians for support for Alberta exercise program

Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, ACE to host fundraising event for Cancer Rehabilitation Clinic on November 22

Amanda McCarthy - 21 November 2017

Is there life after cancer? More importantly, is there hope? Candace Cook says yes! Thanks to the Alberta Cancer Exercise (ACE) program, she sees herself as a strong individual-a fighter.

Alongside fellow cancer survivors and Edmontonians in the community, Cook will be attending the ACE program's fundraiser event for the University of Alberta's Cancer Rehabilitation Clinic on Nov. 22 at Blues on Whyte with local band Sam Spades.

"ACE has given me so much more than I had ever anticipated. It has given me one of the most valuable things you can give a stage 4 cancer patient-peace of mind and hope."

Diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, day-to-day life for Cook looked like the inside of a palliative care doctor's office. She was in pain, heavily medicated and exhausted. But she wanted to live, and most of all, she wanted to have a better life with her husband and her son.

"I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2011 at the age of 38," says Cook. "My husband and I were only married for three years and my son was just two years old. After the diagnosis, I underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy treatment for a year, plus targeted Herceptin treatment."

After two years, the cancer was back, and Cook had to go through intense chemotherapy and three different treatment pathways. She wanted to live a good life for her family. She needed something different.

"I tried to incorporate walks and yoga into my life to help my body recover from all that it had been through, but I knew I needed help."

That's when she found the Alberta Cancer Exercise program.

"ACE is a free 12-week community-based exercise program that is designed specifically for individuals undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment. The program is offered here in the Cancer Rehabilitation Clinic in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine as well as at the Edmonton YMCA locations and Wellspring Edmonton," says Margaret McNeely, associate professor, Department of Physical Therapy and director, Cancer Rehabilitation Clinic. "Some of our participants in ACE have advanced cancer and may be on and off cancer treatments to control their disease. Many of these individuals will live a long time with cancer. For these survivors, their needs in terms of rehabilitation are ongoing and will likely change over time depending on how the cancer progresses."

In order to support cancer fighters and survivors, the program and the clinic need funding-something that McNeely hopes will be achieved with a little help from the community.

On Wednesday, November 22, the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, in partnership with ACE, will be hosting a fundraising event in support of the Cancer Rehabilitation Clinic atBlues on Whyte with Sam Spades from 8:00 to 10:00 pm. The event is geared toward garnering funding for survivors with advanced cancer, including the prostate cancer therapeutic exercise program and various other rehabilitation supports for all types of cancer.

"Aside from providing these exercise supports to cancer survivors, we also want to continue to support research examining the benefit of physical therapy and therapeutic exercise interventions that address overall function as well as symptoms such as pain, fatigue and lymphedema," says McNeely. "As well, the clinic serves to train and provide learning opportunities for graduate students interested in the cancer rehabilitation field. Currently, there are five research studies being carried out in the clinic. We want to keep all of this going so we can help all patients as best as we can."

McNeely encourages everyone to come out and enjoy the musical stylings of local band Sam Spades while supporting a good cause. Entrance to the event is free, but donations are accepted.

Every donation collected will go to support cancer survivors and fighters, like Cook, and their families.

"I would love for more people to know about the program so that they can reap the benefits," says Cook. "I have been dealing with side effects of cancer treatment for seven years now and there are some things that will likely never be repaired. The drugs are extremely harsh and it takes time to recover. But rehabilitation and a prescription for healthy living can help to reduce the number of cases in which cancer returns."

And with the right supports-both physically and mentally-cancer survivors and fighters can go on to live long, healthy lives with their loved ones.

"There is a marked change in my energy level and I have regained the hope that I had lost. Before, I had a hard time imagining a future. Now I allow myself to look further down the road than I ever have," says Cook.

To RSVP to the fundraiser or for more information, email