A transformed space
On May 31, the Get Real & Heel facility reopened its doors to patients, friends and visitors, welcoming them back to a transformed space, boasting state-of-the-art equipment, updated locker rooms and an open-air concept that is a different look from the original.
And though the facility has a new look, the good work that goes on here is the same, offering cancer patients the benefits of exercise, personal training and a community of people to support them.
Get Real & Heel, a free exercise program for cancer survivors at the North Carolina Cancer Hospital, the clinical home of UNC Lineberger, was launched in 2006 as a study that sought to measure whether providing individualized exercise and psychosocial therapies to breast cancer patients provided any benefit. The program has expanded in scope and now offers services to all adult cancer survivors who received their care at UNC.
Carly Bailey, MA, program director of physical activity and integrative oncology, said the renovation to Get Real & Heel was driven, in part, by patients’ requests and a programmatic goal to expand its services to as many patients as possible.
“We had been getting by the best we could for many years, but it was time to do our patients the justice they deserve, so they can exercise in a safe and effective way,” Bailey said.
Adapting programming for the pandemic
The pandemic caused delays to the renovation timeline, but it also was a blessing in disguise. Bailey said the pandemic forced them to offer their services remotely, and this enabled them to connect with patients who couldn’t take advantage of the program during traditional work hours. They created a closed Get Real & Heel Facebook group where patients could access live and pre-taped workouts, which also offered another way for patients to connect with each other.
“It opened up doors to patients who wouldn’t traditionally be engaged with us,” Bailey said. “We took down access barriers. We ripped the Band-Aid off with the pandemic. Patients really loved being able to access us at any time. It’s been well received.”
Private funding and grant support from UNC Lineberger keep Get Real & Heel going, and it is part of the Comprehensive Cancer Support Program’s offerings for patients.
“We rely on donors to keep our program running day to day,” Bailey said. “Donors were a part of the equipment purchases and helping to make the renovation a reality. Philanthropic donations from individuals are what keeps the doors open to Get Real and Heel with UNC Lineberger’s support.“
Philanthropy also helps the program evolve and change, based on the needs of its patients. Bailey said they were able to hire a new staff member, and they hope to broaden the programming, expanding its offerings for adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients and bone marrow transplant patients, and offering group hikes and 5K training sessions.
“It’s just really broadening the way we get people moving and having it feel more like a community that’s wellness minded and helping people come together and feel as well as possible after cancer treatment,” Bailey said.
Growing the team
In addition to a new space, Get Real & Heel has a new face on its staff. Gabrielle Brennan, MS, ACSM-CEP, CET, was recently hired as program manager.
“I’m excited to build a community of individuals that can get support from health professionals and gain support from each other and the things that they’re going through,” Brennan said. “I’m excited to be here from the ground up and see how the program grows.”
“We’re definitely launching a new chapter for Get Real & Heel,” Bailey said. “We’re moving towards being able to reach as many people as we possibly can in a way that makes sense for those patients. We’re working toward helping our program meet people where they are and get them stronger and fitter during and after their cancer treatment. We want to be with people every step of the way, and help as many as we can.”
Enroll in the program
Get Real & Heel is an exercise program designed to serve cancer patients and survivors in North Carolina.
Patients can self-refer to Get Real & Heel, and clinicians can refer patients to the program.
For more information, please contact Carly Bailey, firstname.lastname@example.org.