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A Highly Successful Second Year for My Active Health

Two years have passed since Ultramar made a generous $100,000 donation to the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation. The donation was made with a specific goal: to help launch the My Active Health program leveraging the expertise of kinesiologist and oncology specialist Myriam Filion. 

Since November 2017, the initiative has attracted some 480 members from all over Quebec. The program, which promotes physical activity for women fighting breast cancer and those who are in remission, has grown throughout Quebec, even expanding beyond its borders to Ontario and the Atlantic. 

We took a look back at an emotional, challenging, and successful second year with the leader of the program which fights breast cancer armed with physical exercise and a healthy dose of team spirit. 

A project to remember

“To me, it was a dream come true. I have always wanted to create a community and help women battling breast cancer improve their quality of life through physical activity. It’s ingrained in me, and I’m passionate about it. Today, I’m so happy to be able to pass on my knowledge and experience,” says the Quebec-native fitness expert. 

Beyond being a dream come true, creating this program has yielded many other benefits. My Active Health helps women exercise at their own pace through customized workouts. “The kinesiologist and oncology specialist looks at the treatment’s trajectory, the medication the patient is taking, the side effects they’ve experienced, as well as the treatments they are linked to,” adds Myriam. 

Achieving big goals while remaining grounded

The program, which is almost two years old, helps women battling the disease, both from a physical and mental standpoint. At the beginning, one of the main ambitions was to reach as many communities as possible with the My Active Health program so that more breast cancer patients can benefit from it. “Our “My Yoga” workshops are offered in 12 of Quebec’s 17 administrative regions, including Montreal, Montérégie, Laurentides, Lanaudière, Capitale-Nationale, Chaudière-Appalaches, Côte-Nord, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Estrie, Mauricie, Bas-Saint-Laurent and Abitibi,” explains Mrs. Filion. 

“I now have a kinesiology student intern that helps run the My Active Health program. In 2020, our goal is to improve upon and further develop our services. In October, we kick off “My Workshops,” a series of educational and awareness workshops that stress the importance of leading a healthy and physically active lifestyle. Various presenters are invited to our facilities to show participants how to move, what to do and what not to do during and after cancer treatments. These workshops cover a variety of topics that touch on the reality of living with breast cancer. In the spring, we will start a 4k club for women who want to get back into running or try it for the very first time. We are aiming to get 4 cities involved, including Montreal, Quebec, Abitibi and Sherbrooke. Starting this week, we will be working on combining the My Active Health Facebook page and the Foundation’s Facebook page to increase visibility.”

My Active Heatlh elsewhere in Canada

With a few variations compared to the Quebec version, the program is also available in Ontario and the Maritime provinces. “In 2019, Dr. Daniel Santa Mina, a researcher and professor from the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of Toronto, in Ontario, joined forces with us. The goal of his project is to assess the feasibility and gather preliminary data on the effects of prehabilitation intervention in patients not receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy before they undergo breast cancer surgery (studies 1 and 2). His project is more focused on the advancement of literature,” elaborates the kinesiologist and oncology specialist.

As for women in the Atlantic provinces, they can benefit from the program too. “Danielle Bouchard is responsible for coordinating the My Active Health program across all Atlantic provinces. There are currently 185 cancer patients participating in the My Active Health program and we have accomplished 3 goals this year,” states Mrs. Filion. 

The goals:

  • We provided specialized training that encouraged women with breast cancer to get physically active
  • We created opportunities, including walking groups, for women with breast cancer to integrate physical activity into their daily lives
  • We finished recruiting participants for the “Do Physical Activity Levels Predict Functional Improvements following a Structured Exercise Program for Women Undergoing Breast Cancer Treatment?” research project 


What about the patients?

According to Myriam Filion, who has been working with them directly for almost two years, the feedback she most often receives has to do with an improvement in energy level and psychological well-being. The physical exercises suggested by the kinesiologist and oncology specialist lead to a direct improvement in strength and cardiovascular endurance. “What I am an advocate of, and what I see being effective, are muscle-strengthening exercises,” adds Myriam. According to her, “working on muscle strength is what gives you a lot more energy and makes you feel strong.”

A deep feeling of pride and accomplishment can be felt when Myriam talks about the patients, whom she works with regularly. “I’m proud of them, of seeing what they can achieve while they’re sick and undergoing treatment. You can tell they have a strong will, and that they are putting in a lot of effort.”

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