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St. Francis Oncology Survivorship Program Earns STAR Program Certification

Program Brings Cancer Survivors Hope and Healing

At age 68, Barbara Rephann lived a full, vigorous life - swimming several days a week at the YMCA, working out at the gym regularly with her husband, playing bridge with friends, preparing delicious meals. Then, in March 2010, life as she knew it came to an end. Her energy levels dropped. She couldn't exercise, cook, or even play cards without feeling totally wiped out. After months of visits to doctors and numerous tests, Barbara was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer, She began chemotherapy in September 2010 and underwent surgery that December. As a result, she spent most of her days in a recliner and relied on a wheelchair for mobility.

In January 2011, Barbara's physician referred her to St. Francis Outpatient Rehabilitation where she was introduced to their STAR (Survivorship Training and Rehab) Program. STAR is a nationally recognized cancer survivorship program that focuses on helping survivors to heal physically and emotionally. Specialty caregivers from a pool of disciplines - including physicians, physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, dieticians and mental health professionals - work together to create an individualized rehabilitation plan for each patient to help increase strength and energy, alleviate pain, and improve daily function.

"After my chemotherapy and surgery, I thought that no one cared, but that was not the case at all," Barbara says. "I was impressed that there was a team at St. Francis that would be dedicated to my rehab, covering all aspects of getting back my life. I love this holistic approach!"

Developed by cancer survivor Julie Silver, MD, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a leading expert in rehabilitation medicine, the STAR program offers the cancer survivor the opportunity to heal and function at their best. Reducing symptoms of pain, fatigue, weakness, memory loss and depression positively impacts the lives of survivors and their families.

The STAR program is available to all survivors in need, whether they are beginning treatment, finished with treatment or experiencing late side effects or unresolved issues from long-ago treatment. The St. Francis program is open to everyone, no matter the prognosis, cancer stage or phase of recovery. Skilled services such as physical, occupational and speech therapy are covered by insurance. Other program components - rehab nurse navigator, yoga, nutrition classes, massages, counseling and more - are free to participants.

"By undergoing STAR's extensive training for our staff and utilizing the program's evidence-based clinical protocols, St. Francis makes survivorship a distinct and important last step at the end of acute cancer care," says Lori McKitrick, director of Rehab Services at St. Francis eastside. "With our STAR Program certification, St. Francis provides an added, much-needed dimension to comprehensive oncology care. It helps answer the question 'What now?' for the cancer survivor."

Now, after two days a week of rehab for several months, Barbara's outlook remains positive. "My quality of life has improved immensely," she says. "My husband is glad that I am cooking now - I didn't think I could ever do that again!"

 

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