At 92 years of age, Ida Darracott is a walking billboard for the benefits of regular exercise.
Darracott, of Medford, is a vibrant, independent woman who has long credited exercise for keeping her in the pink. Then, four years ago, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, and her investment in exercise was put to the test.
Her cancer-treatment journey included surgery, followed by both radiation and chemotherapy. After her treatment was completed a blood clot sent her back to the hospital, and complications led to bleeding issues. Through it all, Darracott still exercised whenever possible.
"If it hadn't been for the exercise," says Darracott. "I wouldn't have made it through."
When the diagnosis of lymphoma came, Darracott already had a good relationship with William Macy, director of Avamere Health and Fitness of Medford, where Darracott has been a member for almost 10 years.
"We are well experienced in a variety of cancers," explains Macy. The first step he took was to contact Darracott's physician.
"If somebody has a change of health, I always communicate with the health care provider," says Macy. "We all need to be on the same page."
Together, Darracott's doctor and Macy determined the level and type of exercise that would be most beneficial during the different stages of her treatment and recovery.
"My doctor sets the rules," agrees Darracott. "My doctor's as bad as Bill. They're after me to exercise — I think they're in business together."
"It's been clearly shown that exercise is a hugely powerful medicine during treatment and recovery," says Macy.
But different diseases will present different challenges, and even from person to person the same disease or treatment will progress differently. A qualified trainer, working with a doctor, can help ease a patient's anxiety about the appropriate level of exercise and activity.
With cancer "every day, everything can change," Macy says, and Darracott's routine was tempered against her daily health.
Darracott recalls Macy's frequent advice, "If you're doing too much, quit," he'd say. "He makes sure you're doing the right thing."
A second benefit to Darracott's exercise commitment, says Macy, has been the social support found in a health-club setting.
"Depression is a natural outcome of the diagnosis," explains Macy, and people will often isolate themselves, particularly if they live alone or if the family, too, is struggling with the diagnosis. But "so many people have gone through the process that they can listen and support," he says. "That aspect is what keeps Ida exercising and taking care of herself."
"Sitting at home can be frustrating," agrees Darracott. "Without exercise, it's a lost world out there, particularly as you get older."
Darracott's proactive attitude — and her strong faith — contributed to her recovery, giving her the motivation to keep going. "Her state of mind — her positive state of mind — was critical," says Macy. "And her faith is so critical to her "» That huge power of optimism is so essential to healing."
Through her diagnosis, treatment, recovery and even a recent concussion, Darracott remains committed to regular exercise.
"It keeps us strong for the tough times," she says. "It seemed for a while like it was never going to end. Without the exercise, I wouldn't have had any oomph at all. I'm doing real good now. I'm so blessed."