Since 2010, the Robert and Marjorie Goodson Oncology Wellness Program has been providing supplemental therapy to cancer patients in east Alabama.

The program, which was started by a gift from the estate of Robert and Marjorie Goodson of Opelika, is a collaboration between the Cancer Center of East Alabama, HealthPlus Fitness Center, and RehabWorks. All are services of EAMC, assuring seamless care across the disciplines.

Studies show that exercise, good nutrition, and emotional and social support go a long way toward improving the quality of life of cancer patients both during and after treatment.

The Oncology Wellness Program helps patients to live better, feel stronger, and grow through the challenges of cancer and cancer treatment. Patients may participate in the program free of charge, through all three phases of cancer treatment: pre-treatment, intra-treatment, and post-treatment.

Services include exercise (including aquatics), massage therapy, nutritional counseling, stress management and intimacy counseling.

HealthPlus initiates the Oncology Wellness Program in three phases — phase one is orientation by a certified cancer exercise specialist, individual exercise plan, group stretching and range of motion. Phase two is resistance exercises and light aerobic training in both individual and group settings. Phase three is self-paced strength training, and may include cardiovascular, aquatic classes, tai chi, pilates and yoga.

Health fitness center

Rachel Carswell, M.Ed., certified exercise physiologist at HealthPlus explains that the Oncology Wellness Program provides a starting point for patients. "During their three-month therapy at HealthPlus, patients are working with a personal trainer one-on-one and in small groups,” Carswell says.

“Cancer is emotionally and physically draining so we’re here to provide patients a place to start. Even if patients feel that they don’t have the strength or energy to do anything at all, we design a unique program for each patient, and if they are not quite ready to begin treatment at HealthPlus, they can start by getting a free assessment by a physical therapist at RehabWorks.”

“Rachel was careful to balance pushing me and encouraging me, while also knowing when I physically was not able to do a specific exercise,” Lisa Parsons, a graduate of the Oncology Wellness Program and breast cancer survivor explains.

“Working out makes you feel better about yourself, both physically and mentally. I feel stronger and understand my limitations and how to work through them.”

Carswell notes that among the three trainers who work with cancer patients at HealthPlus, they are able to work around patients’ schedules, and there is room for the program to grow.

“With so much focus on prevention, doctors are catching cancer earlier,” Carswell says.

“In addition to early prevention, wellness plays a huge role in a patient’s overall health. Even if patients feel that they are not physically able to participate, we will modify a program to fit their unique needs. I have had wheelchair-bound patients in the program who felt like they could not do anything, but over the course of the program, we still saw strength gains and improvements in energy.”

Fit to Fight

On July 15, HealthPlus is hosting Fit to Fight, a celebration walk that will benefit the Robert and Marjorie Goodson Oncology Wellness Program. The event will include a celebration walk and silent auction, and will also include several free events including skin cancer screenings, chair massages, activities for kids, group fitness classes and more!

“The Oncology Wellness program is growing and, as the Cancer Center continues to expand with the announcement of the new center, we hope to grow as well and meet the needs of cancer patients in the area,” Carswell says.

“Fit to Fight got started because we hope to add more to what we can offer cancer patients through this program.

"The Oncology Wellness Program is such a unique and needed resource for the community, and the fact that it is free for patients is truly amazing. We are so excited for Fit to Fight, not only for the benefits that will help us to continue to offer this program to patients, but also because this will provide the community an opportunity to learn more about the program.

Rachel Carswell can be reached via email at or by phone at (334) 887-5666.

Cancer center of east alabama




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