Since September 2018, Peggy Rouse has been battling anal cancer – a disease that at one point left her too weak to eat or function. Now, with the help of Ascension Via Christi’s Cancer Wellness program, she has gained weight, improved her heart function and regained the energy her cancer took from her.
But it was no easy undertaking.
With only two radiation therapy treatments left to go, her blood pressure bottomed out.
“I had 30 treatments, but right before treatment 29, I knew something was wrong,” says Peggy. “Things got dark and fuzzy and I felt my blood drain.”
Doctors found a microperforated tear in her lower belt, specifically large intestines, which led to the then 88-pound scheduler at Carbon Co. to have a colostomy, causing further loss of appetite, energy and interest in activities.
“I was at a point where I was exhausted just walking to the bathroom,” says Peggy.
On Dec. 31, things began to turn around when she began taking part in Ascension Via Christi’s Cancer Wellness program. Her fitness instructor, Jose Garcia, put together a plan designed to help her fight the physical fatigue and emotional exhaustion brought on by chemotherapy.
“We try to work the upper and lower body using bikes, treadmills and resistance bands,” says Jose. “Our main goal now is to increase Peggy’s weight and overall strength, endurance and balance.”
The focus for Peggy has been to gain more weight and become stronger overall. Around her five-week mark on Feb. 1, Peggy weighed 97 pounds, a nine-pound increase from the beginning of her strength program.
“I can’t tell you how good it feels to gain weight, and you never hear that from others,” says Peggy. “I’ve been eating lots of mashed potatoes and gravy recently, it seems to be working.”
Jose and has seen this program do wonders for Peggy. In the short time they have worked together, he has seen her improve drastically. One of the most vital areas of Peggy’s body has seen improvement as well, her resting heart rate has dropped from 145 to 114, despite her tachycardia. “She keeps gaining weight and comes in looking healthier each time,” says Jose.
Peggy’s newfound lifestyle and friends are a tremendous support. “Talking and laughing with my friends in therapy gives me strength and reassures me I’m not alone in this battle.”
And with the improvement in her physical health, Peggy now can do things that benefit her mental and emotional health. “I’m working half days now and I’m feeling more confident and strong than I was five weeks ago,” says Peggy.
Jose is also finding strength from those he works with, as he understands what he asks his patients to do is not always easy. “I have so much respect for patients who come in and work hard,” he says. “I love being able to make a difference in peoples’ lives and health.”
To find out more about the Cancer Wellness program at Ascension Via Christi, visit viachristi.org/cancer or call 316-689-5700.