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People Profile: Exercise Lifts Spirits, Restores Strength for Cancer Patient

Network - Fall 2009

By Mary Brolley

When doctors advised her to take it easy during her chemotherapy treatment, Kyndall Truett politely declined.

She refused to take cancer — or cancer treatment — lying down.

Kyndall Truett

At the time of her diagnosis with stage III ovarian cancer, Truett was a 22-year-old sports and fitness major at the University of Central Florida, who had just landed her dream job at the National Training Center in Clermont, Fla.

Before the diagnosis, she had suffered a variety of stomach problems, and her physician told her it was nothing. But because she had a family history of cancer, “I got a second opinion,” she says. “To this day, I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Truett had little strength after surgery and her first cycle of chemotherapy. “I was tired, frail and bald,” she says. “I wanted to stay on the couch. But I thought to myself, ‘I can’t be sedentary.’”

Although treatment was draining, Truett found that when she forced herself to exercise, she felt better. With her mother’s encouragement, she began to do cardiovascular workouts three times a week, adding some light, resistance training and swimming at night.

“The aquatic therapy was great, because it didn’t hurt my aching bones and joints,” she says. Three years later, Truett, an exercise specialist at the training center, has developed a fitness program for cancer patients called “Fit to Fight.” Designed for patients during their treatment, half-hour workouts are scheduled around treatment schedules.

The workouts are tailored to the often cyclical nature of treatment: recovery, maintenance and endurance. Interested clients are recruited through information placed in oncologists’ offices and by Truett’s involvement with the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Florida.

Light workouts during treatment

Truett, who advises her clients to consult their physicians before exercising, sees value in even light workouts during cancer treatment. “We’re not trying to get them to run a marathon. We just want to help them maintain their strength and lift their spirits.”

Does being a cancer survivor make her a better trainer for those going through cancer treatment?

“Any trainer can help you get stronger. But I tell clients, ‘I know how it feels when your bones ache.’ So they might be more open to hearing it from me.”

She believes exercise was a way for her to gain control during a time when she felt powerless. “When you exercise, the endorphins kick in. It’s a kind of euphoria. It switched me into survivor mode.”

Alan Gordon, M.D., section leader in gynecologic oncology at M. D. Anderson-Orlando, and his staff regularly monitor Truett’s health.

“They are the greatest, most loving, most sympathetic, professional staff you will ever meet. I adore them,” she says.

M. D. Anderson’s first and largest affiliate, the Orlando facility is the first cancer center in the United States created by an academic medical center and a community health care organization, the Orlando Regional Healthcare System.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center