PYM teacher and Chicago native Kara Dressel’s interest in the rehabilitative potential of Pilates for women recovering from breast cancer has led her to teach in the field, through the organisation Cancerkin.
Following her own personal experience of surgery some years ago she found hospital provision of comprehensive rehab to be lacking: “I expected more physio or more extensive exercise rehab but the hospitals are really only interested in getting you moving and out as quickly as possible,” says Kara, “I wasn’t satisfied.” So she effectively set about rehabilitating herself – determining which Pilates exercise were useful and how she could use Pilates mat and apparatus to facilitate movement and get back to feeling 100%.
Kara’s introduction to Cancerkin came via a neighbour who had breast cancer and was attending sessions for support. More recently the organisation has merged with Maggie’s and is now ‘Maggie’s at Cancerkin’ located at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, London. It offers support to anyone affected by breast cancer and women don’t have to be undergoing treatment at the Royal Free to take advantage of their services.
Resources include support groups, one-to-one support sessions with experienced patients, treatments such as reiki, reflexology, acupuncture, massage and spiritual healing and group classes such as art therapy, Pilates, yoga, and tai chi. Kara has taught a mat Pilates class there since 2007.
She says: “Many of the women enjoy the classes at Cancerkin because they are with others undergoing similar experiences and they appreciate that it’s a safe and warm environment where they don’t have to feel different or explain their story.
“Everyone just kind of gets it. I enjoy teaching there, and feel like my teaching has evolved as I continue to learn from the very lovely and brave women who I have worked with and whose experiences I have heard over the years. Cancerkin is a great way to investigate breast cancer and find support for those who are newly diagnosed but it is also a safe place for women to continue staying healthy after treatment has finished.”