"There's life before cancer, with cancer, and after

Julie's Story

Just nine months after having her fourth child, mom and successful businesswoman, Julie was diagnosed with a rare breast sarcoma. She was in awe, she says, at how quickly everything moved following that initial diagnosis.

Julie underwent surgery to remove the cancer and almost immediately started an aggressive schedule of proton radiation—40 sessions targeting her chest wall. Only two weeks into radiation, however, Julie had a reoccurrence. Her radiation oncologist acknowledged the rarity of a reoccurrence in the part of the body that was being treated and stepped up the urgency of his proactive approach.

After the biopsy of the recurrence came back as malignant, Julie’s radiation was increased. She received proton radiation twice a day for two weeks. She also started physical therapy during this time to avoid range of motion issues, scar tissue and radiation fibrosis.

Julie had a second recurrence of sarcoma and required surgery and chemotherapy in addition to radiation. In total, Julie endured four surgeries and six weeks of radiation followed by five months of chemotherapy. She paused physical therapy during this time so she could focus on the second recurrence.



As an avid runner and fitness enthusiast, physical therapy was important to Julie as she wanted to have the ability to continue her athletic pursuits and improve her quality of life during active treatment. Ultimately, Julie would need to:

  • Heal a separation of her surgical scar caused by a reaction to her chemotherapy.
  • Relieve pain caused by muscle tightness.
  • Improve range of motion for actions like raising her arm over her head, carrying and holding her children and even sleeping were difficult and painful.

Being an active mom, working and maintaining her own fitness lifestyle were important to Julie. However, nerve damage, muscle pain and tightness, and the separation of her surgical scar were proving to be significant challenges to overcome.

Julie was coping with:

  • Arm, shoulder and chest pain
  • Muscle weakness and tightness
  • Limited range of motion, especially in the arms, which she was unable to lift above parallel
  • Difficulty sleeping due to pain and discomfort
The Routine

Julie felt that range of motion before her second surgery and chemotherapy had been equal on both sides of her body. She wasn’t experiencing any stiffness or pain, and her physical therapist was pleased with her progress. But when her scar separated, physical therapy needed to be paused again and Julie’s progress regressed.

Once her separation surgery was completed, Julie received the go-ahead to move forward with physical therapy again. “Had I not already experienced the benefits and promise of physical therapy, these new limitations would have added immeasurable strain and stress to an already tense season of life.”

How ReVital Cancer Rehabilitation Helped Julie

Julie considers herself lucky to have had a radiation oncologist who was proactive in prescribing physical therapy as a part of her treatment plan. “It seemed at the time like a small detail,” she notes. But it would prove to be an indispensable part of preparing her for treatment and recovery.

Julie was also much more comfortable pursuing physical therapy once she met her therapist and learned she was experienced with cancer patients and treating the side effects they might suffer. Julie admits she may not have been as open to rehabilitative therapy if the clinicians she worked with had never treated someone with cancer, or didn’t understand what she was living through.

“My ReVital therapist had so many examples of patients she had worked with, people who came to her late in their treatment with severe issues that were preventing them from performing daily activities and that affected mobility,” she adds. “Their doctors hadn’t told them about the benefits of physical therapy, didn’t make it a priority, and didn’t refer them. My therapist had a working knowledge not only of cancer, but sarcoma specifically. She possessed an in-depth understanding of different treatments and how they could impact quality of life.”

The outcome

Now that Julie’s wound-closure surgery is complete, she is counting down the days until she can resume physical therapy and work her way back to living and enjoying a pain-free life.

“Oncologists tend to focus on the active treatment phase, and, unfortunately, there is less attention paid to what happens after treatment ends,” Julie says. “A greater emphasis on how to recover post-treatment needs to become commonplace, especially the implementation of rehabilitation efforts during treatment.”

Next Steps

Call us to find out more about our multidisciplinary post-cancer rehabilitation program.

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