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Local woman brings cancer boot camp to area

Summer program under way at West Wood Fitness

June 21, 2012

Down, One. Down, Two. Down, Three.

Colleen Sonderman couldn't believe her eyes and ears - participants at a boot camp counting military style for pushups, pullups and situps in the heat of Tucson, Ariz., a few years ago. But these individuals weren't military members.

They were members of another sorority who were combating another enemy: cancer.

It was Anita Kellman's Beat Cancer Boot Camp, a fitness-based support program created to help cancer survivors stay active during cancer treatment and beyond.

"I just watched them do pushups longer than I could ever (do them), and I was like, 'Wow,' " said Sonderman, a physical therapist with a specialty in breast cancer rehabilitation at Waukesha Memorial Hospital, who was watching her sister-in-law, a breast cancer survivor, excel in the program. "When I saw that, I thought this was something we needed to have here."

So she made it happen.

Sonderman, a Brookfield resident, received a grant from Waukesha Memorial and partnered with the West Wood Health and Fitness Center in Pewaukee. And now, after months of planning, the boot camp has begun.

The classes run every Wednesday, rain or shine, through Aug. 8 at West Wood.

Fifty people, mostly from Waukesha County, are signed up for the summer session.

Many of these individuals were at the Beat Cancer Boot Camp Kickoff on June 2, when they got a glimpse at what boot camp would be like.

Sonderman relays to her patients that regular exercise can help relieve stress, anxiety and some of the side effects common to cancer treatment, such as nausea and fatigue.

"This is something you can proactively do to fight the cancer," Sonderman said. "Depression is very high, especially when going through chemotherapy, where you feel so sick that you just want to lay around.

"But research shows exercise makes you feel better and helps your immune system. I see it every day."

So does Kellman, who started the Beat Cancer Boot Camp in 2004.

Kellman has worked in the medical field for more than 30 years, but when she met a woman who recently had been diagnosed with breast cancer at an outdoor Navy Seals-style boot camp, she became inspired. She, in turn, adapted the Navy Seals' techniques to start her own support group centered on physical fitness.

"I think it becomes a natural support group," Sonderman said. "Just the idea that they can fight this battle of cancer and that they don't have to fight it alone."

Just the Facts

NAME: Colleen Sonderman

KNOWN FOR: bringing the Beat Cancer Boot Camp to Waukesha County

LEARN MORE: visit WestWoodFitness.org and click on the "Online Class Registration" link

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