Knowing there are others like them is the best part of a programme for breast cancer survivors, Connie Zein says.
The South Auckland woman is a facilitator and ambassador for Encore, a YWCA programme that helps survivors combat the physical effects of breast cancer and aids in their recovery.
Ms Zein first took part in Encore eight years ago while undergoing treatment herself.
"What I found absolutely fantastic about it was the people - they've all been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Knowing that there are others out there like you is fantastic."
Side effects from surgery can include physical discomfort, immobility and emotional vulnerability, leaving survivors feeling uncomfortable and lacking in confidence.
YWCA Auckland has run Encore since 2005.
The eight-week programme includes gentle exercise and healthy lifestyle information to increase strength, flexibility and blood flow and reduce the effects of lymphoedema (painful swelling) that some women experience after treatment.
It uses floor, breathing and pool-based exercises and has been proven to benefit women who have undergone breast cancer surgery whether it's 10 weeks or 10 years ago.
Ms Zein says the programme provides a positive environment for women to find peer support and enjoyment during any stage of their recovery.
That gives survivors a chance to connect with others who've endured a similar experience. And beyond that, it helps them to regain a sense of self, she says.
All facilitators are trained by YWCA Auckland and funding for the programme in the region comes from the Ted & Mollie Car Endowment Trust.
"Seeing the way the women develop over time is my favourite part," Ms Zein says.
"It increases their mobility, their confidence and their learning.
"The majority of them you can see start to grow."
■ The next South Auckland Encore programme starts on February 26 at Longford Park Village in Takanini. It's free to all women who have had breast cancer treatment but registrations are essential as medical approval is required. Go to akywca.org.nz for information and enrolment forms or call Ms Zein on 021 873 776 or Marlene Sorby on 370 1112.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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