SIH starts first cancer rehab program in the region


Reporter - Kathryn DiGisi

HERRIN, Ill. - There are more than 13 million cancer survivors living in the United States and Southern Illinois Healthcare employees say that 90% of those survivors could benefit from some kind of cancer rehabilitation.

But only 30% of survivors go through with any kind of rehab.

To increase that number, SIH teamed up with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Together, they started the first cancer rehab program in the Southern Illinois region which operates out of four different locations: Murphysboro, Anna, Carbondale and Herrin.

Physical Therapist Liz Haas says that just like any other rehab patient, an individual fighting cancer needs to move.

"They need that cardiac training, the strengthening, the balance training," said Haas.

Doctor Terrence Glennon says cancer patients need to increase their mobility before their treatment starts.

He compares chemo and radiation to a daunting 26.2 mile race.

"If you were going to run a marathon, you wouldn't go up to the starting line and start, you'd condition yourself, you'd prepare," said Glennon.

Glennon says rehab is just as crucial after treatment.

"It's very tempting to just lay down. They're tired, they want to rest," said Glennon.

Physical Therapists want to curb that desire, starting with a treadmill.

"It can be anything from just five minutes a day, to building up to your 30 minutes of cardio activity," said Haas.

The therapists use bikes, medicine balls and even a pool to transition patients from treatment to normal life.

"Some of the training we do is strengthening, so we'll use a ball for upper extremities, but we also do different positioning with our feet. So basically that's narrowing your base of support, so challenging your ankles, knees and hips," said Haas.

The rehab program also utilizes a healing garden.

The variety of the surfaces and the gentle slopes in the garden help patient's balance.

Dr. Glennon says cancer does make you a different person.

"You don't have to change your goals, you may change the route you get there," said Glennon.

He says rehab may be just the route they need.

Southern Illinois Healthcare is currently raising funds for a cancer center that will eventually sit right in the middle of the Route 13 corridor.