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A Carlsbad Wellness Center Is Helping Cancer Patients with Fitness

The Tri-City Wellness Center personalizes workouts with each person's medical needs in mind


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After surgery for stage 1 lung cancer in 2015, Linda Bidwell says her body felt “broken.” But following a year and a half in the Cancer Fitness program at Tri-City Wellness Center, Bidwell has gone from crying during workouts to exercising three times a week at the Carlsbad facility’s gym and walking three to four miles a day—even finding a new circle of friends in the process.

“It’s been a joy to be here,” the Vista resident says. “It’s a great place to work out with great people. It’s camaraderie. We can share our experiences with each other, and we’ll even get together outside of the gym.”

Bidwell credits Susan Webster, the center’s medical integration program manager, for that renewed sense of wellness.

Webster oversees six programs designed to help people dealing with illnesses stay physically fit. In addition to cancer, there are others for people facing Parkinson’s, arthritis, diabetes, and more. And she understands her clients’ needs all too well: Webster was diagnosed with breast cancer about 10 years ago.

The grueling treatment caused extreme weight gain, and then her doctor mandated that she lose the extra pounds. With a background in science, Webster started studying fitness, eventually becoming certified as a cancer exercise trainer by the American College of Sports Medicine.

Webster, who lost the weight and has been in remission since 2007, works with her team to personalize all the workouts, keeping each person’s medical needs in mind—a person with brain cancer can use a chair to maintain balance during yoga, for instance. Someone with joint pain might not be able to walk on a track but could do water exercises in a pool. Webster also hosts speakers each month on topics such as nutrition.

“I make it positive for people who come here,” she says. “I focus not on cancer, but on independence and strength. For people with cancer, exercise is important for the immune system and lymphatic system—exercise is as important as air.”

The three-times-a-week Cancer Fitness program is open to anyone with a letter of clearance from a doc, for monthly fees of $35 for wellness center members and $60 for nonmembers. Participants can make use of the indoor track, pool, and exercise equipment, as well as classes like yoga and barre.

“It’s about being your best self, your strongest self,” Webster says. “People can come here and forget about having cancer. They go from being a patient to being a person.”

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