WINNIPEG -- For some patients, being treated for and surviving breast cancer isn't always the end of their ordeal with cancer. But special programs in Winnipeg are helping survivors on their way to recovery.

Some experience lifelong effects such as lymphedema, a condition causing swelling, pain and restricted range of motion. Many survivors experience this condition due to damage or the removal of their lymph nodes. 

"They now have a chronic condition that they have to care for daily," said Katherine Styrchak, a lymphedema therapist at Winnipeg's Breast Health Centre. 

"So often they'll say it's a worse diagnosis than cancer because the cancer is over. The lymphedema is forever."

In the past, patients were told to limit physical activity and avoid lifting anything over 10 pounds for the rest of their lives. But Styrchak says a slow gradual return to exercise won't hurt at all. In fact, it can help.

That's why a special Cancer Wellness program is being held at The Wellness Institute. 

"We do some work in the weight room, we do some cardio training, we do yoga, pilates," said Lori Orchard, the adult fitness programs co-ordinator at The Wellness Institute. "This last session is in the pool."

The weekly classes at the Wellness Institute are free to breast cancer survivors. Alison Griffith, a participant of the classes, said the lessons she’s learned are invaluable.

"It's the camaraderie, the community and the networking, and the information you get from the other women, because we all experience something different,” Griffith said. “What I've learned from them is priceless."

For more information on the Cancer Wellness program, contact the Breast Health Centre at 204.235.3906 or visit their website.