Exercise Program Helps Cancer Survivors Recuperate

The Cancer Foundation for Life provides participants with a free place to exercise.  The mission of the program is to give cancer survivors another chance to get back on their feet following treatment.  The founder of the program says you cannot find that anywhere else in the country.

Doctor Gary Kimmel, a retired Tyler oncologist, started the foundation back in 2001. He did it because he says there were no rehabilitative services to help cancer survivors after treatment. "You see people who enter your program that may be wheelchair-bound, that may be on oxygen, they may not be able to even provide the basic needs of life for themselves," said Kimmel.

"I was on oxygen 24 hours, 7 days a week," said two-year participant Nick Rognlie. Four years ago, the 69-year-old was told he'd have to live with a respirator the rest of his life. He had just ended his battle with lung cancer. But a year after he began using the Cancer Foundation for Life exercise program, he was off oxygen and is to this day.

Participants say they're comfortable working out here and can meet people who've been through the same thing.  "You meet lots of good people and find a lot of your friends. I have four friends that were going there that I didn't know," said Mary Lambert, 69, who's been with the program six weeks. Friendships they say, are helping them bounce back to a more fulfilling life.

"Once you have cancer and you get over it, you have a gift and, you know, I just enjoy things a lot more than I ever did," said Rognlie.  Nick says one of life's little luxuries is knowing he's now able to walk 40 minutes a day free of the oxygen machine.

The program has four locations in East Texas: three in Tyler and one in Jacksonville. Organizers expect to have more than 15,000 visits this year.  For more information on the program or to volunteer call the Cancer Foundation for Life at 903- 561-0149.

Oralia Ortega reporting, ortega@kltv.com