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Pilates Class Helps Cancer Survivors

By Jeffery Kurz - The Record Journal

MERIDEN - After she became a certified Pilates instructor, Dr. Linda Durhan saw an opportunity to extend the practice to help breast-cancer survivors. So about five years ago Durhan, a radiologist at MidState Medical Center, launched an eight-week pilot program helped by some funding from the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation to support the development of integrated therapies.

"The first thing you lose when you get sick is your core," said Durhan. The system of exercises developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century is specifically aimed at core strengthening.

The class was so popular the participants didn't want to give it up, and so Durhan has been leading the weekly exercise regimen ever since, volunteering her time.

"Each woman found they'd gained strength and flexibility," said Durhan.

"People loved it so much they did not want to stop," she said.

The class, free of charge to participants, involves about a dozen women each week. Along with the benefits of the exercise, the class has also fostered a spirit of camaraderie and support, said Durhan.

"We've all bonded, and people have made friends," she said.

Durhan was recognized for her efforts during MidState's annual medical staff meeting, held earlier this month, in which she was one of four doctors presented with the hospital's physician awards. She earned the Matthew P. Campione Community Service award.

The award comes with $1,000, which Durhan plans to use to support her Pilates class.

"She's giving up her time and she's been giving up her time for years," said Kathy Clements, breastcare coordinator of the hospital's cancer center.

Following the pilot class, the hospital presented a poster at the National Conference on Breast Cancer, held in Las Vegas. The poster displayed findings that those participating in the class "had better energy and better quality of life," said Clements.

"They just had a positive experience," she said. Meriden resident Denise Rinaldi has been participating since the start. It was suggested to her after she'd gone through radiation treatment, she said.

Rinaldi said she's long been active in sports, playing softball and volleyball.

"I love my sports, but when I got through with radiation I struggled to do a sit-up," she said.

Pilates helped her keep up with all the activities that can become such a challenge, she said.

"It helps you keep your focus and your core strength," said Rinaldi.

Despite the challenge of keeping up with everything, Rinaldi said she makes sure she attends the class regularly.

"I force myself to come, because it's very important to me," she said. Clements noted that Durhan's volunteering of her time is no small commitment for a physician.

"They're crazy busy, and she's here every week," said Clements.

"She's here every week and they love it," she said. "It's not just the exercise piece, it's the support."


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