Leila Amin, occupational therapist at Princess Margaret's Function and Mobility clinic, helped  Neel Dutt 

Leila Amin, occupational therapist at Princess Margaret's Function and Mobility clinic, helped
Neel Dutt regain her mobility after her breast cancer diagnosis. (Photo: Leila Amin)

Neel Dutt always considered herself an active woman. As a mother of two sons and an accomplished employee at a financial institution, she pushes herself to be successful in every aspect of her life.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2012, her confidence was shaken.

Accepting help

As a working mom constantly on the run, it was difficult for Dutt to accept a leave of absence from her career for an unidentified period of time. She knew she would have to rely on her family to take care of her, and this proved particularly challenging for Dutt as she loved preparing hot and fresh Guyanese meals for her loved ones and ensuring the house was kept clean and presentable at all times.

By July 2013, Dutt had undergone two surgeries and chemotherapy, and found herself feeling fatigued and weaker than ever before. She desperately wanted to get back to the active lifestyle she had before her cancer diagnosis.

A test of strength

The next step for Dutt was to start radiation treatment – however – since she was not able to raise her arm high enough to rest on the radiation table, she was referred to Princess Margaret's Function and Mobility clinic. The clinic would help develop strength and range of motion in her shoulder so she could start treatment as soon as possible.

"The success of the clinic really stems from individualized exercise programming," said Leila Amin, occupational therapist in the Survivorship Program at Princess Margaret who sees patients in the Function and Mobility clinic.

The Function and Mobility clinic at Princess Margaret is an umbrella of survivorship clinics including the Fatigue, Neurocognitive and Lymphedema clinics. Occupational therapists (OTs) and physiotherapists (PTs) work collaboratively to help patients regain strength and range of motion in their upper extremity after surgery due to breast cancer diagnosis. There is a large emphasis placed on self-management – therefore, patients are instructed on how to perform exercises correctly and maintain posture and body mechanics during exercise. 

Dutt's turning point

The Function and Mobility clinic enabled Dutt to improve her strength and range of motion by 60 degrees in less than one week so she could start radiation as soon as possible.

"Even though the range of motion in my arm was good enough for radiation, I wanted it to be even better," said Dutt. "I wanted to be stronger and fitter than I was before I was diagnosed with cancer."

Dutt continues to practice her home exercise program seven days per week and is no longer ashamed to ask her family members for help around the house to ensure she has time to do her exercises. She is currently receiving radiation treatment and is on track to finish by the end of December 2013, in time for the holidays. 

"A patient's success in our clinic truly relies on their own inner desire to achieve their goals," said Amin, who worked closely with Dutt. "As an OT, my main priority is to listen to my patients' concerns, dig deep and find out what truly matters to them, and then work with them to provide a sustainable and feasible exercise plan that facilitates their participation in a way that's meaningful to them."

The Function and Mobility clinic began in 2006 as part of the Princess Margaret Survivorship Program – the clinic was created in response to a growing need for outpatient cancer rehabilitation. In 2012, the clinic saw 54 new patients and 45 follow-up visits. It is funded solely by private donations and The Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women's Cancers fundraiser that takes place every year. 

To learn more about how you can support the Function and Mobility Clinic at Princess Margaret, click here

October is National Occupational Therapy Month. To learn more, click here.

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