By Linda Borgstede
Observation and a studied approach have led Jenny Spencer to her special calling.
She was in nursing school when she first stepped into the world of the “cancer population.”
“I fell in love with the oncology patients who were so brave, strong and undeserving.” She became a certified oncology nurse working with patients in both the hospital and out-patient settings. It didn’t stop there.
As she traveled and worked in different hospitals, she observed the fatigue and weakness as two of the main side effects of cancer treatment. At that time, the standard medical answer to this was to recommend rest.
Jenny Spencer asked, “why aren’t we getting patients to move?” Over a 10 year period, research had been looking into the value of “exercise oncology.”
“Research needs to translate into practice,” she said. She acquired a grant and did her own nurse-led study, based in the brain tumor population, which was published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing in April, 2021.
In the 10-week study period, participants who were getting radiation treatments engaged in exercise classes. It was a small study but it provided dramatic findings.
“It improved their quality of life, improved physical fitness and it reduced cancer-related fatigue,” Spencer reported. “These finding were consistent with larger studies.”
Strong evidence supports the fact that exercise helps decrease depression and anxiety and improves physical functioning and quality of life.
Today Jenny Spencer has increased her qualifications: she is a certified personal trainer and a Cancer Exercise Specialist – trained and tested. She has started her own business – Fight the Fatigue – while still working in the nursing oncology field.
Her clients in Fight the Fatigue come to her through referrals from others in the medical field including hospitals, specialists and social workers. She first talks to the client, originally in person but on the phone since Covid.
With virtual tools, she is able to do a Zoom consultation and an assessment. She looks at how the person moves, posture and more and develops a treatment plan. She recommends exercise based on all factors.
The basic recommendation is 30 – 60 minute sessions with her virtually one or two times a week. However, she said she monitors what the client can do. For example, her program for a client on radiation or chemo treatment will have a slower progression on the first days after treatment. This is a benefit of having Fight the Fatigue guidance.
“The thing with exercise is that you have to work at it,” Spencer said. “We are accustomed to quick fixes.”
So how to motivate a person who is already feeling tired, anxious, and out of sorts? Patients are busy with treatments, doctor’s visits and life in general. There are both time barriers and hesitation but they know they feel bad.
“Everyone is different but everyone knows they need to move more.” She believes a client will do the exercise if they can see the “why”, the expected results. It develops a self- effectuality and a feeling of self confidence.
Spencer advises on how to overcome the barriers and be successful. “Just be moving in any way you can.
“We in the field want you to feel good after a session. We’ve done our job if you feel good.”
Her goal, in her own words: “My passion is to help those living with cancer improve their independence, energy levels and overall quality of life through exercise.”
This is a person who practices what she preaches; she is currently training for the Boston Marathon. And she welcomes questions, by phone 1-708-638-0817 or through her website: firstname.lastname@example.org.