Cancer rehabilitation - VCU Massey Cancer Center

VCU Massey Cancer Center

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Cancer rehabilitation at VCU Massey Cancer Center is focused on restoring and maintaining the highest possible level of function, independence and quality of life for those affected by cancer, from newly-diagnosed patients to long-term survivors. Our goal is to not only treat immediate issues impacting quality of life, but also guide you toward long-term health to help prevent cancer recurrence.

  • Overview

    The region’s most comprehensive cancer rehabilitation program

    Advancements in cancer treatment and early detection have created an increasing pool of cancer survivors. Unfortunately, many face side effects and lasting problems that affect their ability to live a normal life.

    Experts in Massey’s Cancer Rehabilitation program specialize in the evaluation and treatment of physical, functional and neurological complications of cancer and cancer treatments. We can help with issues such as acute and chronic pain, weakness, muscle spasm, neuropathy, lymphedema, speech, balance, range of motion and much more.

    Our multidisciplinary team works closely with your oncologist and includes physical therapists, occupational therapists, lymphedema therapists and speech language pathologists. Experienced neurologists, psychologists, oral health specialists, dietitians, counselors, social workers, chaplains and others are also available and able to assist in your care.

    This comprehensive care and patient-centered approach aims to restore function and independence while promoting healthy lifestyle practices to prevent cancer recurrence.

    Josh Rubenstein and Sue Stella - Rehab Overview

    Care center locations

    VCU Massey Cancer Center
    VCU Medical Center, North Hospital
    Dalton Oncology (basement)
    1300 E. Marshall St.
    (corner of Marshall & College Streets)
    Richmond, VA 23298
    (804) 828-0246

    Valet parking is available for your convenience at both North Hospital (complimentary for outpatient cancer visits) and Ambulatory Care Center ($5). Self-parking is available in the Patient and Visitor Parking Deck at 529 N. 12th St. (at the corner of 12th and Leigh Streets) ($2).

    VCU Medical Center at Stony Point
    OT/PT Clinic (2nd Floor)
    Women’s Health Clinic (1st floor)
    Supportive Care Clinic (2nd floor)
    (804) 237-6611

    VCU Sports Medicine Physical Therapy
    1300 West Broad Street
    (adjacent to the Siegel Center)
    (804) 828-1122

    Cardiopulmonary Rehab
    Main Hospital, 10th floor
    MCV Campus
    (804) 828-1122

    Hand Management Center
    Nelson Clinic, 6th floor
    MCV Campus
    (804) 828-0247

    VCU Health Neuroscience, Orthopaedic and Wellness (NOW) Center
    11958 W Broad Street
    Near Short Pump Town Center
    (804) 360-4669

  • Treatment

    Cancer rehabilitation goes hand-in-hand with cancer treatment, recovery and survivorship. Maintaining strength, nutrition and overall health help the body recover from cancer treatments, and expertly guided rehabilitation can help improve recovery from surgery and minimize loss of mobility and function. In addition, maintaining a healthy lifestyle including exercise and proper nutrition have been shown to decrease the chances of cancer recurrence.

    Donna Shell - Rehab Treatment Section

    Cancer rehabilitation services include: 

    Physical therapy

    Physical therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. Physical therapists teach patients how to prevent or manage their condition so that they will achieve long-term health benefits. An individualized treatment plan is developed for each patient using techniques that promote movement, reduce pain, restore function and prevent disability. Physical therapists are experts in how the body moves, and we will collaborate with you and your physician to help you achieve long-term health.

    Physical therapy can help with:

    • Strength
    • Range of motion
    • Pain
    • Walking
    • Balance
    • Fatigue
    • Neuropathy
    • Pelvic pain or dysfunction
    • Reduced bone density
    • Shortness of breath
    • Diminished cardiovascular health and endurance
    • Scar adhesions
    • Radiation fibrosis

    Occupational therapy

    Occupational therapists  can help patients to regain and build skills that are important to functioning independently. We use a holistic approach to assess and treat patients with physical and cognitive impairments by focusing on daily activities such as dressing, bathing, sleep hygiene, meal preparation, and managing the home after treatment. We also teach patients and caregivers how to use adaptive equipment that can make their lives easier. In addition to working with patients to improve cognition and physical well-being, we can also address social and environmental issues that may affect activities of daily living.

    Occupational therapy can help with:

    • Upper extremity pain
    • Loss of arm strength
    • Loss of range of motion
    • Memory loss
    • Decreased concentration
    • Energy conservation
    • Difficulty with basic self-care
    • Difficulty with work and leisure activities
    • Assistive devices

     Lymphedema

    Lymphedema therapists are specialists who help to manage swelling of the arm, leg, groin, trunk, head or neck that can develop when surgery or radiation treatments affect the lymph nodes.  We assist in detecting and preventing the progression of lymphedema, providing clinical treatment and education, and aid in managing the condition at home.

    Lymphedema therapy can help with:

    • Educating patients on signs and symptoms of infection and the importance of skin care
    • Manual lymphatic drainage
    • Compression bandaging
    • Garment fitting and wear
    • Improvement of skin texture
    • Therapeutic exercise

     Speech-language pathology

    Speech-language pathologists provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment of speech, swallowing, voice, language and cognitive impairments to maximize functional outcomes and positively impact quality of life. We provide specialty care for laryngectomees, including pre-laryngectomy and tracheoesophageal puncture (TEP) consultations; voice restoration via alaryngeal speech evaluation and training (electrolarynx and TEP); pulmonary rehabilitation with fitting for heat-moisture exchanger and appropriate housing; and TEP prosthesis changes, maintenance and care.  We also hold a monthly support group for patients with laryngectomees.

    Speech therapy can help with:

    • Swallowing difficulty, including oral, pharyngeal and cervical esophageal dysphagia
    • Trismus (difficulty opening mouth due to poor jaw range of motion)
    • Voice disorders, such as vocal fold paralysis, hoarseness, pitch or loudness problems
    • Speech difficulty, including articulation and resonance disorders
    • Language and cognitive impairments, such as recall, attention, problem solving, reasoning, and verbal organization
  • Specialists

    Hand management

    Lara White OTR/L

    Specialty: Hand management

    Location: Nelson Clinic, 6th floor

    View bio

    Lara received her Bachelor's degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Manitoba (Canada) in 1996. She has over 20 years of experience in the field of Occupational Therapy with 14 of those years at VCU Health System in the Hand Management Center. Lara became a certified hand therapist (CHT) in 2004. Lara has enjoyed teaching as a Clinical Faculty member at the VCU School of Occupational Therapy since 2010. Her current caseload is varied but predominantly consists of clients with upper extremity orthopedic dysfunction. Her career as a hand therapist has included a variety of oncology patients, both those with a history of cancer and/or a current diagnosis of cancer. These include, but are not limited to patients who have undergone upper extremity amputation as a result of cancer (both bony and soft tissue tumors), and more commonly, patients who have undergone reconstructive oral/facial surgeries using a radial forearm flap. Occasionally she works with clients who are experiencing chemotherapy related neuropathies in the upper extremities.

    Sejal Shah Kinker OTR/L, CHT

    Specialty:Hand management

    Location: Nelson Clinic, 6th floor

    View bio

    Sejal graduated from Kean College of New Jersey in 1994 with a B.S. in Occupational Therapy. She became an ASHT certified Hand Therapist in 2001. Sejal worked as traveling therapist with specialty in hand therapy after obtaining her OT degree, and has had a clinical focus in hand therapy throughout her career. Sejal has been working as a hand therapist in the Richmond area since 2000 and has been employed at the VCU Health System since 2007. Sejal is a guest lecturer at the Medical College of Virginia’s Master of Occupational Therapy Program. Sejal is also a guest lecturer at Virginia College’s Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Program.

    Sarah DiDomenico, MS, OTR/L, WCC

    Specialty: Hand management

    Location: Nelson Clinic, 6th floor

    View bio

    Sarah graduated from James Madison University in 2010 with a B.S. in Kinesiology/Exercise Science with a minor in Music. She graduated from James Madison University again in 2012 with a Master of Occupational Therapy. She has been working within the hand specialty for the past four years at the Nelson clinic. She also worked at a skilled nursing facility prior to coming to VCU Health. Her current caseload is varied but predominantly consists of clients with upper extremity orthopedic, neurological, or trauma-related dysfunction. See also sees patients who have or have had a cancer diagnosis. Her treatments involve wound care, splinting, manual therapy, pain control, and desensitization techniques. She also frequently sees individuals who have various forms of neuropathy, experienced amputations, adherent scar tissue, and chronic pain. Her approach to treatment has a strong holistic focus, and believes that compassion, communication, and education are a huge component of the rehabilitation process. She enjoys fabricating adaptive equipment or training her patients in compensatory or ergonomic techniques. She works closely with a prosthetic specialist for individuals who have received amputations. Sarah is a guest lecturer at the Medical College of Virginia’s Master of Occupational Therapy Program. In 2016, Sarah received specialized training and certification in wound care from the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy.

    Julie Seabury PT, DPT, CHT

    Specialty: Hand management

    Location: Nelson Clinic, 6th floor

    View bio

    I received my Master’s degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University in 1994. I received my doctorate of Physical Therapy from VCU in 2006. I am also a Certified Hand therapist since 1999. I worked the first 10 years at Grady Hospital, a Level 1 Trauma Center in Atlanta, GA and now I have been at VCU since 2003. I am also a guest lecturer at the VCU Physical Therapy Program, teaching the evaluation and treatment of elbow, wrist and hand dysfunction. My caseload consists of patients with UE orthopedic dysfunction from the shoulder to the hand. In oncology, I see patients with UE sequelae from surgery from cancer related issues, usually amputations or reconstructive surgeries after removal of tumors. I have also treated patients post chemotherapy with hypersensitivity issues in their hands.

    Occupational therapists

    Liz Albee, M.S., OTR/L

    Specialty: Occupational therapy

    Location: North Hospital - Downtown

    View bio

    Liz has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Occupational Therapy from VCU. She have worked as an Occupational Therapist for 35 years with multiple diagnoses including CVA, brain injury, spinal cord injury, back and hip surgery, hand injuries and cancer. My experience includes acute care, oncology, inpatient and outpatient rehab, day rehab, and skilled nursing facilities.

    Lesley W. Phillips, OTR/L

    Specialty: Occupational therapy

    Location: North Hospital - Downtown

    View bio

    Received her Occupational Therapy degree from Utica College as a part of Syracuse University in 1997. My areas of interest are stroke, SCI, general deconditioning, and UE splinting for hand contractures.

    Carrie Russell MS/OTR/CHT

    Specialty: Occupational therapy

    Location: VCU Health Neuroscience, Orthopaedic and Wellness Center in Short Pump

    View bio

    Carrie is a certified Hand Therapist with 29 years of continuous practice. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia in Biology and New York University with an advanced masters in Occupational Therapy. Worked at The Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC and collaborated care of Sloan Kettering patients in need of orthopedic interventions following reconstruction. Special interests include orthopedic concerns of the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand following surgery. Concerns may include soft tissue, joint strength and neuro-vascular limitations as well as wound care.

    Physical therapists

    Brennan "Kelley" Ryan, PT, DPT, WCS

    Specialty: Physical therapy

    Location: North Hospital - Downtown

    View bio

    Kelley graduated from Northwestern with a DPT in 2006 and is a Women's Health Certified Specialist (WCS). Her interests related to Cancer Rehabilitation include: pre- and post-mastectomy rehabilitation, urinary and fecal incontinence and/or urgency-frequency, constipation, abdominal and low back pain, pelvic pain, and pre and post-prostatectomy rehabilitation. She takes an orthopedic and holistic approach to patients and often incorporate yoga, meditation and wellness into her treatment plans.

    Kim Ericson ,DPT MLD-CDT

    Specialty: Physical therapy

    Location: North Hospital - Downtown

    View bio

    I graduated from Northwestern with a DPT in 2006 and have worked in outpatient orthopedics and women's health for the last 10 years. My clinical interests are: pain neurophysiology, chronic pain, lumbopelvic and hip pain, pregnancy and postpartum, gastrointestinal disorders, pelvic pain and incontinence. I take an orthopedic and holistic approach to patients and often incorporate yoga, meditation and wellness into my treatment plans. In March, I took the women's health specialty exam, which included the topics of breast cancer rehabilitation and cancer rehab.

    Paul Eckerd, PT, DPT

    Specialty: Physical therapy

    Location: North Hospital - Downtown

    View bio

    Basement North Hospital -- BS in PT ( ECU '87), DPT ( VCU ' 07). Prior to coming to VCUHealth in 2008, I worked 18 yrs at Wake Forest Baptist Health and 2 years at PT private practice here in Richmond. The majority of my work has been in general outpatient orthopedics with primary focus on spinal pain/ dysfunction. I have my credentialing in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy from the McKenzie Institute. My interests include cross cultural / patient's religious faith impact of responses to pain / suffering as well as quantification of function.

    Ann Dunbar PT, DPT, MS, WCS

    Specialty: Physical therapy

    Location: North Hospital - Downtown

    View bio

    Ann received her BS in Physical Therapy from the University of North Carolina in 1974. In 1987 she received her MS in Physical Therapy and in 2007 her Doctorate in Physical Therapy, both from Virginia Commonwealth University. She received her Women’s Health Clinic Specialist certification in 2012. Her early years of practice focused on orthopedics and pain management and since 1990 she has focused in the area of women’s health. Moving from private practice to VCUHS in 1998, she is currently an outpatient therapist focusing on women’s health issues and the broader scope of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction for women and men. Ann has taught the Women’s Health Unit, now Gender Health Unit to physical therapy students at VCU for over 25 years, has written, published, presented and completed research on various topics related to pelvic floor dysfunction and women’s health She has been active in the American Physical Therapy Association’s Section on Women’s Health, serving in a variety of different capacities.

    Rodney Giandalia , DPT

    Specialty: Physical therapy

    Location: North Hospital - Downtown

    View bio

    Old Dominion 2015. I work at the Richmond McGuire VA as an ICU PT and provide outpatient therapy at MCV part time. My interests are critically ill patients. I enjoy finding strategies to maximize quality of life in patients using therapy and exercise.

    Ashley Harwood, PT, D.P.T.

    Specialty: Occupational therapy

    Location: Stony Point

    View bio

    A VCU graduate in 2002 and 2005, Ashley joined VCU Sports Medicine Physical Therapy in 2012. She enjoys treating a wide variety of orthopedic conditions, with focus on degenerative and post-operative hip injuries, overhead athletes and performing artists. Prior to arriving at VCU, Ashley worked in a private orthopedic clinic for 7 years and worked closely with the Richmond Ballet, providing PT services to the professional company. In preparation for this role, she received extensive training at NYU’s Harkness Center for Dance Medicine in New York City. Ashley works very closely with the VCU Department of Dance and Choreography in providing screenings and injury prevention to the dance majors. She is also a Clinical Instructor for the VCU Department of Physical Therapy. Ashley is excited about helping the cancer population maintain an active lifestyle and return to the hobbies and sports that improve their quality of life. She also realizes the importance of improving ROM and mobility after mastectomy and other surgeries to ensure independence with daily activities and hobbies.

    Sue Stella, PT, DPT

    Specialty: Physical therapy

    Expertise: (hands, feet, cancer, etc.)

    Location: Stony Point

    View bio

    After 15 years in the wellness/fitness/exercise field I earned my advanced degrees in physical therapy in 2002 from Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY. I began working with patients in active cancer treatment at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires in 2006, have been a member of the American Physical Therapy Association Oncology Section since 2009 and have been imbedded in the Supportive Care Clinics at VCU since 2014. My special areas of interest are cancer related fatigue, general deconditioning, cachexia, metastatic cancer to bone, radiation fibrosis and post-surgical changes in range of motion and strength.

    Meghan W. Swenck, PT, DPT, WCS

    Specialty: Physical therapy

    Location: Stony Point

    View bio

    I graduated from U. of Delaware’s PT program in 2006. I am a Women’s Health Certified Specialist (WCS) and I also work with a strong orthopedic population. I have a strong background and training in external and internal pelvic manual therapy techniques for women and men (myofascial release, soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization), use of a variety of creative tools for improving posture, core activation, functional movement patterns, self-management of pain. I became interested in cancer rehab in 2014 after taking a course about breast cancer rehab and basic lymphedema management. My primary interests related to Cancer Rehabilitation include: urinary and fecal incontinence and/or urgency-frequency, constipation, abdominal and low back pain, pelvic pain, pre and post-prostatectomy rehabilitation and post-mastectomy rehabilitation.

    Brenda Jackson, DPT, OCS, CHT

    Specialty: Physical therapy

    Location: Stony Point

    View bio

    Graduated from State University of New York at Buffalo with a Bachelors of Science in Physical Therapy and from VCU with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. I am a APTA Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist since 1998, and I have been a Certified Hand Therapist since 2000. I have 32 years of experience working with a wide variety of patient types including: general deconditioning ,Cardiopulmonary conditioning, Upper and Lower Extremity Problems, neck and back pain and core weakness . I look forward to assisting the growing population of Cancer Survivors in improving their physical abilities and to assist them in enjoying an improved quality of life.

    Stephanie Ross, PT, DPT, NCS,cNDTA

    Specialty: Physical therapy

    Location: Stony Point

    View bio

    I specialize in Neuro Rehabilitation, mostly seeing patients recovering from spinal cord injuries, stroke, and traumatic brain injuries. I also treat persons with balance, falls, and gait deviations to improve quality of life and safety with leisure skills and community/ household mobility. Lastly, I recently have expanded my patient population to those with movement disorders and degenerative disorders.

    Speech language pathologists

    Lexie Clair M.Ed. CCC-SLP

    Specialty: Speech language pathology

    Location: North Hospital - Downtown

    View bio

    Speech Language Pathologist - Lexie received her B.S. in Communication Disorders with a minor in Studio Art from The University of Virginia in 2010 and her Master’s in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Virginia in 2012. She is a medical Speech Language Pathologist for acute care services at VCU Health. Lexie holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech Language Pathology and is licensed to practice in Virginia. She is a member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and of the ASHA Special Interest Groups for Swallowing disorders and Neurogenic Communication Disorders. She has worked in the acute care hospital setting since 2012 and has been with VCU Health since 2014. Lexie provides clinical evaluation and treatment of swallowing, speech, cognitive-linguistic, esophageal and voice disorders for patients requiring ICU, step-down and floor level of care at VCU Health. She also provides pre-and post-operative laryngectomy rehabilitation and management of tracheoesophageal voice prostheses for inpatient and outpatient settings. Lexie regularly performs videofluoroscopic swallow studies and fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES). Lexie was also selected as a "Shining Knight" recipient at the 2015 VCU Health Shining Knight Gala for her involvement and plan of care which facilitated the honoree’s recovery.

    Preston Pugh, M.Ed., CCC-SLP

    Specialty: Speech language pathology

    Location: North Hospital - Downtown

    View bio

    Speech Language Pathologist - Preston received her B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a minor in Special Education from James Madison University in 2008 and her Master’s in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Virginia in 2010. She is a medical Speech Language Pathologist for the VCU Voice and Swallowing Center. Preston holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech Language Pathology and is licensed to practice in Virginia. She is a member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and of the ASHA Special Interest Groups for Voice disorders and Swallowing disorders. She has worked since 2010 as an outpatient clinician and came to VCU Health in 2014 to specialize in voice and swallowing disorders, with a large focus on Head and Neck cancer rehabilitation. This includes the evaluation and treatment of oncology patients with swallowing, voice, and speech disorders, as well as laryngectomy rehabilitation and management of tracheoesophageal voice prostheses. Preston regularly completes Modified Barium Swallow studies and, along with her colleague, holds a monthly Laryngectomee support group.

    Jennifer Hagen, M.Ed., CCC-SLP

    Specialty: Speech language pathology

    Location: North Hospital - Downtown

    View bio

    Speech Language Pathologist - Jenny received her B.M. in Voice Performance (specializing in Opera) from Indiana University in 2011 and her Master’s in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Virginia in 2013. She is a medical Speech Language Pathologist for the VCU Voice and Swallowing Clinic. Jenny holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech Language Pathology and is licensed to practice in Virginia. She is a member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and of the ASHA Special Interest Groups for Voice disorders and Swallowing disorders. She has worked since 2014 as an outpatient clinician specializing in voice and swallowing disorders, with a large focus on Head and Neck cancer rehabilitation. This includes the evaluation and treatment of oncology patients with swallowing, voice, and speech disorders, as well as laryngectomy rehabilitation and management of tracheoesophageal voice prostheses. Jenny regularly completes Modified Barium Swallow studies and, along with her colleague, holds a monthly Laryngectomee support group.

    Emily Sherald, M.S., CCC-SLP

    Specialty: Speech language pathology

    Location: North Hospital - Downtown

    View bio

    Speech Language Pathologist - Emily received her B.S. in Communication Disorders with a double major in Psychology from The University of Virginia in 2007 and her Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology from James Madison University in 2009. She is a medical speech-language pathologist for acute care services at VCU Health. Emily holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech Language Pathology and is licensed to practice in Virginia. She is a member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and of the ASHA Special Interest Group for Swallowing Disorders. She has practiced in the outpatient, inpatient rehab and acute care hospital settings since 2009 and has been with VCU Health since 2015. Emily provides clinical evaluation and treatment of swallowing, speech, cognitive-linguistic, esophageal and voice disorders for patients requiring ICU, step-down and floor level of care at VCU Health. She also provides pre-and post-operative laryngectomy rehabilitation and management of tracheoesophageal voice prostheses for inpatient and outpatient settings. Emily regularly performs videofluoroscopic swallow studies and fiberoptic endoscopic evaluations of swallowing (FEES).

     

  • Resources

    Support services

    At VCU Massey Cancer Center, we believe that treating the whole person, not just the disease, is the best way to care for patients and family members coping with cancer. We take a holistic approach to address not just your medical and physical needs, but also your psychological, emotional and social needs. We offer comprehensive cancer support services to care for you throughout your cancer journey that range from helping minimize symptoms and side effects to helping cope with the emotional and psychological effects of cancer. These services include:

    Communication assistance

    Integrative health resources, including acupressure, art therapy, music therapy, pet therapy and tobacco cessation counseling. Complementary therapies are not substitutes for medical care but are used together with medical treatments to help patients alleviate stress and anxiety, reduce pain, manage symptoms and promote a feeling of well-being.

    Financial assistance for qualifying patients in need

    • Genetic counseling by board-certified genetic counselors in Richmond’s only Familial Cancer Clinic

    Healing garden

    Legal assistance for qualifying patients in need

    Lodging for qualifying patients in need

    Nutritionists

    Palliative care by an international award-winning team for the management of pain and symptoms, including an outpatient Supportive Care Clinic

    • Patient education, including libraries and health programming geared to cancer patients and their caregivers

    Pharmacy services, including in-hospital oncology pharmacies

    • Psychological counseling

    Rehabilitation by one of the nation’s longest-running cancer rehabilitation programs with physical, occupational and speech therapy especially geared for cancer patients

    Spiritual counseling

    Social work for patients in need

    Support groups
         •Another, external resource: Cullather Brain Tumor Quality Life Center

    • Transportation assistance for qualifying patients in need – ask your social worker for more information

    Wig salons that provide free hats, scarves and wigs as well as private head-wear consultation services

    Learn more about our patient resources and integrative medicine

Make an appointment online

or call: 877-4MASSEY
(877-462-7739)

Patient Stories

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