Strengthening Quality of Life by Kristie Salvato Gibbs


The lifesaving benefits of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery save the lives of thousands of patients each year. While these efforts serve to eliminate the disease, they often cause fatigue, difficulty with memory, muscle pain, weakness, and other issues that may affect a cancer survivor’s quality of life. It has been shown that rehabilitation before or during cancer treatment can reduce these effects, enhance the patient’s recovery and help individuals return to the activities they enjoy.

The McLeod Oncology Rehabilitation Program or STAR (Survivorship Training and Rehabilitation) is a unique cancer rehabilitation program designed to minimize the side effects of cancer treatment, and support cancer survivors in functioning at the highest level possible.

"Rehabilitation can help with a person’s overall health regardless of whether they are newly diagnosed, undergoing cancer treatment, or long-term cancer survivors," said Harriet Jeffords, Director of McLeod Rehabilitation Services. "As a cancer survivor, I am proud that McLeod is offering a rehabilitation program that can help improve cancer symptoms and a person’s daily functioning. I know during my treatment, I would have personally benefited from this type of program."

The McLeod STAR program is offered by a group of trained medical experts from physical and occupational therapy, speech pathology, oncology, social work, infusion, radiation oncology, breast health services, and pastoral care who work with each patient to develop a personalized rehabilitation plan.

"At McLeod, we understand how the side effects of cancer treatment, such as fatigue, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (a nerve disorder that can cause weakness, numbness, tingling and pain in the hands and feet), difficulty with memory or concentration, muscle aches, bone or joint pain, lymphedema, weakness and balance problems, can affect a person’s quality of life," said Ashley Atkinson, Senior Occupational Therapist and McLeod STAR Program Coordinator. "We strive to reduce the side effects and improve the lives of cancer survivors."

McLeod Outpatient Rehabilitation also offers a Prehab component to the STAR program. "Prehab is designed to help newly diagnosed cancer patients get stronger and feel as well as possible before starting treatment," said Ashley. "There are also strategies to help reduce stress and improve their strength in order to prepare them for any upcoming treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy."

The STAR program also offers important physical and psychological rehabilitation to survivors so they can recover more quickly and more completely than they would otherwise. Feeling well and being able to resume normal day-to-day activities is essential to enjoying a good quality of life for survivors and their families.
McLeod Regional Medical Center, the only hospital in eastern South Carolina to offer this program, earned the STAR Program® Certification from Oncology Rehab Partners, experts in the field of survivorship care. To receive this certification, McLeod Regional Medical Center staff underwent extensive training and demonstrated successful implementation of the STAR Program’s evaluation and treatment protocols. The STAR Program Certification training for McLeod Regional Medical Center staff was made possible through a grant provided by the McLeod Health Foundation.