West Creek — According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 40 percent of Americans will get a cancer diagnosis. That means four in 10 of us will get that horrific news in our lifetime. Some of us already have. Most have dealt with it in our families.
Yet while the number of diagnosed cases is on the rise, so are the chances of cancer survival. While the food we eat, activity and general healthy habits can ward off this dreaded disease that claims about 600,000 deaths in the United States per year, exercise and diet can play a role in recovery from both the disease and the toll of treatment.
Some of the folks who work out at Trident Fitness & Performance Facility are seeing that first hand.
Trident is owned by Paul Hafner and Carolyn Card. Hafner started Trident in 2010; Card was his first client. He’s been in the area his entire adult life. A retired police officer, he taught physical training at the Ocean County Police Academy for a little over 20 years and defensive tactics toward the end of his career. He has a host of other fitness certifications.
Card grew up in Matawan, N.J., zealous for sports. By the early 2000s she was an alternate on the elite PGA Futures Tour. Following her golf career, Card found martial arts to cure her competitive fix. She trained with kettlebells and fought for five years. But for a woman 35 years old, training like that forever wasn’t sustainable. She did keep up with the kettlebells, though, and became an instructor at Trident.
“In 2012 she offered to come in as a partner and brought some much needed business expertise to the table,” remembers Hafner.
In December 2016, they expanded and opened Trident Fitness in West Creek. Their model is based on sharing consistent training programs tailored to each athlete, creating a culture and community around their specific workouts.
One feature they are very proud of is exercise specifically designed for women who are fighting and recovering from cancer to regain their strength. Not only is this disease debilitating, but the treatment is grueling as well.
This came from Trident’s being a service arm of David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation, the locally based organization that helps families who are dealing with cancer through all aspects of the journey.
Early in 2018, Trident adopted the American Council on Exercise’s Pink Ribbon Program and Moving Forward exercise program. The lightning rod of these programs is Ellie Lomauro, a fitness coach who received a cancer diagnosis in 2017.
Lomauro grew up on LBI and moved to Manahawkin in 1992. Always an athlete, she has worked as a preschool gymnastics and fitness coach.
She started training at Trident Fitness & Performance in 2010 and in 2012 became certified as a personal trainer and kettlebell instructor.
“I started working at Trident, teaching kettlebell classes to beginners because I was always interested in providing fitness to people who may be afraid to join a gym,” said Lomauro. “I wanted to take the intimidation factor out of training with kettlebells. In 2015 I became certified as a senior fitness specialist because I knew that functional fitness should also be available to senior citizens that need modification in their training routine.”
By 2017 she was working a full schedule with adult training classes and training six days a week when she was diagnosed with cancer.
Her first question to the doctor was “Can I still exercise?” Not only did he say it was OK, but he recommended it to alleviate some of the common symptoms experienced during chemotherapy.
“During my first few days back to training after my treatment started, I realized that things were not the same. I knew that I would have to make some adjustments in my routine to compensate for the weakness caused by chemo,” she explained.
She also made some major life changes, including meditating and adopting a plant-based diet.
“In the beginning, there were days that I didn’t feel like training, but I knew it would help me feel better in the long run. The incredible thing was that through exercise I was able to alleviate most of the symptoms of the chemo. I had no nausea, aches or fatigue. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to start feeling like my old self again. Exercising was my normal, so being able to do what I loved gave me the sense that everything was going to be OK.”
It got her wondering if there was exercise protocol for cancer patients to follow during and after treatment. She was able to find courses that gave her a better understanding of different types of cancers, treatments and surgeries.
“In 2018 I became certified as a cancer exercise specialist and was qualified to teach the Pink Ribbon Program. This helped me to develop fitness programs for many different types of cancer patients. The Pink Ribbon Program is for women who’ve had reconstructive surgery after breast cancer. Each one has an individual exercise plan that complements where they are in their recovery,” Lomauro explained.
The programs help patients to regain strength and mobility in affected shoulders and arms. They promote lymphatic drainage, improve functional ability, enhance energy levels, restore posture, decrease stress and alleviate pain and swelling.
“Ellie does a lot of outreach,” Card said. “She talks to oncologists in the area.
“As an organization, this is something that we really want to be able to do. These women don’t even feel like themselves. They’re losing their hair; they’re physically uncomfortable. They want privacy. We have them scheduled for the middle of the day when there aren’t any other classes scheduled.”
Both Lomauro and Card note the role that David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation plays. Not only does it fully support the work done at Trident, but the nonprofit provides grants to cancer patients so they can participate in the programs.
“There are many facets to the healing process, and DDBCF enables us to be a part of that journey for many people,” said Lomauro. “They can train with a group of people that understand what they are going through, and they support each other all the way. Not only do we see the physical change as our members get stronger, but we also see the emotional changes that occur when they are able to regain some of the confidence and liveliness they once had.”
Card admitted to getting pretty emotional when she talks about it.
“These people’s lives are affected in such a way. But they develop a camaraderie with others who are going through the same thing. They’re getting physically stronger, and then you add in the mental component; it does wonders for their morale. When they start coming, they’re not social. They don’t want to be seen. But after a month, they’re wearing tank tops, exercising and high fiving. They have so much confidence and a whole new group of friends. And that’s really part of our bigger mission for all of our clients – kids, adults, cancer patients. It’s a whole lifestyle.”
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