Eugene Family YMCA’s Free Video Series addresses pandemic’s side effect: cancer patients losing access to evidence-based programs

Eugene, Ore., August 17, 2021 - On the heels of a pandemic that isolated individuals undergoing or recovering from cancer treatment, the Eugene Family YMCA is releasing a series of innovative, evidence-based videos for cancer patients and survivors to start or increase physical activity, which is known to ease treatment side effects and lower future cancer risk. The videos will be made available for all YMCAs across the country to use and distribute to community members.

“Pre-pandemic, almost 800 YMCAs served cancer survivors through LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA, a 12-week program to improve strength and physical fitness, diminish the severity of therapy side effects and develop supportive relationships,” said Heather Hodge, senior director of Community Health at Y-USA. “When COVID-19 shuttered Ys around the nation, cancer survivors lost access to a program proven to improve fitness and quality of life, decrease cancer-related fatigue and mitigate anxiety and depression.”livestrong at the ymca instructor lifts weights

The Eugene Family YMCA developed the RECLAIM: Cancer Exercise Video Series, six specific fitness videos for those recovering from chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and other cancer treatments.

“Surgery and cancer treatment can be difficult to recover from,” said Winnie Henderson, a breast surgical oncologist with Oregon Surgical Wellness. “I often advise light exercise with trained specialists because it improves my patients’ quality of life and, ultimately, their outcomes. Pre-COVID, I recommended LIVESTRONG at the YMCA; now I send my patients to the RECLAIM videos because it is a COVID-safe cancer exercise series from a trusted source.” 

The video package, available at no cost, includes a warm-up and cool down; two full-body strength workouts featuring resistance tubes & weights; a balance, stretch and range-of-motion workout; three meditations; two lymphedema exercise videos (upper & lower body); and two aerobic workouts.

“Exercise can be as good as any pill I prescribe and is sometimes even better for my patients,” said Dr. Joseph Fiorillo, an oncologist with the Oregon-based Willamette Valley Cancer Institute. “I prescribe exercise because it helps the healing process during and after treatment and helps prevent recurrence of disease. This video series fills the gap for patients who have been unable to join cancer survivor programming.”

Even before the pandemic, there was a dozens-long waitlist for the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program in Eugene because of the dearth of exercise programs specific to cancer survivors and the limited capacity within the facility. Similarly, many of the 791 YMCAs across the country that run the program turn survivors away because of capacity.

"It was heartbreaking to have to tell people we couldn't offer the program during the shutdown. Cancer didn't stop during the pandemic and loneliness didn't stop—isolation and loneliness only got worse," says Colleen Hogan, Program Coordinator for LIVESTRONG at the YMCA in Eugene. “But we couldn’t safely offer our in-person classes to a population of people with compromised immune systems during the spread of the COVID virus. We looked at what we do in our 12-week program and we made sure we met all of those same milestones in a video series.”

Hogan, with her colleagues Health & Wellness Director Kim Miller and program instructor Lisa Milton, developed the videos based on proven post-treatment exercise techniques focused on range of motion, balance, and cardiovascular and strength training. They offer easy modifications and accommodations, such as using cans of food instead of weights or sitting in a chair to do arm exercises. Because cancer so often affects mental health as well, they included guided meditation by internationally recognized sound healer, Nancy Hopps.

ymca member using resistance bands“One of the biggest challenges after treatment is losing strength and endurance from a lack of activity or exercise,” said Program Instructor Lisa Milton, whose personal experience being diagnosed with melanoma in October 2020 helped her record the videos. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic compounded deconditioning for cancer survivors. It can be very frustrating to know where to begin when recovering from surgery or other treatments. We hope these videos help people find confidence in their bodies as they adapt to changes after treatment. Our goal is to provide guidance and comfort when they are ready to start exercising.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is strong evidence that higher levels of physical activity are linked to lower risk of several types of cancer, including the most common: breast and prostate cancers.[1]

A report of the 2018 American College of Sports Medicine International Multidisciplinary Roundtable on Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention and Control concluded that every cancer survivor should maintain some level of physical activity. The results also revealed that moderate-intensity aerobic training and/or resistance exercise during and after cancer treatment can reduce anxiety, depressive symptoms and fatigue and improve health-related quality of life and physical function.[2]

“I couldn’t go out for 6 months during treatment because my immune system had crashed,” said Linda Meyer, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016. “The Reclaim videos would have helped me get moving and go at my own pace.”

After treatment, Meyer enrolled in Eugene’s LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program.

“It helped me build strength and connect with others who had similar experiences,” she said. “I am in better shape now than I was before cancer and cancer treatment mostly because of the Y programs.”

The Y anticipates a surge of cancer patients and survivors seeking support and services over the next year as cancer diagnoses rise because individuals are returning to regular screenings and doctor appointments. For example, in the United States, there was an approximately 60 to 99 percent reduction in cancer screening that took place between January and June 2020, according to national researchers.[3]

“We anticipate a great need to serve more cancer survivors than ever before,” said Y-USA’s Hodge. “The Reclaim Cancer Exercise videos are a great example of the Y’s incredible reach across the country. The Eugene Family YMCA is meeting the needs of their community—in this case, cancer survivors—and, thanks to our YMCA network, able to share these resources with all YMCAs for similar use.”

Production of the video series was possible due to a $10,000 grant from Texas 4000, a nonprofit charity bike ride focused on cancer research, and Turell Group, a marketing, digital and communications agency in Eugene, that generously donated video production and editing services.

They are available here:


About the Eugene Family YMCA

The Eugene Family YMCA is one of the region's leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Each year across Lane County, the Y engages more than 18,000 people regardless of age, gender, income or background--to nurture the potential of children, teens and seniors; improve health and well-being; and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. In 2020, the Eugene Family YMCA awarded $413,506 in financial assistance. The YMCA has been serving the Eugene-area since 1887.

Media inquires, please contact:

Eugene Family YMCA
Beth Casper
503-302-8776 (mobile)

August 17, 2021