Back on Her Feet Again
Arrow Neuropathy Program Helps Edison Woman
Catherine Collins of Edison, NJ, had always worked hard to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, frequently participating in step aerobics at her local gym. As a teacher, this kept her energized throughout the school year. Diagnosed with cancer in 2012, she didn’t skip a beat in the classroom even while undergoing chemotherapy.
When she completed her chemotherapy in December of 2012, Catherine thought that she was finally on her way back to health and hoped to continue her vigorous aerobic workouts. However, she quickly found that the treatments had left her with swollen ankles and feet, numbness, and an overall loss of range of motion in her legs.
“My whole left foot was completely numb and the right foot was close behind,” said Collins, who prior to treatment was a gym regular. “My feet would turn pink and sometimes a hue of purple, and I had no strength at all.”
Patients undergoing chemotherapy can often experience a variety of side effects, including neuropathy. As the treatment works its way through the body to kill cancer cells, chemotherapy can also attack healthy cells. In neuropathy, sensory nerves – the nerves involved in sensing heat, touch or pain – are damaged, leaving the patient with a sensation of “pins-and-needles” or complete numbness, as in Collins’ case.
“I probably could have taken a hammer to my foot and wouldn’t have felt it,” Collins explained.
Collins felt as though a large part of who she was as an active woman was slipping away from her. Even simple activities, like climbing the stairs in her home, became difficult. She just wanted to feel “normal” again.
“For someone who is in her 50’s, I have a ton of energy and I couldn’t believe that this is what my life was going to be like,” Collins said.
Turning to her oncologist for help, Collins learned that Micro Vascular Therapy or MicroVas might be part of the solution to her persistent problems. A non-invasive treatment, MicroVas uses electronic impulses to cause muscle contraction and relaxation cycles which stimulates circulation. Healing is accelerated when this increase in blood flow helps raise the oxygen levels in the damaged tissue.
Collins selected the physical therapists at Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation (APT&R) for this innovative treatment. APT&R’s Neuropathy Program is a unique and comprehensive treatment plan designed to help patients like Collins. After only two treatments, she finally found the relief so desperately sought.
“When she first came in, she had a lot of numbness in both her feet and joint restrictions,” said Sharmilee Dixit, APT&R therapist. “I knew she enjoyed going to the gym so I wanted to be sure we were able to get her back to enjoying her activities.”
As part of APT&R’s Neuropathy Program, Dixit said she worked with Collins on stretching her feet and having her perform exercises with her toes to get them working again. She added that it was this type of comprehensive treatment that was so important in getting Collins back to her step aerobic classes.
Collins said that by the second treatment she started to feel something again – a strange new sensation that might have been alarming to some, but was a welcome sign to her. She was beginning to heal – beginning to feel “normal” again.
“Feeling started to come back, almost like electric shocks and I realized that it was my nerves regenerating,” she said. “After not having felt anything for four months, it was just amazing that in two sessions I could tell that it was coming back.”
Despite her occasional frustration, Collins was motivated to get her life back and get back on her feet. APT&R’s physical therapists patiently encouraged Collins to continue with her in-office neuropathy program, as well as a recommended exercise routine to follow independently at home.
One of her exercises included picking up marbles with her toes. While to many it may seem silly, Collins said, it was one of the most difficult and frustrating things she had to do. There were times she wanted to give up, but continued pushing forward until one day she was able to pick up 20 marbles individually and move them to the other side of her chair.
“I was so excited when I picked up the marbles and because I had been so frustrated about it the therapists came in and all gave me a high-five,” said Collins of APT&R staff’s enthusiasm and encouragement. “I can’t say enough about them and their care.”
Dixit said that Collins did much to help herself along the way, as well.
“We all really enjoyed working with Catherine,” she said. “She was consistent with her treatment, always had a positive attitude and would work hard to finish her program even if she seemed frustrated.”
Collins is back to enjoying step aerobics at the gym, but said she will always appreciate what the therapists at Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation were able to do for her. She added that without them and APT&R’s Neuropathy Program, she might not have been able to get sneakers back on her feet, let alone get back to her aerobics.
“They were all clapping for me when I said I was getting back to the gym,” Collins said. “Aside from the obvious physical achievements, mentally I’ve been lifted up – I can’t begin to explain how much better I feel all around.”