During her research, Fagerstrom, of Erdenheim, heard lots of women say that they’d developed osteoporosis after treatment for breast cancer. Those conversations led her to design a one-day workshop for women.
Urgent need pushed licensed physical therapist Joanne Fagerstrom to become an expert in bone-building exercises.
“In 2009, I got a diagnosis of osteoporosis,” said Fagerstrom, a physical therapist since 1978. “It shocked me. I suddenly felt old, fragile. I decided to learn everything I could about strengthening my bones.”
During her research, Fagerstrom, of Erdenheim, heard lots of women say that they’d developed osteoporosis after treatment for breast cancer. Those conversations led her to design a one-day workshop for women hit with the cancer/osteoporosis double whammy - “Taking Charge of Your Bone Health After Breast Cancer.”
“You’re faced with a devastating diagnosis,” Fagerstrom said, “and then you learn that a side effect of aromatase inhibitors, medications used to fight breast cancer, can cause bone loss.”
Women confronting these intertwined illnesses, many of them older, needed more help, Fagerstrom decided. “I want to let participants know that keeping bones healthy is both important and doable.”
The workshop is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sat. June 18, at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Ave. The session also will be offered online.
“It can help women who’ve just gotten a diagnosis, those in treatment and survivors of breast cancer,” Fagerstrom said. “It’s also for women like me. My mother had breast cancer, so I’m hypervigilant.”
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in American women; lung cancer is the first. Women in the U.S. have about a one in eight chance of developing it.
Fagerstrom’s presentation will spotlight exercises that improve bone strength, flexibility, balance, posture and body awareness. “I developed my Strong Bones exercise program from evidence-based research in the field of osteoporosis,”
Fagerstrom said. She will discuss the most beneficial bone-building exercises and why other exercises and activities should be avoided in cases of osteoporosis.
The workshop covers other aspects of strengthening the body to help it become or remain cancer-free. Wendy Romig, doctor of clinical nutrition and owner of Sage Integrative Health Center, 538 Carpenter Lane in Mt. Airy, will discuss “How nutrition affects breast cancer and your bones.”
“Dark leafy greens, blueberries, and superfoods like spirulina and chlorella have anti-cancer/anti-inflammation nutrients,” Romig said. “Such a diet also has minimal sugar.”
Jennifer Schelter, of Wyndmoor, will discuss “Cultivating Self-Care through Meditation, Yoga and Journaling.” Schelter will explain “how to ‘go within’ to support our well-being, our spirituality and enjoyment of living.” Schelter has led yoga classes around the world, including sessions for 2,000 participants outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Physical therapy assistant Betsy Butterworth, of Glenside, who will also be there, has years of experience in acute rehabilitation and oncology care as well as in treating lymphedema, which is inflammatory fluid building up in soft tissues and sometimes follows surgery or radiation.
Sandy Folzer, of Chestnut Hill, a retired psychologist and 28-year breast cancer survivor, will talk about the importance of advocating for oneself. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer in ’94,” said Folzer, who runs several days a week, including a 10- or 11-mile run on Saturdays. “I had lymph node involvement, so my prognosis was poor.”
Folzer's cancer journey included a lumpectomy and later, a double mastectomy.
“Being our own advocate is critical. Sometimes, you have to ask yourself if the cure is worse than the disease,” said Folzer, who prefers taking natural products to stay healthy. “I take Essaic tea [a blend of burdock, slippery elm, sheep sorrel and Indian rhubarb, originally said to have been developed by the Ojibwe in Ontario, Canada]. It stimulates immunity, aids in detoxification and has anti-cancer properties. We need to look for a cure, but we also need to look at environmental pollutants,” Folzer stressed.
All workshop proceeds will go to SurvivingBreastCancer, a nonprofit headquartered in Boston that works to empower those diagnosed with breast cancer and their families. “I want the workshop to benefit one of the smaller organizations in need of financial support,” Fagerstrom said.
Participants will receive digital handouts. For details about the workshop, visit ourstrongbones.com or call 267-432-1795. Registrations must be received by May 31. The workshop costs $40.
Constance Garcia-Barrio is a longtime Mt. Airy resident, author and retired professor of Romance languages.