NEW YORKTwo mornings a week, women who have had mastectomies or
lumpectomies dip into the blue and white tiled pool at The Sol
Goldman Young Men and Womens Hebrew Association in Manhattan to
laugh and splash, to reduce postoperative complications, and to feel
alive and accepted. Beth Israel Medical Center and St.
Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Center offer the Renewal
Pool Program free to any woman who has had breast cancer surgery.
On a recent morning, after some stretching exercises, the women, some
bald, lowered themselves into the pool. Their teacher, Kateri Dupuy,
put on a jazz piano tape by Erroll Garner, and they started their
workout. Let those shoulders slip down. Feel the ground with
those wonderful legs. Cross your arms, Ms. Dupuy said, as she
led the women through their upper arm exercises, bicycle exercises,
and so on.
Soon, Ms. Dupuy was holding out a hoop, and several of the women
scored with beach balls while the others clapped. Women feel
each others pain and happiness, said Daphne, a member of
the class. The water is the best. We get to find ourselves in
Bert Petersen, Jr., MD, an attending physician at the Louis Venet
Comprehensive Breast Service, Beth Israel Medical Center, noted the
benefits of the program. The water exercises are
non-weight-bearing and give women a nice range of motion in the
arms, he said, and if they have lymphedema problems, it
helps remove the fluid and keep the swelling down. They have time to
bond with each other as well. They absolutely love it.
Pamela Yaker, CSW, a Beth Israel social worker who helped develop the
program, also stressed the programs medical and psychosocial
benefits. The pool class has become a strong support system and
a safe environment, she said.
Ms. Yaker said that the program gets permission from the womans
physician if surgery has been within the past month and that the
women work at their own pace. The class also helps with body
image, she said. People arent staring at them if
they have no hair, and they can walk around in a bathing suit and
The pool program provides support in many ways, said their teacher,
Ms. Dupuy, a water safety instructor who has taught water exercise
for 15 years. When the women come in, all kinds of things have
happened to them. Theyve had surgery, chemo, radiation,
lymphedema. They feel a lack of control over their lives and their
bodies. The women who have had mastectomies also feel out of
balanceheavier on one side.
Basically, she said, the women have a deep psychological need to feel
support. We use everything we can to find that support,
she said. Ms. Dupuy also teaches relaxation techniques, working with
the ground and gravity. Then they can feel that their life is
their own again. They have a sense of flow through the whole body
they didnt feel before, she said.
Through the upper arm exercises, the women can extend or at least
maintain their range of motion. With lymphedema, there is
protectiveness. You dont want to be bumped, Ms. Dupuy
said. Sometimes people get a frozen shoulder because they are
unable to lift things with that arm, and the less mobility and
movement, the greater the lymphedema.
Water makes the body 60% lighter, and when the shoulders are
completely under water, it lifts the arm up and it feels lighter.
When you experience that, you can take a chance to move your
arm, if you havent been moving it. In water, there is a greater
chance to extend range of motion, Ms. Dupuy said.
The women were gliding through the pool now, dog paddling, swimming,
walking, and talking. They had done their stretches and exercises,
played their games, and greeted their buddies. Oh, its so
nice, one woman said.