IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

He helps patients focus on their strength, not their pain

July 15, 2019

Matthew Douglass is a cancer survivor and as a certified cancer exercise trainer, he helps other oncology patients find their strength.

They can do it during treatment and even after remission. Cancer patients at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital have learned that exercise helps them stay strong mentally and physically. And Matthew Douglass is there to work along side them and coach them through their recovery.

“When you’re dealing with cancer there are a lot of things you can’t control. Physical activity is something that you can control, and helps build your strength,” said Douglass, who has both bachelors and master’s degrees in exercise science.

His certification as a cancer exercise trainer is based on the program at the University of Colorado Cancer Rehabilitation Institute established by Dr. Carole Schneider who was diagnosed with cancer in 1995. When she began treatments she was struggling with fatigue and muscle weakness and started studying interventions to alleviate the side effects of treatment. Research shows that exercise can increase a cancer patient’s quality of life, reduce depression, help combat fatigue, improve cardio-vascular performance, and enhance muscular strength and endurance, and increase flexibility and balance. Typically, patients start at lower intensity levels and progress at a slower rate.

“I start by accessing patients and then work on individual goals. It’s not about pushing the patient so they become more fatigue,” said Douglass, who is married to Stephanie, a nurse. They have two daughters. “Our happy medium is between helping patients be active and get the right amount of physical activity but not to the point where they are too tired to function the rest of the day. The goal typically is to accumulate 150 minutes of physical activity a week.”

But every patient is different and it’s one of the things Douglass likes the most about his job. He has been with IU Health for 11 years and has learned firsthand what it’s like to receive a cancer diagnosis. In February of 2013, he was diagnosed with melanoma. The spot on his neck was removed and he continues with checkups every five months.

“I know it can be scary to hear that diagnosis and I know you want to do everything you can to control the situation,” said Douglass. “Physical activity helps empower patients and at the same time helps them with their healing.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email tfender1@iuhealth.org.

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Cancer care includes a variety of treatments, systematic therapies, surgery and clinical trials.