Windsor Woman Helping Cancer Patients Take Next Steps

Published on on 25th of October 2022. Our physio Anna is also a certified Pinc & Steel Cancer Rehab physiotherapist.

When cancer survivor Sarah Hutton walks into her physiotherapist’s clinic once a week she’s doing far more than rebuilding her physical strength, she says. With the help of Olivia van Schaik, she’s regaining her emotional strength and confidence and getting back to who she was before her diagnosis. Working from Windsor Physio, Van Schaik has personally raised funds through the Dry July campaign to be able to offer the Pinc Cancer Rehabilitation Program and Next Steps group classes to Southland women.

“The aim is to shift participants’ focus from illness to wellness,” she said. Van Schaik had been certified to offer the program in Tauranga in the past, so when she moved home to Southland and heard it wasn’t being offered in the region any more, she wanted to get it up and running again. The Pinc and Steel Cancer Rehabilitation Foundation funds programs for Kiwis with all cancers throughout New Zealand.

Like many Southlanders, Van Schaik has watched friends and families go through cancer and wanted to do something to help. Rehabilitation and exercise helps reduce the side effects of cancer and treatments, and can improve functional ability, quality of life and ultimately, survival for patients. The majority of the women Van Schaik works with have fought breast cancer and by the time they join the program “they’ve been blasted with ominous words, but most have finished the crux of their treatment journey”. Through the Pinc program, she helped women work towards their previous hobbies and goals and take back control of their bodies, she said.

Next Steps – the physio-led group exercise classes which she’s been hosting for about two months – offered a social aspect where women could find motivation and emotional support from each other, Van Schaik said. “It’s a super positive and inspiring place for them to come. It’s pretty cool to be able to offer that service.” Hutton recently arranged a morning tea to thank Van Schaik and the clinic for their work. “She has such a giving heart. I wanted to honour her and express how thankful I am,” Hutton said.

She started going to physiotherapy with Van Schaik after her mastectomy in late 2021 and said as someone who had been quite active before, it was important for her to keep moving after the operation. Hutton said the class meant a lot to her, because she’d found a group of women cheering each other on. “Walking through this journey with other women, it’s encouraging to see each of us gaining strength, forming beautiful friendships and supporting each other in our journeys of healing and wellness,” she said.