Charmain Satree can mow her yard without multiple breaks and is getting back to golf following cancer surgery for lymphoma. She credits her comeback to the rehabilitative services she’s received through Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center (SNCC) at its South 68th Street Place location.
Added to the continuum of care two years ago by SNCC, the Rehabilitative Services Clinic provides additional support for its cancer patients onsite. In addition to physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT), the clinic’s umbrella of services includes restorative yoga, Healthy-Steps classes (originally developed for breast cancer survivors to help with balance, neuropathy, motor control and lymphatic drainage), certified mastectomy fittings and lymphedema management. The Rehabilitative Services Clinic is also open to non-cancer patients.
Satree, a 60-something retired Lincoln Public Schools teacher, began doing prehabilitative OT last fall to help with lymphatic swelling prior to her lymphoma diagnosis. It was her second cancer diagnosis in eight years.
Following surgery, she continued with OT, working with occupational therapist Tracy Bender and occupational therapy assistant Michaela Bidrowsky. The pair specializes in lymphedema therapy and cancer rehabilitation. “SNCC provides comfort, knowledge and expertise to our patients,” explained Bidrowsky.
“The Rehabilitative Services Clinic at SNCC offers therapeutic options for a wide range of patient’s during and after cancer treatment,” added physical therapist Cris Macke, who joined the clinic in March. She and assistant, Jonathan Aten, aid cancer patients with symptoms like fatigue, impaired physical function and anxiety. A benefit of reducing or eliminating these symptoms is increased independence inside and outside of the home, Macke commented.
At Satree’s first appointment, Macke asked what her specific goals and concerns were. “I wanted to get my strength back, to do some biking and get back to golfing,” Satree shared.
After asking more questions about what Satree’s main concerns were and why she was referred for rehab, Macke performed a patient-specific evaluation, complete with testing of affected body systems for impairments or loss of function. The top three symptoms typically reported are fatigue, balance deficits and generalized muscle weakness, Macke shared.
Using resistance bikes, weights, a treadmill, pulleys, TheraBands, weighted bars and more, the clinicians apply evidence-based treatment to achieve gains. “The treatments we provide are rooted in research and have been proven to improve quality of life and overall function,” Macke explained. “We take those principles and tailor them to each patient undergoing cancer treatment.”
Macke and Aten realize that patients who are receiving cancer treatment have a different response to rehabilitative therapy compared to someone without a cancer diagnosis. They are often not only physically exhausted but also mentally exhausted. “I need to be able adapt to their day-to-day abilities and make adjustments to their plan of care so they benefit from therapy without being completely exhausted,” Macke explained.
Satree finished up about three months of PT earlier this month. Specific goals were to improve her activity tolerance, upper and lower body strength, aerobic capacity and balance. Satree estimates she began at about 70 percent function and ended up in the 90 percent range.
She is convinced that OT and PT are a key component to cancer recovery, adding that the rapport she built with her therapists was just as helpful. “The coaching that those clinicians do makes you believe you’re going to get back to it,” she said.
“They’re kind and genuine,” she added. “I’ve developed a relationship with them. I know that they’re there for me.”
Macke embraces her extended job description, which she describes as a combination of personal support system and third-party outlet. “We are grateful to be part of the process with our patients and to have the opportunity to apply our knowledge and skills to help each person maintain their quality of life.”