Cancer has touched just about everyone in the world in one form or another, whether it's directly or indirectly. The Miami Dolphins have been one of the true warriors in the world of sports for the past several years, having founded the Dolphins Cancer Challenge which is already the largest event for cancer research in professional sports and even now is preparing to expand its reach even more as it enters its seventh year.
Thanks in large part to the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center - known far and wide as the world's leading cancer experts - has been able to make incredible breakthroughs in cancer treatment over the past several years.
One of these revelations is the fact that physical activity is actually good for cancer patients and survivors, as opposed to the previous belief that it should be avoided. So in response to that, this past Tuesday, the Miami Dolphins saw it fit to hold a night of yoga in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month for the second year in a row.
“The Miami Dolphins and DCC are committed to fighting cancer of all kinds,” Senior Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs Jason Jenkins said. “We are happy to host this event for the second year in a row and invite those who have been affected by cancer to come together and take part in a fun and relaxing evening centered around yoga."
Ladies (and a few men) of all ages gathered together inside the practice bubble at the Dolphins facility in Davie, and went through various yoga poses with Dolphins alumni players accompanying them.
“It was tough, it was a lot tougher than I thought,” said former tight end and Manager of Youth Programs Troy Drayton. “There’s a lot of core involved, there’s a lot of stretching involved, I have a newfound respect for yoga and maybe it’s something that I might add to my exercise regimen.”
Other alumni included former defensive back Arturo Freeman, wide receiver Elmer Bailey, linebacker Twan Russell and fullback Lousaka Polite. In Polite's case, this night was not the first time he'd found himself doing yoga.
But what makes the yoga particularly effective for cancer patients is the benefits of this form of exercise. According to Joann Santiago, who is an Oncology Exercise Physiologist at Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida, yoga is a great place to start exercising during and after treatment because it's a form of exercise that doesn't require heavy lifting.
"During treatment, it's not necessarily the cancer itself, but the side effects of treatment that affects patients." she said. "When someone - for example - is undergoing chemotherapy, they may be very fatigued, they may experience nausea. Post-treatment, if they're on chemotherapy they could have what is called chemo brain so they get dizziness and have balance issues.
"There's so many things, they could have limited range of motion from radiation. So all of these things are easy to fix, but they don't know how to approach it. So they just come out of surgery and they're like 'oh my God I was told I can't exercise because if I lift something, my arm is going to swell and potentially be at risk for complications.'"
Santiago went on to explain how because of the mindset given to cancer patients because of the risks of these complications, it makes them scared to try and go back to a normal, independent lifestyle because they're afraid something will go wrong if they overexert themselves.
And thankfully, that's where yoga comes in.
"Just because this happened, you don't have to stop completely. This is what you can do." said Santiago. "So it's helping them to regain their quality of life."
But there's more to cancer than just the physical aspects. It also takes a toll on a patient's emotional and even spiritual well-being, and that's where a man named Allan Marc Moiseyev came in. With his solar-powered toys, he spreads the wish of his late wife Connie to any cancer patient he comes across, giving away the encouraging gifts and trying to raise their spirits.
“She loved it so much that she felt she wanted to give it to all breast cancer patients and survivors for spiritual and emotional support.” said Moiseyev, who is the President of Connie’s Wish Incorporated, the company behind the gifts. “After she died, I promised her before then that I would try to get these made up and given away.”
And that's precisely what he's been doing for years now, making and giving away these gifts to any and all patients he comes across and telling his story to anyone who will listen.
"When my wife had breast cancer, she was being treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital. She owed them a lot, they had a special financial aid plan that kept us from losing our house and our business and everything because she was uninsurable. She had no insurance due to prior medical conditions. She was told she had three months to live, and she just wouldn't accept that."
Moiseyev ran into some hard times at first, but eventually he got the ball rolling and he was able to start gifting his inventions to cancer patients all across the country. His wife had left behind a long list of high profile individuals who she wanted to have these toys, including - but not limited to – Michelle Obama, Melissa Etheridge, Garth Brooks, Peyton Manning, Don Shula, Bob Griese and many, many more.
What started out as a small 5,000 unit project has turned into a much larger dream come true, and Moiseyev insists that his job is far from over.
“I’m not done yet,” he said. “There’s still more hospitals and other things to contact, and since everything seems to be done in October, or close to it, I will push myself for the month and hopefully these contacts will allow me to gift these breast cancer patients the rest of the year so I don’t just have to worry about October.”
And he intends to continue spreading Connie's wish until he can't make anymore or he simply runs out of money. Neither of which project to happen anytime soon.
The battle against cancer is one that may never end, but you can bet that the Miami Dolphins will be helping lead the charge in that battle, making South Florida - and the rest of the world - a better and healthier place. Not just for cancer patients and survivors, but for all the world.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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