Support sought for cancer patient programme

A fundraising campaign has been launched to ensure a highly regarded exercise programme for cancer patients is able to continue.

Since 2009, hundreds of predominantly breast cancer patients have used the ExPinkt exercise training programme, provided through the University of Otago School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences gymnasium.

Lynnette Jones
Lynnette Jones
However, the April retirement of ExPinkt’s founder, Associate Prof Lynnette Jones, and cost factors led to a university decision to close the programme.

Prof Jones said ExPinkt was too important a community resource to be lost, and she had joined with a group of supporters to try to find a new venue for it in Dunedin.

"It’s the right thing to do," she said.

"Of any group I have ever worked with, cancer survivors would be the most complex because you have to take into consideration so many variables with the various treatments and responses of each individual, so in an exercise setting you really have to know what you are doing.

"I have the knowledge. Why would I want to walk away from something that I have spent 12 years developing if it can be transferred into a community setting?"

A Givealittle page with a $200,000 target was already online and receiving donations, and further fundraising initiatives were planned for this year to raise money for both a venue and equipment.

"We have some temporary measures in place in the meantime with Moana Pool in a space being shared with a physio practice, but at the moment we are still trying to get money to set up on our own," Prof Jones said.

"We are working with active treatment patients so it’s better to have our own facility because they are immunocompromised and we want to keep everyone safe."

Operating under the Wellness Gym banner, clinics were already functioning in Queenstown and Wanaka, supervised by people trained by Prof Jones.

The focus was now on recreating and building on the ExPinkt model in Dunedin, she said.

"What we are looking to do with the new venture is look at all cancers and not just breast cancer ... the oncologists see the benefit in their patients and have been very supportive of what we are doing.

"The social support for the people was also incredible.

"They were able to talk to others in a similar position about their experience and that was invaluable," she said.

Dunedin online marketer Rieke Lamb became involved with the fundraising campaign through her husband, a colleague of Prof Jones.

"My gut reaction was that [the closure] was not going to happen, and how could we make this survive," she said.

"Things have spiralled from there."

As well as the Givealittle page, supporters of the Wellness Gym were investigating possible sources of annual funding for the facility.

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