Jill Potter Tells Us What PALS for Life Means to Her

Jill Potter Tells Us What PALS for Life Means to Her

Before PALS, I knew that I was depressed. I’d had months of cancer treatment including two surgeries, 4 rounds of chemo and 20 rounds of radiation. I kept saying to myself that I was “lucky”, many people have far worse cancer experiences than I did. Still, I had horrible fatigue, vomiting, nausea, extremely dry skin, complete hair loss, nail damage, burned skin…and worst of all, my spirit was gone. I tried my hardest to be positive in front of others, but it was so hard to put up a good front. So many people would tell me about someone who “had cancer and their positive attitude just carried them through.” My competitive nature made me try to be one of those people, if they really do exist.

July 13th was the first day of our PALS for Life program, and as trite as it sounds, it was the day that my spirit and happiness returned. This was the first time in 17 months that I’d been inside and unmasked with other people. There were 10 of us in the room: 2 PALS coaches and 7 other women who had had breast cancer. Most of us were treated during Covid, which at that time, meant that all treatments took place alone.

We went around the room and briefly shared some cancer experiences. Some people talked of well-meaning friends who simply said the wrong thing, and we all related to that experience. One woman had to have her surgery delayed in the early days of Covid. We all empathized with her over the stress she must have felt every day as she knew her cancer was still growing. These women understood cancer during Covid; I couldn’t wait to start working out and healing with them.

I’ve always cared about physical fitness, but this has been by far the best workout experience I’ve ever had. Our two coaches started us out slowly with a series of relatively easy exercises. They emphasized proper form, and working in the green zone, where the amount of effort was comfortable and not painful. They addressed our individual abilities, adjusting the exercises so that each of us was working out at the right spot for her.

Every session we are asked about any pain we currently have so that the coaches address our specific needs. Each week, the exercises get just a little bit more challenging. As we work out together, we cheer each other on. The Pal with the most serious physical challenges also gets my vote for the most improved. Her positive attitude and drive are an inspiration to me.

We are now in week 11 of our 12 week program. Most of us will then be joining an additional 12-week program. We will miss our dear Pal who’s job creates a conflict. We have cheered each other on to take on greater physical challenges. We have one series of exercises called the Triple Threat. One Pal proposed that we rename it the Triple Treat, making it a delight to go through the abdominal strain!

We’ve celebrated landmarks together too. Yesterday was one Pal’s 1-year anniversary of her surgery. Another Pal said that her surgeon told her she had abs of steel and the Pal gave credit to the PALS for Life program. When I had the “all clear” from my third oncologist, everyone celebrated the relief.

And…if one person can possibly find more happiness…UVAC gives all PALS members full access to the facilities, including classes. For me, that has meant yoga and swimming regularly. One coach recently walked us through the class menu and gave recommendations as to other classes that are appropriate for us at this level.

Thank you, UVAC, for your support of this program. You’ve made me stronger, given me back my confidence, and most importantly, introduced me to a group of amazing women who I’m counting on as my PALS for Life.