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Cancer Rehab – After the Battle

When Cedartown resident and new mom Lacee Landrum was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, her world halted as she was suddenly thrown into a new routine of chemotherapy treatments and doctors’ appointments. As a former college softball athlete, Landrum, 29, was familiar with training regimens and physical exertion and mentally prepared herself for the fight of her life.

Lacee Landru (middle) holds up the PinkPorchGA sign with Cedartown clinic practice manager Tammy Jarrell and her oncology occupational therapist, Carolyn Perry.
Lacee Landrum (middle) holds up the PinkPorchGA sign with AdventHealth Medical Group at Cedartown clinic practice manager Tammy Jarrell and her oncology occupational therapist, Carolyn Perry.

Landrum heard about oncology rehab as a new treatment to alleviate some of the side effects of chemotherapy and made her first appointment with an oncology occupational therapist at AdventHealth Sports Med & Rehab Cedartown. Landrum started oncology prehabilitation, or “prehab,” two weeks before her first chemo appointment to give her therapists a baseline status of her health to plan and adapt to her individualized needs and body’s response to the chemo and cancer treatments.

“When I first started chemo once a week, rehab gave me a sense a normalcy and a chance to get out of the house,” said Landrum. “We focused on the type of the chemo I had, which was taxing on my heart. We focused (at first) on my heart rate and stretching exercises.”

Landrum continued with her rehab throughout 16 rounds of chemotherapy, 17 rounds of immunotherapy and after her bilateral mastectomy in 2020. Rehab was a constant in her life and gave Landrum a motivating training session to get her out of the house each week, but also the emotional outlet that she needed as she faced the debilitating disease.

“I really took advantage of my therapist being an unbiased party and could share my thoughts and could speak openly to her. She was there to be with there to support me, cry with me and laugh with me, whatever I needed for the day,” said Landrum.

Bringing the Research Home

Recent research is emerging about the long-term benefits of a comprehensive rehab program for people facing cancer. Evidence has shown that patients who receive prehab (before chemo) and rehab during and after cancer treatments can experience reduced physical and psychological impairments, function and disability, as published in WORK: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment & Rehabilitation (Silver, Baima, Newman, Galantino, Shockney, 2013). Oncology rehab can also lead to reduced surgical complications, hospital lengths of stay, hospital readmissions and reduced economic burden overall, as referenced in Seminars in Oncology Nursing (Silver, 2015). Patients who undergo rehab before, during and after cancer treatments have a better chance at long-term healing and feeling better overall.

AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab Director John Crowley first heard about the benefits of oncology rehab from the then AdventHealth Redmond Oncology Services Director, Ann Hook, RN, MSN, in 2017. A team of four Redmond Regional Medical Center (now AdventHealth Redmond) employees traveled to Denver, Colorado, to train at the Physiological Oncology Rehabilitation Institute (PORi), learning best practices in breast cancer rehab protocol.

The therapy team returned and put their knowledge into action right away with a small group of volunteer cancer survivors, who were put on a rehab regimen.

“Within just a few sessions these survivors told us that they felt better than they had felt since their cancer diagnosis,” said Crowley. “Some of these survivors were four to five years past their oncology treatments. That’s when we knew for sure we were on to something big. We knew if these techniques could help people years after their cancer diagnosis, they would have an even bigger impact when implemented early in the diagnosis and treatment process.”

An Individualized Road to Recovery

Over the past five years, the focus of AdventHealth Sports Med & Rehab on cancer rehabilitation has led it to become the only certified Physiological Oncology Rehabilitation Institute (PORi) Center of Excellence in Northwest Georgia. In partnership with PORi, the team has added programming to help the side effects of chemotherapy including cancer-related fatigue, cardio toxicity and chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy. The next service line added was for head and neck cancer which includes treatments for neck pain, facial swelling, swallowing and voice difficulties. Finally, they added programing to address lower GI and pelvic cancers with rehab treatments that can help the lower half of the body with pain, restrictions, fluid dynamics, bowel and bladder issues.

The clinic locations in Rome and Cedartown have multiple clinicians including physical therapists, occupational therapists and a speech therapist certified in breast cancer, chemotoxicity, manual lymphatic drainage, head and neck cancer and GI and pelvic cancers.

After undergoing months of chemotherapy, surgery or radiation, a cancer patient can feel completely rundown, weak and fatigued. They have just run the race of their lives and while there is celebration to be had with the last treatment, the patient still has a long road to feeling like themselves again. The oncology rehab team works specifically with each patient, according to their own health needs, type of cancer, symptoms and other treatments that they might be going through. This philosophy is described by Crowley as “Whole-Person Rehab,” which doesn’t only focus on one aspect or symptom of a patient’s health, but on their entire wellbeing.

“What I love about our clinic is the amount of one-on-one time we get to spend with our oncology patients. That one-on-one time is spent giving better, more individualized, and comprehensive care,” said oncology certified physical therapist Emily Nash, who works at AdventHealth Sports Med & Rehab on Shorter Ave in Rome.

Emily Nash, occupational therapist, instructs a patient.
Emily Nash, occupational therapist, works with cancer patients to improve their strength and overall recovery.

Nash works collaboratively with the entire rehab team to help patients get their lives and identity back. Many oncology patients are fatigued both physically from the various changes happening to their body and mentally drained from shock of being diagnosed with cancer and the seemingly endless treatments and doctor's appointments. Nearly every treatment for cancer makes patients feel worse physically; that is, except for rehab.

“Our philosophy for patient care is to treat the individual person,” said Crowley. “On someone's first visit in our office, they'll get a full evaluation we'll spend an hour or better just talking with the patient, finding out what their symptoms are, what issues they're having and what's going on in their personal life. We try to take all that into consideration with our treatments and we'll design a program specific to their needs.”

For Nash and her team, coming to work each day isn’t just about doing a job. They put their hearts into connecting with patients and celebrate right alongside them when they meet small goals and milestones to recovery. Nash is also there in the low moments, the frustrations or setbacks. She patiently listens to her patients explain their symptoms or barriers to progress and creatively thinks of avenues to motivate them. Nash isn’t just a physical therapist, but a coach, a cheerleader, a confidant and a friend.

“We celebrate their last chemotherapy treatments, the first time they can physically pick up their grandchild, the first time they return to work. We celebrate the highs and lows of this very trying time in their lives that are exhausting physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. When I see a patient succeed and do what they wanted to do, I feel accomplished with them,” said Nash.

Feeling Whole…Again

The continuous support of the therapy team made all the difference for Landrum during her recovery from breast cancer. After Landrum’s mastectomy, she underwent radiation treatments, which can leave a severe red burn on the skin. Her therapists massaged and treated her burns to help the skin stay pliable and protected. They also treated her surgery scars, which are now virtually undetectable. Today, Landrum is expecting a new baby and is thankful for her chance to be a mom again, this time without cancer treatments. One thing in her life that isn’t changing is her weekly visits to AdventHealth Sports Med & Rehab Cedartown.

“Therapy has been a constant over the last 4 years. It’s been as much for my mental health as it is for my physical health. I can’t say enough about the team there,” said Landrum.

For Crowley, witnessing his team enable patients to feel whole again after cancer is what fuels him to come to work every day. He takes great pride in his team for recognizing a need in their community and taking ownership of the monumental task of building a comprehensive oncology rehab program to address this need.

“Our team is passionate about their ability to help oncology survivors and it drives them to excellence,” said Crowley. “The combination of our programming and our amazing staff has created a service that can help people through what is a very difficult time in their lives. That is what we are here for, and I love it!”

For more information about comprehensive oncology prehab or rehab at AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab, call Call706-236-1911 or visit

AdventHealth Redmond invites the community to light their porches pink throughout the month of October to honor breast cancer warriors like Lacee Landrum. Pick up your free light bulb at the main entrance of any of our AdventHealth hospitals in Northwest Georgia while supplies last. Also, please share photos and your own tribute to a breast cancer warrior on social media by using the #PinkPorchGA hashtag. To learn more about the “Light Your Porch Pink” movement for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, visit To schedule a mammogram or learn more about AdventHealth’s cancer program, please call Call800-973-5571.

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