DJ Amatuli, ACSM CPT, is a senior trainer at Get REAL & HEEL, UNC Lineberger’s cancer after-care program. He and the rest of the Get REAL & HEEL team develop individualized exercise plans that help cancer patients and survivors manage treatment-related symptoms and increase chances of survivorship while increasing their quality of life.
Amatuli is a proud Carolina grad and has worked for more than eight years at Get REAL & HEEL, a program that not only transforms fitness habits – but lives.
Can you tell us a little about the Get REAL & HEEL program?
“On the surface, the program is about getting people back into exercise and getting them healthy post-cancer treatment. But Get REAL & HEEL has also created an incredible community. Everyone knows that the side effects of cancer treatment can be terrible. What gets forgotten is that for many people, the tough part starts post-treatment. When you go through treatment, you’re told for months what to do and when to do it, but when that treatment ends many patients feel lost and aren’t sure how to get back to their ‘normal.’ Then they come to Get REAL & HEEL and they realize not only are we here to help them by encouraging them to exercise, but there’s a community of people here that they can rely on for advice. It’s a very organic support group.”
What inspired you to go into this field?
“During my senior year at UNC, I was planning on going to physical therapy school until I took a class with Get REAL & HEEL Director Dr. Claudio Battaglini. I told him I was looking for volunteer hours for my physical therapy school applications, and he told me all about Get REAL & HEEL. I came down to check it out and started volunteering there once a week. Over eight years later, I’ve never left. I just fell in love with it and didn’t want to do anything else.”
Is there a moment from your work at Get REAL & HEEL that’s been particularly rewarding?
“We had a woman who had to be brought into our facility in a wheelchair when she started the program. Four months in, she was able to walk in on her own with a cane. A few months later, I visited her at her business and she had been up on her feet all day without a cane. It was awesome to see her progress.”
What would you tell people who are looking to get fit in 2018?
“Ease into it, be patient and don’t be too strict. Get right back into your routine if you have an off day.”