Lyn Kendall and Angela Walters did not stop smiling throughout the meeting. Though the topic does not usually lend itself well with gleaming smiles, both ladies couldn’t resist. Their youth shone through as they sat with enormous confidence, sensing an achievement like no other. They’d beaten cancer and living their life more energetically than ever before.

This achievement, they admit, wouldn’t have been possible without one man and his team. Unintentionally, the two women sat between Tony, one of few cancer rehabilitation instructors in the North West, and sang his praises.

The trio’s positioning symbolised a family portrait and the tender friendship between the three was strong. That felt extraordinary, especially when you realise they had only met just three months ago.

“The staff here have given me my confidence back. Every member of staff is so helpful,” said Lyn, 70, whose first session at the YMCA did not go as planned.

Lyn explained how she slipped in the pool during her first visit to the Poulton YMCA health centre.

“I lost my confidence after the slip, but the lifeguard helped so much. She came over to me and spent 15 minutes of her own time with me to make sure I was okay. She went above and beyond the call of duty,” explained Lyn.

The women explained that their confidence and energy levels dropped significantly as they went through their cancer journey.

Angela, 56, admits that her chemotherapy knocked her for six. She needed her strength back and wanted more of her old self back too.

That’s why when her doctor explained about the new ‘Moving Forward’ scheme on offer for free on the Fylde coast, she wanted to give it a go. Angela spoke highly of the scheme and urged people who were eligible to do so to join.

In partnership with Macmillan Cancer Care and the Fylde Coast YMCA, Moving Forward is an initiative funded by NHS Fylde and Wyre CCG

First launched in 2014/15, the programme saw patients who had been recently diagnosed with either breast or colorectal cancer and provided them with a free 14-week fitness programme.

The scheme was extended until June 2016 offering programmes for those living with cancer in any part their body and also from people diagnosed as late as five years ago.

“It will help you grow stronger. I didn’t think I could do it, but I have. My programme is complete now, but I have carried on my membership at the YMCA. It means that I am not moping around at home.”

Though the health benefits seemed obvious from reading about the scheme, the women felt like they are part of a family.

“Everyone encourages you and it is right, you need that encouragement. It is not just the exercise that helps you, it is the wellbeing side, too,” says Lyn, who had recently retired when she discovered she had breast cancer.

“I have not spoken to anyone this scheme has not helped,” continued Lyn. “It makes you want to do more.”

We walked around the recently refurbished health centre and were talking about what was once described as the ‘big C’.

Both Angela and Lyn recognised that more people are able to call the illness by its full name – cancer. And by tackling the illness face on, they feel it has helped them recover better.

The programme at the YMCA, supported by Tony Eardley and his team, has allowed the women to recover. Moreover, the women agreed that the programme has given them more than a recovery – a new lease of life.

How Moving Forward works

Each person undertakes an initial assessment, which is an opportunity to discuss the programmes with a qualified cancer rehabilitation specialist. A person may also wish to bring a friend or family member to this appointment.

While people are encouraged to start the programme while undergoing medical treatment for the cancer, it can be postponed to whenever an individual feels comfortable.

A tailor-made programme is then devised for that individual. It will take in one’s fitness level and ability, offering a variety of activities both during and after treatments. These include walking, gym sessions, swimming and Pilates/yoga sessions.

By becoming more active, a person is more likely to feel less tired. Also, one may see an improvement in mood and quality of life. Finally, it will help to maintain a healthy weight and level of fitness.

‘Moving Forward’, the name of the initiative, will run until June 2016.

What is cancer? How is the CCG supporting those living with cancer?

Cancer is a condition where cells in a specific part of the body grow and reproduce uncontrollably. The cancerous cells can invade and destroy surrounding healthy tissue, including organs.

Dr Adam Janjua, a GP and CCG clinical lead for cancer, said: “It is essential that healthcare professionals and the public work together to reduce the disastrous impact that cancer has on society. This includes social awareness and responsibility as well as clinicians working hard to detect this disease at a much earlier stage.”

By 2030, the CCG hopes to be:

  • More aware of prevention and early symptoms, fewer people will develop cancer and those who do will present earlier and have a much better outcome.
  • More informed to make decisions about their lifestyle, care and treatment options.
  • Included in the multidisciplinary discussions about their treatment and care.
  • Greater choice about where to access care.
  • More informed and supported to manage their condition and symptoms at home, including access to their treatment plan and summary of their treatment via online access.
  • Actively supported to stay healthy and take part in individualised exercise programmes.
  • Able to play a pivotal role in the development of services.