Breast cancer survivors gain fitness at Coral Springs hospital

A specialized class is helping breast cancer survivors in the community improve their quality of life by staying fit.

Lisa Callahan of Coral Springs uses her skills as a fitness instructor and massage therapist to teach breast cancer survivors how to take care of their bodies. The 45-minute class, held every Monday at 10:30 a.m. at Broward Health Coral Springs, is free and open to breast cancer survivors in the community.

“We go through a variety of exercises to stretch, strengthen and coordinate the muscles of the upper body,” Callahan said. “We also work on lower-body functionality, focusing on balance and core strength. The oldest member of the group is 92; the youngest is 40.”

Members come from various cities. Among them is Lois Getlen of Tamarac, Lisa’s mother. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988,” she said. “I underwent treatment and have been cancer free since. When people have breast cancer, they tend to not use certain muscles. Lisa pushes us to use those muscles. It hurts for a while, but the pain goes away.”

“I have been a fitness instructor for the last 25 years, and I am also a licensed massage therapist,” said Callahan, who runs her own company Tri-Life Management. “I understand the human body, and I know how the muscles react. It is exciting to teach the members how to take care of their bodies. They love the class.”

Harriet Cohen was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984; she remained cancer free until the disease resurfaced in 2009. “I have been with Lisa ever since she started the class,” the Tamarac resident said. “Working out with her has definitely loosened my muscles; I feel much better these days. I love the fact that she mixes it up; it is never the same thing.”

Callahan, who has never had cancer, decided a few years ago that she was going to do all that she could to keep it that way. “I have the breast cancer susceptibility gene — BRCA — and I didn’t want to take a chance,” she said. “Seven years ago, I decided to have double mastectomy and full hysterectomy. My method for everything is being proactive as opposed to being reactive.”

The members in the class act as a support system for each other, said Callahan, who is also a USA certified youth junior triathlon coach. “The members genuinely care about each other and have formed a very good bond. At the same time, they make new members feel very welcome.”

“We really have a good time; it is like a little group of our own,” said Getlen. “Last week, Lisa did a class at the Promenade in Coconut Creek. Two women we met there said they are joining us soon. It is nice to have new members; I am sure they will enjoy the class as much as we do.”

Broward Health Coral Springs is located at 3000 Coral Hills Drive in Coral Springs. Call 954-344-3344.

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