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Helping cancer survivors get “back to life” after treatment with new wellness center

Anna Carrera • 7/18/19

Helping cancer survivors get “back to life” after treatment with new wellness center

After finishing cancer treatments, many survivors do not know where to turn for guidance about their physical and mental health. The Indiana Cancer Wellness Center is a one-stop-shop for guidance about nutrition, fitness, wellness and other services that people wouldn’t be able to get at a hospital.

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine and IUPUI have been working on the infrastructure of this program for the last several months. The goal is to develop personalized approaches to optimize health and wellness of cancer survivors to help them live longer, healthier lives — during and after cancer treatment. While survivors are working with the research team, they get free access to the wellness center.

“We’re doing an amazing job at curing a lot of people with cancer,” said Jamie Renbarger, MD, MS. “Now we need to figure out better ways to help them get completely back to normalcy, or life after treatment.”

Renbarger works as a pediatric oncologist and came up with the idea for the wellness center after seeing her patients suffer from neuropathy. She was concerned when their pain affected their ability to exercise, causing effects like obesity and cardiovascular disease.

The research team started working with cancer survivors at the wellness center in the beginning of June 2019. Cancer survivor Michael Sajdyk is about halfway through his program. He meets with a personal trainer (who is a medical student) three times a week and says he has already seen positive results.

“Just seeing that transition, that change to where I am now, is such a motivating factor,” said Sajdyk. “You look at that and think, ‘I can’t believe I did that in six weeks.'”

Sajdyk says he appreciates that the trainers work with the survivors as an individual, personalizing care for each person’s needs at various levels.

“Without treating the whole person, you’re not going to help them achieve long-term goals,” said Sajdyk.

Cancer survivors from around the state will have access to these services, housed within the Indianapolis Healthplex. Organizers plan to renovate a section inside the Healthplex on the third floor, adding a lobby, an exercise area and other specialized spaces for researchers to work with the survivors. Survivors will also be able to use the entire Healthplex during participation in the research program.

“The Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute really provides the foundation that is allowing us to do the research we’re kicking off,” said Renbarger.

Researchers say the Indiana CTSI is also helping them develop a database from across the state, which will help them compile information to better guide cancer survivors.

Participants do not need to be patients of the IU Health system to participate in the wellness center.

The Indiana Cancer Wellness Center is made possible through the support of IU School of Medicine, IUPUI Health and Human Sciences, Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, IU Grand Challenge Precision Health Initiative, University of Indianapolis Department of Kinesiology, and the generosity of Joan SerVaas, CEO, Saturday Evening Post Society and Owner, Indianapolis Healthplex.

To get more information about the Indiana Cancer Wellness Center Program, contact Tammy Sajdyk at tsajdyk@iu.edu  or Jamie Renbarger at jarenbar@iu.edu.

For information about the research study, call Dani Halsey at 317-948-7186 or send an email to surstudy@iupui.edu.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Author

Anna Carrera

Research Communications Manager

Anna Carrera is the research communications manager for Indiana University's Precision Health Initiative, IU School of Medicine and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. She joined the team in June 2019 after working as a TV news reporter for 10 years. When she's not working, Anna loves running, baking and watching plays. Contact Anna at acarrer@iu.edu or (317)278-2839.