Free healthy lifestyle program by Cancer Council and Newcastle university helps cancer survivors

Hunter Medical Research Institute associate professor Erica James, who is involved in the Enrich program which advises cancer patients what foods to eat to avoid future cancers.

Hunter Medical Research Institute associate professor Erica James, who is involved in the Enrich program which advises cancer patients what foods to eat to avoid future cancers.

WHEN Mary* finished her cancer treatment she was mentally and physically drained.

After going through chemotherapy and radiation the Newcastle resident needed something to help her stay motivated.

That's where Cancer Council NSW and the University of Newcastle stepped in.

A joint program, Enrich, designed to support cancer patients post-treatment, was introduced in the Hunter in 2011.

It recently introduced a free six-week healthy lifestyle program at the Hunter Cancer Centre in Lake Macquarie and Mary said she was already feeling the benefits.

"I don't feel so fatigued and I feel a little stronger mentally and physically," she said.

"Additionally I feel like I am getting back into the driving seat of my life whereas for the past 11 months I have been absent from this."

Enrich focuses on improving cancer survivors' self-esteem, improving their quality of life and combating fatigue.

It is also aimed at protecting them from recurrence.

Hunter Medical Research Institute associate professor Erica James designed the program and said that sticking to a healthy diet and taking part in regular physical exercise could reduce the risk of cancer returning.

"Having cancer treatment is very intense and a lot of people get to the end feeling very lucky," she said.

"We're trying to build on that motivation. You can't change your genetics but you can change your diet and how physically active you are."

Dr James said the key was to eat in moderation and to add more fruit and vegetables to your diet.

Alcohol and red meat could still be consumed, but in reduced portions.

The program consists of weekly two-hour sessions, and participants have access to the advice of a dietician and exercise physiologist.

The classes cover healthy eating, walking programs and resistance training.

The program is running at the Hunter Cancer Centre in Lake Macquarie and the Calvary Mater Hospital.

Both programs are at full capacity but more programs are expected to start soon.

Those interested in taking part in the next Enrich program should email enrich@nswcc.org.au.

*Mary did not wish to provide her full name

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