Wandsworth service resumes exercise classes to help those living with and beyond cancer

A service designed to help people in southwest London who are living with or beyond cancer to stay active has recently reopened its doors to in-person classes after more than a year.

Macmillan Move More Wandsworth has supported more than 300 people since it was set up in 2016, offering a range of classes tailored to all different levels and paces, based on participants’ diagnoses, their treatments and what they are capable of doing at that time.

Anyone living in Wandsworth, Merton and Sutton who is suffering, or has suffered from cancer can sign up to take part in group activities that they enjoy doing, whether that’s an exercise class, a walk or gardening.

The importance of staying active

SWL spoke to Move More’s service coordinator, Marguerite Larvin, from Brixton about the service.

Larvin said: “There’s so much research out there to show that physical activity, both before and after treatment has so many benefits on the physical and psychological wellbeing of people living with and beyond cancer, and it can actually help to reduce some of the negative consequences of treatment.

“A lot of our Move More participants also tell us that physical activity helps them take back some control and feel a little bit more like their old self.”

Larvin explained that Move More also organises social gatherings such as coffee mornings so people can chat, share their experiences and get to know one another.

“Almost immediately there was a bond”

SWL also spoke to one of the Move More participants David Lloyd, 64, from Carshalton, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in early 2019.

Prior to his diagnosis, Lloyd was a very active person with a passion for football, having played the sport his whole life.

Lloyd underwent major surgery at St George’s hospital in May of 2019 and although the operation was a success, it took a huge the toll on his body.

He said: “No one prepares you for the fatigue and trauma that comes afterwards. I was very low in spirit, extremely tired, and my health was poor.

“I was struggling physically and mentally.”

David in hospital

It was at the same hospital that Lloyd was told about Macmillan Move More Wandsworth, where he shortly after decided get stuck in with exercise classes to build up his strength and mobility.

Aside from the physical benefits of the classes, Lloyd also pointed out the friendships that Move More allowed him to form with others who had experienced a similar struggle.

He said: “I was going through a difficult period and I considered Move More to be ‘me time’ I could enjoy.

“Almost immediately there was a bond.

“We all came from different backgrounds and even if we had very little in common in the real world, one thing we did have in common was that we’d all had health issues, and in some cases, drastic health issues.

“Having a laugh was a healer. Having a bit of cameraderie was a healer.

“And even if it didn’t clear your horrible or potentially horrible situation, it certainly made you felt feel better at the time.”

“It landed from heaven”

The outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 meant that Move More had to stop all in-person activities and move to virtual classes via Zoom.

Although the virtual classes worked well, some participants, such as Lloyd, didn’t have a suitable space at home to be able to take part so looked for other ways to stay active and keep up the progress made.

Lloyd said: “I kept myself busy gardening and now – if I may say so myself – the garden’s looking pretty good!”

Move More’s in-person classes have now resumed and welcomed back with open arms.

“It was absolutely brilliant when it kicked off again.

“To have something like a Move More class, it just landed from heaven.”

David in the garden
A snippet from our interview with David

How to get involved

The service is currently open to people who live or are registered with a GP in Wandsworth, Merton or Sutton.

You can either refer yourself or someone else via the Move More website or Twitter account, or call them on 020 3959 0039 to find out more and find the best fit when it comes to classes.

Medical and healthcare professionals can also refer patients to the service.

Featured Image credit: Marguerite Larvin

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