Event to empower breast cancer survivors

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LEAWOOD, Kan. -- The treatments that help so many women survive breast cancer can result in fatigue, weight gain, weak bones and other problems.  They can even raise the risk of heart disease.  Survivors will have a special opportunity this weekend to gain knowledge and power.

When Sara Armer was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago, she had no idea that weight gain would come with it.

"I thought chemotherapy maybe would make me lose weight, and the reverse happened," said Armer.

She knew she needed to get moving to lose weight, strengthen her bones and lower the chances of cancer recurring.  Research shows that just walking regularly can do that. Armer joined a K.U. Medical Center study of survivors that included exercise and nutrition advice.  Armer was one of 22 women who completed the program.  She lost 40 pounds.

"They lost over 10 percent of their baseline weight as a group and they maintained their weight loss over the six month period so really fantastic results," said Danielle Christifano, a K.U. Med researcher.

Barbara Unell believes similar programs should be offered everywhere. Unell is the founder of, “Back in the Swing,” which promotes healthy living after breast cancer.  The group's efforts resulted in the American College of Surgeons creating new standards that take effect January 1, 2015, for hospital cancer centers.

"The new standards say that a cancer survivor must be given a survivorship care plan just like the survivor had a plan for treatment," said Unell.

“Back in the Swing” will host a survivorship course this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Johnson County Community College Hospitality and Culinary Academy 145.  The cost is $29 which includes a cookbook.  To register online, go to www.jccc.edu/hhs or call 913-469-2323.

"Diet, exercise, the physical effects on bone and heart, those will all be addressed," said Unell.

Armer will be there.  She says her improved exercise and eating habits give her confidence.

"I have a long, beautiful future to watch my family and friends grow around me," she said.

Another event will be held for healthcare providers on Saturday, October 18.  Go to the e-mail address listed above to register.

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