If worse diseases exist, I’m dead sure they don’t do so on such a prevalent basis – those who’ve been at the receiving end of cancer at any point of their lives, either as survivors or as families of victims know this very well. According to the American Cancer Society and data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Center for Health Statistics, cancer is the leading cause of death in individuals below the age of 85 – in recent years, it has surpassed heart disease as the number one killer in the world.

But not all cancer patients die; some of them survive and go on to lead an uneventful life in the years that follow. However, even survival comes at a huge cost, and I’m not just talking about the medical bills that run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Patients have to undergo surgery and then go through a number of painful chemotherapy or radiation cycles in order to remove every trace of the cancerous growth, and the most tragic aspect of this is that they’re not sure if they will be cured. When they’re cured however, they need to get back to a normal life at the earliest, and to this end, physical and occupational therapists play an important role in the lives of cancer survivors.

Physical therapists help cancer patients cope with the physical ravages wrought by the disease – they examine the patient and evaluate them for muscle strength, mobility and joint range of motion before designing therapeutic exercise routines that help them increase their range of motion, improve endurance, enhance coordination, and boost mobility so that everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs and moving from place to place become easier. PTs also help cancer patients find relief from aches and pains and other side effects of chemotherapy through massage, traction, hydrotherapy, and the application of hot or cold compresses. Patients work with therapists on a daily basis until they’re able to do their exercises on their own or with the help of a caregiver, in which case, they visit the PT once a week or as required.

Occupational therapists help patients in getting back to their routine lives; when illness strikes, depending on its severity, it may leave you physically and/or mentally handicapped. An OT helps in evaluating cancer patients’ ability to care for themselves and go through their daily routine without too much effort. Tasks may include even basic things such as brushing teeth, bathing, dressing and undressing and eating, and routine activities around the home like cooking, cleaning and washing. An occupational therapist determines if the patient has to re-learn various tasks or if they need adaptive equipment to be able to perform them effectively and safely. He or she also determines if the homes of cancer patients must be modified to include handrails, ramps and other such appliances.

The extent and duration of rehabilitation depend on the type of cancer and how severely it has affected the patient. Each survivor has a tailor-made therapy routine that they continue for as long as needed.