I have midline lymphoedema as a consequence of pelvic cancer treatments in 1990. Recently I was told that courses of MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage) treatments would no longer be available at the hospital I attend: only new patients would be treated and the rest of us discharged. I already do daily self management Simple Lymphatic Drainage and a few exercises each morning, but simply feel too fatigued to do this more than once a day as I have had two cancers and have several other conditions needing self management. I felt depressed and despairing. I feel the cold dreadfully and have been left over-sensitive (to touch, heat, cold, pain etc) since the first cancer, having recently been diagnosed with Allodynic pain and sensitive to 16 out of the 18 points tested on my body.
Then I remembered that a free GP Exercise Referral Scheme was rolled out some years ago and wondered if it was still in use. Then by chance I heard a speaker at an osteoporosis meeting promoting just such a scheme. After sustaining a vertebral fracture this year I find it difficult and sometimes impossible to use the local swimming pools because they are insufficiently heated for my needs, so quite unbearable.
The Exercise Referral Scheme run by City of York Council has specialist schemes for cardiac rehabilitation, neurological conditions, falls prevention and cancer. There are gym-based exercise referral condition-specific classes including: COPD circuits; Pilates for neurological conditions (MS/Parkinsons); Nordic walking for musculoskeletal conditions; Circuits for musculoskeletal conditions.
My GP did not seem familiar with the scheme but wrote me a letter ‘to whom it may concern’, outlining my health conditions. Then I met with the promotional speaker again, a personal trainer and member of the HEAL Team working within the scheme. He gave me a transfer form to be signed by my GP and once that was completed I was able to join a group of people at a gym complex. He said the forms could be available from GPs, practice nurses, or other health professionals such as physiotherapists and dieticians.
Although my use of the gym facilities is restricted by my health conditions, the bonus of joining the scheme was access to the wonderfully warm swimming pool in the same building where I can float and do arm and leg exercises. The drawbacks for me are the distance from home to gym (travelling is painful) and the cost (my particular cost is £4.00 per session, which is reasonable, but adds to the considerable cost of petrol). If I used a hydrotherapy pool on the other side of town would cost even more and be even further to drive.
If older people and those who have/had serious health conditions are to take responsibility for their health, they need exercise facilities to suit their needs. And in many cases that will mean indoor facilities and REALLY warm pools – and far more of them to cut down on the travelling.