Despite Cancer, Patients Still Dance

Imagine a large group of people moving their arms and shaking their hips to the beat. But it's not a disco. And these aren't people looking for a date. They're cancer patients just looking to make life better. Bill Stamps has the story.
The music is calming and soothing. The class is called body energizer. About twenty women follow the lead of the instructor arching up and down. Everything is slow and peaceful. Quite the opposite of their lives. Everyone in this room either has cancer or is a cancer survivor.  Dr. Tom Buchholz says this is one way patients can take back their lives.

"You're told you have breast cancer. You're told you need chemotherapy, you need radiation. And you're sort of a passive recipient of everything. Whereas yoga and exercise is something that you're the active one doing. You can determine how hard you push yourself."

Buchholz says it's not just rhythmic dancing that has benefits.  There are classes in self hypnosis and yoga for cancer patients. Doctors wanted to see if these classes can really make a difference, so they studied a group of patients who took yoga and another group that didn't.

"And those who received yoga felt better. They had more energy. Their wellbeing was better. And those are the types of things that as a medical community we have to look into because that's important for patients."

Deanna Cuello runs the wellness program at the MD Anderson cancer clinic.

"All the programs promote the body, mind and spirit. So you've got classes that range from movement classes to support groups to lectures on down to an herbal lecture series."

She doesn't need a study to know the classes help. She can see it in their smiles and she hears it from the patients themselves.

"I think it helps tremendously. The majority of our patients are very happy. They're very satisfied with our classes."  (sounds of breathing exercises).

Doctors say patients may not be able to control the movement of cancer, but the movement of their bodies — that's where they're in complete control.

Bill Stamps. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.