Miami Valley woman helps give strength and confidence to cancer patients and survivors


    Miami Valley woman helps give strength and confidence to cancer patients and survivors (WKEF/WRGT)

    KETTERING, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - In life, sometimes we get this feeling pulling us in one direction or another. A Miami Valley woman felt that calling and is now helping cancer patients find strength and confidence through a non-profit built on exercise.

    Inside a large room at the Kettering Cancer Center, you'll see what looks like your typical exercise room. Smiles are common here for people like Linda Moore, Dawn Sanders and Valerie Howard. They do sessions here together.

    "I had a lot of problems with reconstruction surgery and scar tissue and my trainer has allowed me to move again and live again," Sanders said. "It's made a big difference in my life."

    These three women share a bond that others exercising here also share; they're cancer survivors.

    "It means everything to me," Moore said. "I get to workout with my sister and my friend who's like a sister and we're just staying healthy together."

    Cancer-related exercise programs aren't something you hear much about.

    "So I thought well, maybe I'll just start my own because I know it helps people and I know I really want to help as many people as possible," said Karen Wonders, founder of Maple Tree Cancer Alliance. "Cancer is one of those things no one asked to get. No one wants to be down this road. But how great is it to offer hope and encouragement when they are fighting this disease."

    Karen Wonders is a Professor of Exercise Science at Wright State University and is the Director of the Sports Science Program. Wonders started Maple Tree Cancer Alliance, a non-profit working with hospitals to offer a way for cancer patients and those in remission to fight.

    "Not only do we help you to be a part of your life, we help you to be an active participant in your life," Wonders said. "And that's what everyone wants when they're going through cancer."

    For 30 to 45 minute sessions, people like Moore, Sanders and Howard work with a trainer on strengthening their bodies and their resolve.

    "I've seen a big difference in mobility, flexibility and lost a few pounds," Moore said.

    "Most of our patients get stronger when they complete their chemotherapy and radiation," Wonders said. "That goes against what most people think of when they think of cancer. To think I could finish this stronger and feel better than what I do right now."

    What started as one hospital has now expanded to nine. Wonders says she hopes to eventually expand this program across the country.

    "We would never turn any cancer survivor away," said Wonders. "So if they were diagnosed today all the way to 20 plus years in remission we will still work with them."

    It's a lot of work, but for Wonders and her staff the reward is great.

    "For me, I really feel like this is my calling," said Wonders. "This is why God has me on this earth."

    For more information about the Maple Tree Cancer Alliance you can click here.

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