Jane’s Journey To Improved Health And Fitness

Jane Mullins, left, is nowhere near the woman she used to be before her cancer diagnosis – but she’s delighted about it!.....

Jane made a conscious decision to take control of her behaviour and lifestyle after her treatment for breast cancer in 2014, and now feels fitter and healthier than she has done in years, after losing a remarkable five-and-a-half stones through a local exercise referral programme.

Not only has the scheme transformed her own personal attitude to health and fitness, but Jane is now also a volunteering leader on the programme, encouraging others to take the same steps she did to improved confidence, health and wellbeing.

With a family history of breast cancer, including her Mum who had breast cancer in her 40s and again in her 60s, Jane was routinely called for a mammogram, even though she was younger than the normal screening age of 50.

“I had got used to being called up, and had always been OK, but in August 2013, the mammogram revealed an abnormality that needed further investigation,” she said. “I had a scan, and then the rollercoaster ride of my cancer journey began….”

The cancer was aggressive, moving from stage three to stage four in less than a month. After a lumpectomy in October of that year, Jane began chemotherapy the following month, and then continued with her course of radiotherapy through until April 2014.

It was Debbie Brown, a Nurse Specialist at Pinderfields Hospital, helping Jane with post-surgery bra fittings, who suggested that she might want to give the referral scheme a go.

“If it hadn’t have been for Debbie, I would not have got involved,” says Jane, who lives in Cleckheaton. “I had lost my way from a lifestyle point of view. My confidence was completely shot after the treatment, I hadn’t exercised at all for many years, and had just got myself into a rut.

“I was in a bad place when I started. However, in the programme I met a lot of supportive people who had gone through the same thing and when people make you feel so welcome in a class, it’s just amazing.”

Jane was referred just before Christmas in 2015, when she was struggling with back pain and peripheral neuropathy, and was generally unsure how she would cope with starting to take exercise again. After an initial one hour-consultation with the local support officer, Jane’s initial exercise prescription involved low intensity activity, progressing through to level four of the programme over subsequent weeks. She even learned to swim, overcoming her long-standing fear of water.

Whilst on the scheme, Jane also joined Weight Watchers (WW) and reduced her clothes size from a size 20 to a size 12/14.

Sasha Lockwood, pictured right, centre, is the Sport & Physical Activity Interventions Officer for the Kirklees Practice Activity and Leisure scheme, better known as PALS, which operates from Spenborough Pool and Fitness Complex. It’s important to be able to identify people attending classes who may lack confidence and self-esteem, to ensure they work alongside others starting from a similar point, and they can support and encourage each other, she says.

Commissioned by the local Public Health team, the PALS programme is run by Kirklees Council and works with key partners such as Kirklees Active Leisure, where a dedicated officer is based on each site across the Kirklees area.

Sasha explained that the 45-week programme is one of the longest exercise referral schemes in the country and is particularly successful as a result. Evidence suggests that any person who is able to maintain their focus and involvement in the programme for that length of time is far more likely to change their lifestyle and behaviours in the longer term.

“Being referred to PALS is the best thing that ever could have happened, it came at the right time and got me back to being me or an even better new and improved me!” said Jane. “I now have less pain and am now buying clothes four sizes smaller than when I began, I no longer wear just black baggy clothes. But it wasn’t just about losing weight, it was about generally toning up, too, and the social side is great.

“To a degree, my cancer journey is over but it has still left its imprint on me. I know I am going to be on pain relief for the rest of my life but I try to deal with this positively.I know I have come a long way from where I was.”

Jane and her colleague Linda, pictured above on the left, also a ‘graduate’ of the PALS programme, are now both volunteer leaders on the programme, delivering chairbased sessions and are qualified walk leaders, they recently accompanied staff to talk about the PALS programme at a local cancer education session.

“We have a whole new life from this and we’re now part of the furniture!” said Jane. “I love volunteering my time to help others who need support like I did.”