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PA helps Bill bounce back

The impact of cancer treatment takes its toll on anyone that goes through it, but an exercise program made possible by the PA Research Foundation is helping patients to bounce back.

Patients like Bill de Ruyter, who have undertaken a 12-week cancer exercise program delivered via telehealth and run by PA Hospital physiotherapist Jennifer Tan and overseen by PA physiotherapist Dr Elise Gane.

Bill was 61, when in August of 2021 he saw his GP about persistent headaches, a visit that would eventually lead to a diagnosis of glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer.

Bill De Ruyter with grandson Archie


On the 20th of August 2021 the headaches got really bad, and I booked into see my GP who is hard to see because she is really good, but I knew she’d look after me,” Bill said.

“I had been working in my daughter’s garden and I thought maybe I had contracted legionnaires disease because we had been working with a lot of potting mix and things and I thought maybe that’s what it was.”

On his doctor’s advice Bill would head to the Mater where CT scans would be taken in the emergency ward. He was soon transferred to a brain and spinal ward where an MRI was taken the next day, followed by surgery to take a biopsy which was sent to Sydney for testing, all confirming he had a Stage 4 butterfly glioma tumour in his brain.

“The neurosurgeon indicated that the images revealed that the tumour was in a really awkward spot as it was running across both hemispheres, and that it would be very difficult to operate and remove it. I was grateful they were up front about that. They said if I really wanted to, they could proceed with surgery but I might not be the same person after it, so I didn’t want to go there,” he said.

The New Farm father of two and grandfather of one, began chemotherapy soon after followed by six weeks of radiation therapy, steroid treatments as well as medication to help him sleep.

It was through his radiation therapy at Radiation Oncology Princess Alexandra Raymond Terrace (ROPART) which is on the Mater campus, that Bill was offered the chance to take part in the exercise project entitled Delivering Supervised Exercise to patients with cancer via telehealth: an implementation study.

“One of the physiotherapists at the clinic mentioned they were doing the trial looking at the benefits of exercise for people with cancer and asked would I be interested in doing that and I immediately said yes,” he said.

“I had always been a fit person prior to having cancer. Because of the treatment I was immunocompromised and didn’t want to be going to gyms due to the way things were going with Covid-19, so the benefit of a zoom session was fantastic.

“I did the 12-week program Mondays and Wednesdays; I did two one-hour sessions with about four or five other people connected on Microsoft Teams. We did a combination of warmups, cardio, stretching strength and then warm down.

“It was great, they gave me a Garmin watch, Jen Tan the physiotherapist from the PA who was running the program, continually monitored our progress and collected data on heart rate and blood oxygen levels. I was also provided with a step and some resistance bands to complete the program. In between those sessions I was doing another program on a physio app that they supplied that complimented the sessions.

“The program has been wonderful; I did a post program evaluation with Jen and gave it a really good rating because I thought it was great. I’ve been exercising ever since and set myself goals with Jen about strength and endurance.

“The Telehealth aspect was really convenient, if they’d offered it to me at the PA, I wouldn’t have been able to do it because I’d have to drive over to the PA and find a park and I can’t drive at the moment, so my wife would’ve had to drive me there. Working with a person face to face has its advantages sure but Jenn ran the Teams sessions really well, there was only four of us each time and she gave us all personal attention each session.

“I’d recommend it to others going through cancer as long as people are prepared to commit to it because not everybody embraces exercise the same way. Some people find it a grind, but I was just up for it. It did me a lot of good.”

The retired teacher is still seeing oncologists as he continues a maintenance course of treatments, but at present his brain tumour has slightly shrunk and his involvement in the cancer exercise program has helped him to fight the fatigue caused by treatment and improve his balance.

“I went back and got more scans done and they were really happy with the outcome, it was a five per cent chance of having a such a favourable outcome, it was not a cure, but it had shrunk, and they were really happy with that.

The PA Foundation is your place to give to make innovative research projects like the cancer exercise telehealth program possible. You can donate here.



25 August 2022
Category: Patient stories
Tags: #braincancer, #cancer, #exercise, #physiotherapy, #telehealth,
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