How Two Women are Connecting Cancer Patients with Fitness Buddies

Breast cancer tests strength. It questions faith. And it steals energy. But for Michelle Stravitz and Ilana Gamerman, cancer made them realize the healing effects that exercise could offer during and after their own treatment experiences. That’s why the two women from northern Virginia founded 2Unstoppable, a non-profit organization that helps women with cancer experience the benefits of being active and incorporating exercise into their lives—even if it’s just walking regularly. The organization works to connect cancer patients to exercise partners, oncology fitness resources and the community.

“The doctors were clear, the research was clear, but most importantly, we each came to realize that fitness in any form helps us feel less anxious, reduces stress, combats fatigue, minimizes other side effects and gives us more energy,” says co-founder Stravitz.

Both Stravitz and Gamerman know firsthand how difficult it is to summon energy during treatment, but they say their friends provided the encouragement needed to keep moving. “Most of the time it was simply walking or doing gentle yoga together that provided our activity and gave us much-needed support,” explains Stravitz. “With a fitness partner and access to appropriate resources, women can find the inspiration, motivation, emotional support and engagement to get and stay active.”

With that in mind, their organization was born. Any woman who has had a cancer diagnosis, whether recent or years ago, is eligible to sign up on the 2Unstoppable website. The service is available free of charge to patients and survivors of any kind of cancer diagnosis.

Once patients are matched with someone in their area, the organization recommends connecting with the partner online then meeting in person to start a fitness journey together. All types of exercises are encouraged, as long as it’s cleared with the patient’s physician first to ensure safety.

“We often encourage women to start by walking,” says Stravitz. “But whatever works for each individual or each partner pair is best—from running or biking to belly dancing or swimming.”

Since the organization officially launched its online matching program in early May, it has already witnessed success. “We’ve welcomed a steady stream of new sign-ups,” says Stravitz. They’ve distributed flyers to physicians’ offices and support groups in the Washington, D.C. area and gotten women from across the country to sign up for the program. Recently, they were featured on a local news station and even partnered with Bryant Johnson, the personal trainer to Supreme Court Justice (and colorectal cancer survivor) Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“Even if women never sign up for 2Unstoppable, but they hear the message about the benefits of exercising and that causes them to get up and start moving, then we’ve made a difference with our message,” says Stravitz.

Over the coming months, the organization hopes to continue to build its community and hold fitness events to give women a chance to meet their buddies in a fun and safe environment and try out new forms of exercise. Eventually, Stravitz and Gamerman hope to see exercise worked into every cancer patient’s treatment plan.

“If we can help just one woman incorporate movement and exercise into her life, then we’ve accomplished something,” says Stravitz. “But if we can help many more women and spread the word of the importance (and accessibility!) of fitness for women with a cancer diagnosis, we have met our goals.”

 

Emily is a recent graduate and proud Midwesterner who just moved to the big city to start her career in magazine journalism. When she isn't commuting between Brooklyn and Manhattan, she enjoys browsing bookstores for her next read, sipping chai tea lattes at local coffee shops, and playing tourist in the city she always dreamed of living in.