Kathleen Nowak

Cancer Rehab Helps Kathleen Live Pain-Free

Oct 21 2022

Breast cancer is a battle for whoever endures it.

The good news? People are living longer and recent breakthroughs in health care have helped cancer patients become cancer survivors. And then, with the help of oncology rehabilitation, cancer survivors can regain the healthy life they want to live.

Kathleen Nowak (pictured above) had a history of breast cancer, so she knew she had to act when she was diagnosed with it herself.

“I had a pre-cancerous lumpectomy procedure in 2004,” she shares. “My mom had passed away from breast cancer and a few of my family members were also diagnosed, so I knew I was in the high-risk category. I continued my yearly mammograms with my last check-up being cancerous.”

Thankfully, Kathleen’s cancer was caught early and was defeated.

After surviving cancer, she continued to feel aches and pains, particularly in her shoulders. She knew feeling pain wasn’t uncommon for cancer survivors after treatment, so she enrolled in physical therapy.

She stuck with it, hoping to find some relief. However, physical therapy failed to relieve her pain. Then, Kathleen stumbled upon Joany Reno, a physical therapist specializing in oncology rehabilitation at Mercy Health – Perrysburg Outpatient Rehabilitation and Therapy.  

“Knowing I wasn’t feeling the relief I was seeking, Joany recommended that I try coming to oncology rehab to help relieve my discomfort,” Kathleen says.

Joany Reno has specialized training in work with oncologist patients who need to have the knowledge of all possible side effects of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, endocrine therapy and how to treat patients within safe parameters.

“Oncology rehab treats patients through their treatment, starting with prehab to treat early symptoms and create a place of care that can mitigate the development of long-term issues,” Joany explains.

Kathleen began physical therapy with the oncology rehab team and was diagnosed with lymphedema, an arm or breast swelling that can arise following breast cancer treatment and reportedly affects up to 20 percent of breast cancer survivors. It was determined to be the reason her shoulders were causing her pain. She then learned new exercises that helped her gain her life back. With the help of oncology rehab, Kathleen has been living nearly pain-free.

“The way that they treat you – it’s so relieving,” Kathleen states. “It gives you hope that you can be normal again. The oncology rehab team knows and understands what you’re going through. After radiation and chemotherapy, you’re not the same person with the same tissue that you had before – I think they really understand that. It’s not just a broken bone. I felt like I was putting power back into my own hands.”

Learn more about the cancer care services we offer at Mercy Health as well as our physical therapy services.

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