Last year, to mark Breast Cancer Awareness month in October 2022, GM Walking met with the ABCDiagnosis CIC, founded by Joanne Taylor to provide support to people like herself who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. One year on, the idea is being adopted across Greater Manchester by others, with various levels of success.
As an avid ambassador for Nordic walking and its many benefits for those diagnosed with breast cancer, Jo was so keen to involve other people and successfully applied for a GM Walking grant to train more instructors to offer free Nordic walking sessions to people across the North West.
Jo advocates for the physical activity benefits of Nordic walking, explaining that, following surgery for breast cancer, if lymph nodes are removed the arms can become swollen and difficult to move due a condition known as lymphoedema.
During Nordic walking the lymph is moved around the body more easily which helps support movement and lymphatic drainage. For this reason, the group hopes to reach all Greater Manchester hospitals, breast cancer clinics, GPs, Maggies, Macmillan, Cancer charities, and social prescribing groups to signpost patients to this new initiative and create a supportive movement for patients after breast cancer diagnosis.
Success of such groups is charged by the enthusiasm of its participants, for their determination to overcome and their love of getting outside for a good old walk. But naturally there are challenges, particularly with those who may still be having treatment.
There are now 11 Nordic walking groups across Greater Manchester. Jo runs two sessions a week herself and attendees have continued to be enthusiastic, despite a number of health setbacks. For example, one lady had a bad reaction to chemo and had to take a break, while another has had a primary lung cancer removed and is taking some time away from activity to recover from the operation.
Another challenge walk leaders have faced is reaching out to those who might be interested. Advertising in hospices, doctor's surgeries, and on Facebook has brought success, while others are finding the groups through word of mouth.
Walk leader Natalie Pratt promoted the idea at the local hospital by explaining the benefits to nurses and taking them on a session.
The groups rely on regular attendees, which is difficult when treatment is ongoing. Subsequently, some walks have seen very small groups and as the colder weather draws in there will added challenges to keep the momentum going.
They also welcome partners or carers to attend, although breast cancer patients are given priority use of the poles with a small fee charged to those without cancer to keep them financially secure and help with the sustainability of our groups.
However, the very act of getting outside and walking, even if not on a regular basis, still comes with so many benefits.
'I’ve smashed my step target for today,' one of Jo's attendees said. 'I had a brilliant time. It was lovely to meet you. You explained the technique really well and gave me the confidence as a complete beginner.'
The group looks forward to seeing the movement grow, develop, and become a sustainable exercise for those who have had breast cancer.
For more information, the group can be found on the following websites:
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