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Blueprint for survivorship

Generous grant from Gavers foundation helps launch comprehensive rehabilitation program for needs of cancer patients

When you have a knee replaced, rehabilitation helps you regain strength, flexibility and range of motion. For people who have had a heart attack, cardiac rehabilitation helps them reclaim their life.

Yet how do people in treatment for and recovering from cancer return to their normal lives? As a cancer patient, you want to be well and get back to dinners out with your spouse, gold days with your pals and airplane rides with your little munchkin.

A program that was designed specifically for cancer patients will begin in August at Centegra Health System thanks to a generous grant from the Gavers Community Cancer Foundation to the Centegra Health System Foundation.


The STAR (Survivorship Training and Rehabilitation) Program® was developed by Julie Silver, MD—a physician who is also a cancer survivor. After her treatment, she found that she desperately needed rehabilitation in order to return to her former level of function. The national program she developed is fast becoming the gold standard for helping people deal with the side effects of cancer and its treatments.

“This is a natural evolution of the comprehensive, personalized care we want to give each and every patient who has to walk the cancer experience,” says Terrence J. Bugno, MD, radiation oncologist at Centegra Sage Cancer Center and a champion of the new program.

STAR-certified clinicians provide multidisciplinary support that takes care of the whole person—body, mind and spirit. A care navigator will also coordinate care for each patient.

In recent months, about 50 clinicians at Centegra have gone through extensive training to become STAR certified, including doctors, nurses, members of the clergy and dietitians, as well as occupational, physical and speech therapists and many others. The Gavers grant funds this training and the program.

The STAR Program® begins just after diagnosis, when lifestyle changes—diet, exercise, quitting smoking—can help people prepare for what’s ahead. A prehabilitation assessment indicates which early interventions can improve outcomes and help a person tolerate treatment better.

Care continues through treatment, when nausea, pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression and other problems can be challenges. Survivorship care helps people with post- treatment issues, such as problems with gait, speech or swallowing, or assists with meeting exercise or diet goals.

“Some patients think they have to live with limitations—that they just have to accept whatever they have,” says Centegra’s breast health navigator Lynn Griesmaier, RN, MS, who was key in starting the STAR Program® at Centegra. “They don’t even know that there are therapies that can help them. The STAR Program® helps us make sure each patient has access to these services to make them a thriving survivor.”


The STAR Program® fits perfectly into the mission of the Gavers Community Cancer Foundation, says Andy Hartlieb, vice president of the foundation board.

“Over the last 13 years, our board has interacted with many local residents who have been affected by cancer,” he says. “One theme that we have heard is that once cancer surgery and treatments are over, patients struggle to return to their normal life. These survivors may need help in several ways, and no program existed to coordinate helping them. The STAR Program® will change all of that.”

Be a thriving cancer survivor. To learn more about the Centegra STAR Program®, visit Centegra Star Program.