Through it all: Pink Ribbon 360 supports breast cancer patients, survivors
Clients work one-on-one to develop the best strategy for handling mental and physical side effects
After working as an occupational therapist for over 20 years, Friedland started Pink Ribbon 360 as a way to combine her work experience with her passion for serving breast cancer survivors.
BREAST CANCER BY THE NUMBERS
In 2018, the latest year for which incidence data are available, in the United States, 254,744 new cases of Female Breast Cancer were reported among women, and 42,465 women died of this cancer. For every 100,000 women, 127 new Female Breast Cancer cases were reported and 20 women died of this cancer.
2018 data shows in Arizona, the age-adjusted cancer rate was 17.1 per 100,000 women. During the same time, 805 deaths were reported.
As Breast Cancer Awareness Month approaches, a Phoenix-based program is working to support breast cancer survivors by helping them through the recovery process both physically and emotionally with specialized exercises.
Physical challenges related to cancer recovery are of utmost importance to survivors from regaining stability to rebuilding strength, however, many aren’t aware of the tolling mental strain that breast cancer can leave in its wake with side effects like fear, anxiety or depression.
Launched in 2019, Pink Ribbon 360 was developed by Paradise Valley resident Teri Friedland after hearing about her friend’s experience recovering from breast cancer surgery and radiation treatment.
“The emotional trauma that people with breast cancer go through is a lot more than people going through it, or people who have never gone through it, can imagine,” Friedland said.
As she explained, breast cancer treatment can put survivors into menopause causing severe joint pain and can also produce debilitating feelings of frustration, anguish and fatigue.
Friedland’s friend, following her cancer treatment, was on the market for an exercise program that was specifically meant for those recovering from breast cancer and could help her safely return to regular day-to-day life while also supporting her emotional needs.
Working previously as both an occupational therapist and fitness instructor, Friedland was shocked to hear that given the advances in cancer treatment, there were no specific aftercare or recovery programs for breast cancer survivors.
“If there are programs like mine, I don’t know of many in the Valley and that’s why I started it,” she said.
Push and pull
When Pink Ribbon 360 was still in its early stages, the business was speaking and looking to partner with a local cancer center to offer and promote the program until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Much like other local businesses, the pandemic posed major hurdles for the budding recovery center and the partnership, unfortunately, did not come to fruition.
“That put a little monkey wrench in everything, so we had to change it,” Friedland said.
Because of the increased time inside, breast cancer survivors were especially struggling from the isolation but also because of hospital-led recovery programs that were canceled for safety reasons.
Considering the safety of her clients, she decided to start offering the Pink Ribbon 360 program virtually, which allowed her to reach clients not only in Arizona but throughout the country.
“It’s like anything else, you need to do it repeatedly to see progress,” Friedland said.
With the success that she’s had connecting with clients online throughout the past year and a half, she noted that despite the change in plan, the pandemic was able to open up some doors for Pink Ribbon 360.
Friedland hopes to work with another center or hospital in the future so that her program could be included in the cost of the medical treatment for breast cancer patients to support them in recovery.
Offering both online and in-person sessions now allows for Friedland to continue serving her clients in whichever format they feel most comfortable with.
“They’re tired,” Friedland said. “They’re just not sure how to do it on their own and so that’s where I come in until they feel like they can do it on their own.”
She explained that the program was not designed to be a permanent solution, but hopes that it will serve as a bridge, or stepping stool, for breast cancer survivors to take in their recovery journey to feel physically and emotionally stronger.
From what Friedland’s clients have told her, Pink Ribbon 360 has inspired them to want to get stronger with the added support of working through the resulting emotional trauma from their experience with breast cancer.
“They’re happy with that, but they’re really surprised by how much emotionally our sessions help them,” she said.
A passion project
Since embarking on her mission, Friedland remarked that after learning more about breast cancer and its after-effects, she felt she became more eager to support this group of people.
Friedland explained that from her research she found that breast cancer survivors have a 40% decreased chance of relapsing or mortality if they implement some type of regular exercise routine.
“What we don’t understand physically is all of the side effects that go along with not only the surgeries but the chemotherapy, the radiation and the hormone therapy that a lot of women are put on afterward,” she said.
Exercise not only reduces the chance of reoccurrence, according to Friedland, but it helps to bring back the confidence and independence that many breast cancer survivors feel that they have lost through treatment.
Pink Ribbon 360 was named that way in order to relay to clients that she aims to uplift those survivors emotionally, physically and spiritually.
“I want to be able to support women going through breast cancer from the minute of diagnosis all the way through their treatment, through their recovery and beyond so they feel support throughout their entire journey,” she said.
When it comes to preparing and developing each of her clients’ programs, Friedland says that they are individual and specialized.
Throughout a session, Friedland says that she is a stickler for making sure her clients are performing their exercises correctly and safely.
Unlike more traditional recovery treatments, Pink Ribbon 360 takes a holistic and empathetic approach to serve its client base by providing a safe space to discuss client concerns while also taking the time to curate a specific exercise regimen.
“I do some assessments of their physical abilities, but we also talk about what their goals are and what their priorities are, and then we work together to form their program and it changes as we go,” Friedland said.
Depending on a patient’s tolerance and abilities, the treatment could include such activities as breathing work, self-massage techniques, meditation, cardio or even just gentle stretches.
Aside from the treatments that Friedland can offer in terms of exercises and support, she also boasts a network of other Valley professionals to who she can refer clients if she thinks they could benefit from another type of treatment.
“I would like women with breast cancer, going through their treatments or afterward, to know that this service is here and to put themselves first,” Friedland said. “Their well-being is important, and they deserve to feel better physically and emotionally.”
Caroline Yu is a reporter for Independent Newsmedia covering Tempe. She reports on local news including areas of sustainability and education. Her previous work has been published on KCET's SoCal Connected and Cronkite News.
Caroline earned her degree in journalism and mass communications at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. From both college and high school journalism experiences, she's developed a passion for covering local communities and being a voice for others.