Heidi's Heroes | Second fitness class launched for those with cancer
Heidi’s Heroes is a Cheltenham-based charity that provides practical support, care and courage to people of all ages across Gloucestershire when they need it most.
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Brendan Ward and Claire Lait

11 Nov Second fitness class launched for those with cancer

A fitness class run for cancer patients and funded by Cheltenham charity Heidi’s Heroes, has proved so popular that a new evening session is being launched next week.

The exercise classes started in May this year and are in such demand that Heidi’s Heroes is adding a second weekly class held on Monday evenings to meet the needs of those with or recovering from cancer.

The hour-long classes are run jointly by Clare Lait a Specialist Cancer Physiotherapist and Brendan Ward, Senior Gym Instructor at Cheltenham Ladies’ College Sports Centre in Malvern Road – the venue for the Monday sessions.

Clare said: “We’ve had quite a lot of people contacting us to say they want to come but have either work, personal or family commitments in the daytime, so Heidi’s Heroes is generously funding another session.”

The new evening class runs from 8 pm to 9 pm and begins on Monday 16th November. The daytime class continues at 11.30 am every Monday, also for an hour.

Clare said: “The classes are open to patients with all types of cancer irrespective of your prognosis. If you are struggling with fatigue or weakness due to cancer or surgery, or want to maintain fitness please come along. There is nothing else on offer like this to cancer patients or those recovering and it is proving very popular for a number of reasons both physically and emotionally.

“Not only are there incredible physical and health benefits, it is also a great confidence builder in a very friendly and supportive environment with others who have, or are going through similar experiences.”

One regular class member is retired maintenance engineer Paul Ilott, from Hester’s Way, Cheltenham. Paul, 60, underwent successful surgery for cancer of his thyroid gland in 2009, followed by radioactive iodine treatment the following year. He had already lost both of his parents and mother-in-law to cancer and the trauma of having cancer and surgery himself led to him developing stress and depression.

Paul said: “It was all very traumatic and I think the stress of the surgery and cancer took its toll. When I went back to work it was hard and I eventually decided life was too short and took early retirement at the end of July. I began the Heidi’s Heroes daytime class at the beginning of August and I haven’t looked back, it’s brilliant. The support and help from Clare and Brendan is fantastic and it’s great to be with others who are, or have been, going through similar experiences.

“Not only do I feel generally physically fitter and healthier but I am stronger around the surgery area and going to the classes has given me back my motivation, enthusiasm and confidence.

“I really enjoy the class and look forward to going. I used to play a lot of golf before having cancer and for the first time in five years it felt right to return to the golf course, something I never thought I would do after such a long time. I also now feel able to talk about the depression whereas before I never did. It’s been a huge benefit to me and I am keen to shake the hand of Paul Wood who set up Heidi’s Heroes – for this class has changed my life.”

Clare, who works at the Cotswold Sports and Injuries Clinic in Bath Road, said: “By improving their fitness before cancer surgery or treatments, people can help prevent post-operative complications and improve their chance of a greater survival. For those undergoing treatment, or recovering from surgery, improving fitness can help them return to their hobbies, work or previous lifestyle – as in Paul’s case with his golf.”

All class members complete a detailed medical and lifestyle questionnaire and if necessary Clare will liaise with their consultant or GP to ensure the level of exercise they are doing is appropriate. Anyone taking part is invited to make a small donation to Heidi’s Heroes.

Clare said: “As long as exercise is done in a controlled, managed and supported environment such as we are offering, it is actually extremely beneficial in many ways for cancer patients.”

To find out more about the classes please email clare.lait@cancer-physio.com  or info@heidisheroes.co.uk