This is no fish story.
UD has a fishing club, established four years ago by senior Robert Petrick.
And this year, it competed at the Fishing League Worldwide College Conference Finals on the Chesapeake Bay.
It may be a sport with a leisurely reputation, but in August Petrick and fishing partner junior Sam Tunnacliffe found themselves racing back to the shore to qualify for the finals.
The team had been on Chautauqua Lake, New York, for eight hours, casting lines under the dock — where they knew the bass would be hiding in the summer heat. With two minutes to the 2:45 p.m. weigh-in deadline of the FLW College Northern Conference qualifier tournament, they pulled their livewell filled with bass onto shore. Wearing blue and red Flyer jerseys, they stepped onto the stage and learned that their five heaviest catches for the day totaled 7 pounds, 13 ounces: enough to land them in the top 20 out of 75 teams and qualify them for the finals.
Although the September finals did not go well — bad weather contributed to 15 teams, including UD, not catching any qualifying bass — Petrick and Tunnacliffe said they were proud to represent UD for the first time at the finals.
The team members also say they are used to being the underdogs. They compete against a sea of teams that have school-funded boats and equipment, or even full-ride fishing scholarships. UD’s team has two boats — which its members have purchased themselves.
“It’s hard to find guys who are willing to put the time, energy and money into this, because it’s just a student-run club,” Tunnacliffe said. “But mostly, it’s just really fun, and rewarding when we do find those people.”
Since most tournaments take place during the summer, the club’s 12 members spend most of the academic year fishing for smallmouth bass on the Great Miami River, and strategizing and researching for the tournaments with the help of their advisers, Jeff Kavanaugh, biology department chair, and health and sport science associate professor Jon Linderman.
“The professionals can look at the temperature and the water clarity and say, ‘OK, you should be fishing in that kind of spot using that kind of bait and that color.’ So, we’re trying to get better at that sort of thing,” Tunnacliffe said.
If they can, the team visits the lake prior to the tournament, so that they can ask local fishers about the most reliable places to buy fish and bait and to discover the best spots to fish in the lake.
“Local knowledge is huge,” Petrick said. Even so, he admits that a lot of it is up to chance. You can spend days preparing, but because of factors like weather and water conditions, you still may not do well on the day of the tournament.
“It’s a guessing game. But that’s what we like about fishing: It keeps you on your toes. It forces you to adapt,” Petrick said.
Tunnacliffe will take over leadership of the club once Petrick graduates, but both say they will never stop bass fishing. “When I started this club, I was looking for a lifetime hobby,” Petrick said.
“And that’s exactly what this is.”No Comments
University of Dayton mail is being delivered at the speed of light now that two electric vehicles have arrived on campus. The fleet, which also will be used by University parking services, is a gift from Cenntro Motors, a Nevada-based company that develops all-electric commercial vehicles. The donation supports the University’s Hanley Sustainability Institute initiatives. The vehicles are valued at $25,000 each.
Through the Hanley Sustainability Institute, the University’s current sustainability programs are being extended campuswide through an integrated approach to prepare students for the growing demand for sustainability skills in the workplace as well as for civic leadership on sustainability issues.No Comments
For about 300 Flyers, the yellow brick road — from UD to the rest of their lives — led to the Emerald City. From hot jobs to hot java, they’ll tell you there’s no place like a Seattle home.
DayMag asked: How did you wind up in Seattle, and how soon after graduation did that happen?
“I relocated to Seattle from Chicago three years ago for my position with Amazon.com, where I led a worldwide team of data scientists and business intelligence engineers that implemented data science solutions. I have since left Amazon to form a startup, Lumidatum, that provides a cloud data science platform to make data prediction easy.”
—Patrick Rice ’04
“Inspired by the intense beauty of the Olympics, Mount Rainier, the Cascades and Mount Baker circling a very green city, I moved to Seattle in July 2010. I walk to work and ride my bike to the
beach. In Ohio, I drove 20,000 miles annually; in Seattle, I average 500. The Pacific Northwest was also much more inclusive of LGBT residents than the Midwest at the time. Seattle has provided an excellent quality of life that matches my interests and values.”
—Bill O’Connell ’86
“Toward the end of my senior year, I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and was placed in Seattle. I left for JVC orientation thinking my great Pacific Northwest adventure would last one year, and then I’d return to Ohio. I’m still in Seattle more than 33 years later!”
—Celia Thomas ’82
Alumni By the Numbers
Total Alumni 342
Arts & Sciences 147
*15 alumni hold both types of degreesNo Comments
We are being called to be good stewards of the Earth.
As Pope Francis wrote in his groundbreaking encyclical on the environment, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”
The pope asked us to “care for our common home” — and, ultimately, to care for the world’s most vulnerable citizens who are being affected the most by environmental degradation. (See story, Page 38).
Before the pope called for global stewardship, we made sustainability a major initiative.
In 2013, I signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, pledging that we will take steps to achieve carbon neutrality. We reduced our energy usage and mandated LEED guidelines for new construction and renovations.
We’re making strides. Even as we built substantially more new facilities and increased enrollment to a record high, we reduced greenhouse gas emissions 5 percent per student over our 2006 high.
In the School of Engineering, enrollment in the renewable and clean energy master’s degree program has tripled as we prepare students to design energy-efficient buildings and develop clean energy for the developing world.
In the University of Dayton Research Institute, we’re conducting high-impact research in renewable energy technologies.
In the School of Business Administration, students are learning socially responsible investing, and we don’t have to look too far to find teachable moments. Our board of trustees spent more than a year developing a philosophy called “Catholic, sustainable and responsible investing.” Over the last year, in a phased approach, we eliminated fossil fuel holdings from domestic equity accounts, invested in green and sustainable technologies, and divested from all mutual funds.
In November, the Hanley Sustainability Institute brought together faith-based organizations to advance the global conversation about divestment and the pope’s call for climate solutions.
This is a complex issue with no easy solutions. In times of social change, we draw upon the Marianist philosophy. We must stay at the table, listen to each other, harness the gifts of all and work
together toward a shared vision of the Earth.
As the pope wrote, “The notion of the common good also extends to future generations.”No Comments
What has been the Marianists’ reaction to Pope Francis’ encyclical?
We asked this question of Brother Ron Overman, S.M. ’68, assistant provincial for temporalities (finance) of the Marianist Province of the United States. His answer:
There was great anticipation about the encyclical. Many of my Marianist brothers speculated on the content. We have not been disappointed — especially with how Pope Francis connects respect for the environment with how the environmental issues relate to keeping the poor of the world poor.
Many of our communities have read and used the encyclical for community meetings to further understand how the environment not only impacts the poor of the world but also how it will affect future generations. (One helpful study guide was published by National Catholic Reporter, “A Readers’ Guide to Laudato Si,’ ” by Jesuit Father Thomas Reese.)
Soon after the Laudato Si’ was published, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) encouraged all religious orders of men to adopt a resolution called “Cherish All of Creation.”
The tenets of the resolution include these beginnings:
“We resolve to significantly change our lifestyle, including our consumption habits …
“We resolve to significantly increase our reliance on green energy in our ministries, buildings, and our investments …
“We resolve that we significantly decrease our use of fossil fuels … by purchasing carbon off-sets to increase environmental improvement.
“We resolve to consistently advocate for significant policy changes at the local, national and international spheres …”
Each tenet comes from the encyclical Laudato Si’ and brings us practical ways to make the encyclical part of our life.
Ninety-eight percent of the members of the Marianist Province of the United States endorsed the CMSM resolution.
Several of our communities have already sought ways to use green energy in their local houses. Several have used an alternative energy company (Arcadia) to supply green energy to the power grid, thus reducing fossil fuel use. Such use of green energy may be a small step, but it is the right step and respects the direction of Care for our Common Home.1 Comment
Jim Place ’69 has spent the latter part of his coaching career building successful football programs at inner-city high schools. But he knew trying to turn Ponitz Career Tech Center in Dayton into a winner this year would be his biggest reclamation project yet.
Place, a former Flyer football star, has had to overcome apathy, equipment issues and home environments that made getting players to and from practice a challenge.
Practically the only easy aspect of the job, it turned out, was assembling a staff.
When some ex-UD teammates, who were transitioning into retirement, heard he was donating his time to not only coach football but also to help change lives, they became inspired enough to want to be involved.
“They all called me,” Place said. “They were sitting at home. They called and said, ‘I want to do it.’”
Former Flyer teammates Bob Palcic ’71, Mike Wilson ’70, Jim Siewe ’69 and Mike McCall ’68 all were willing to come aboard for no pay, along with another UD grad, Joe Russo ’71, who still teaches in the city.
“We’re having a ball,” Place said. “The kids make it fun. They’ve been great.”
Place, who has won a state title and more than 200 games in his career, boosted the roster from 17 to 64 by finding a donor to purchase city bus passes so the players could attend practices faithfully.
He found a friend to contribute money for the school’s first weight room.
The practice field, which is bordered by I-75 and some oft-used railroad tracks, needed goal posts. Place took care of that, too.
And to make sure his players are fueled properly, he arranged for a weekly pre-game meal.
But while Ponitz players now have the staples of a program that most of their competition enjoy, they blow away their foes when it comes to the collective experience of their coaches.
Palcic spent 12 years as an NFL assistant and 28 at the college level, including at Ohio State. He coaches the Ponitz offensive line the same way he did Cleveland Browns star Joe Thomas and two other Outland Trophy winners he groomed in college.
Siewe was a head coach for four years each at Kettering Alter and Huber Heights Wayne. He handles the quarterbacks.
McCall was a longtime assistant at Alter, helping the Knights win three state titles. He’s in charge of special teams.
And Wilson serves as the unofficial team mentor. The former standout lineman spent 12 years in the pros and is the only person to have played for the NFL, AFL, CFL, WFL and USFL.
“Any teenager needs a helping hand,” Wilson said. “When
I was coming up, I had more than one ‘Dad,’ too.”
Ponitz, which lost four games by 60 or more points last year, is suddenly competitive, winning its last three games to finish 4-6. And enthusiasm is high.
“The coaches make it fun,” quarterback Greg Brooks said. “In a lot of the hitting drills, they get hyped more than we do.”
As for their impact off the field, Brooks said: “There’s a big difference. Everyone is more mature now.”
Place has several younger staffers, and he hopes to hand the job off when one of them is ready to take the reins.
Until then, he’ll show players what it takes to win and help steer them in the right direction.
“I believe in winning little battles,” he said. “If X number of these kids, because of being on this team, become successful human beings, we’ve done a great job.
“We’re not going to change society, but we can win some little battles and make a difference.”No Comments
“Mom, I’m late for college.”
Three-and-a-half-year-old Cooper Thompson had his camouflage backpack across his shoulders and Cars bedroll under his arm. (He knows that when you go to college, you have to sleep there.) As part of his daily play, Cooper often tells his mom, Samantha Thompson, that he’s going to “college” — which is in the backyard or the basement of his family’s Kettering, Ohio, home.
This day, though, he had a different destination in mind.
Cooper headed to the garage. “I need a haircut, and I’m really late,” he insisted.
So Mom turned to her 6-year-old daughter. “Ruby, let’s go — we’re taking Cooper to college,” she said and piled the family into the van.
When they arrived at UD, a tour guide greeted Cooper like she does so many other prospective students: “What are your professional goals?”
“I would like to develop a helmet for space that stays on real good,” Cooper replied.
The Thompson family joined a campus tour, the two young ones filling bags as they visited from department (candy dish) to department (candy dish). The 90-minute tour included a stop at the School of Engineering and the Emerson Innovation Laboratories; dad Tanner is a variable speed/field technician at Emerson Climate Technologies.
As the tour returned to Albert Emanuel Hall, a tired Cooper turned to Mom and asked if he could go back to the van. Wasn’t he going to stay at college, she asked?
“No, I’m too little.”
But one day, he’ll be bigger. Mom said she will keep the photo of a young Cooper walking up the brick path to Albert Emanuel Hall.
Beside it she plans to place a similar photo to be taken more than a decade from now, when a much bigger boy will announce it’s time to make that space helmet.No Comments
“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”
Singing the words of Psalm 122, the congregation prepared to enter through the doors of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, led by the Most Rev. Joseph R. Binzer, auxiliary bishop, Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
The Aug. 16 rededication of the chapel echoed its first rites of dedication and consecration June 24, 1869, celebrated by the archbishop of Cincinnati at the time, John Baptist Purcell.
“This historic renovation of the chapel,” Bishop Binzer told the congregation during his homily, “goes beyond bricks and mortar to renew the heart of the University.”
He said he had gone to the University’s homepage, clicked on the link titled “Guided by Faith,” and come to the vision statement for the chapel renovation. From that vision, he shared these words:
Since it was built in 1869, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception has been the focal point of the University of Dayton. In terms of mission, spirituality and campus geography, the chapel marks the central axis around which the University has grown: It is truly the heart of the University of
In 1869 Maltese crosses were put on the side walls of the chapel. They are still there. They signify that this consecrated space must remain one whose primary purpose is to celebrate the liturgical rites of the church.
That purpose has not varied.
Over the years, some physical changes to the chapel have taken place. Many early photos are dominated by an ugly coal stove in the center of the congregation. The stove mercifully yielded to steam heat in 1898.
In 1876, the reredos (the wall behind the altar) was added with statues of Saints Peter, John and Mary. At some unknown point, Peter morphed into Joseph. In 1907, the sacristy was enlarged; in 1919, confessionals added. The statues of Our Lady of the Pillar and Blessed William Joseph Chaminade were put in the niches in the outside wall flanking the massive doors in 1951-52.
In 1971, the dome was painted blue.
The dome is still blue, the cross still above it. Our Lady and Father Chaminade still welcome worshippers. John and Joseph still attend Mary.
Behind the altar, Mary continues to stretch out her arms, today also welcoming people to a new reservation chapel. Above her, the historic rosette window of the crucified Christ is now in full view of the congregation.
Original windows have been restored, new stained glass windows added. A real immersion baptismal font. A reconciliation room. Wooden pews.
But the chapel is more than a place.
At the rededication, Bishop Binzer drew the congregation’s attention to that fact by again quoting from a document on the renovation:
The history of the chapel’s refreshment, renewal and renovation reverberates in every corner, but its true power extends beyond its four walls. It appears in the lives of all who come here to worship the triune God, receive the sacraments, pray in times of quiet hope and desperation, and share joys and sorrows. We leave this sacred space with a fervent desire, buoyed by God’s grace, to carry out the mission of Mary — the Marianist mission of bringing Christ’s life into a world always in need of refreshment, renewal and renovation.
The congregation left the chapel Aug. 16 having seen it blessed, having felt the holy water and smelled the incense, having watched the anointing of the altar and walls where hang the Maltese crosses, having rejoiced in the lighting of the candle, having celebrated the Eucharist and having seen lit the sanctuary lamp of the reservation Chapel — Christ present, his mother nearby, arms outstretched, welcoming all to the salvation earned by Jesus Christ, her son, our Lord.
To see a video of the rededication ceremony and to read more about the renovation of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, see go.udayton.edu/chapel.
BEAUTY IS IN THE DETAILS
After years of planning and 14 months of construction, the $12 million renovation of the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception has been accomplished. The beauty is in the details.
1. Reservation chapel The Eucharistic reservation chapel, in accord with church liturgical guidelines, is a distinct space, here sitting to the east of the sanctuary. The canopy from the old, unused pulpit is now above the tabernacle.
2. Windows in the nave The 10 windows in the nave have been replaced, with elements echoing those of the chapel’s original windows. Each also has a medallion, 2 feet in diameter, depicting an image of Mary from Scripture or tradition. Franklin Art Glass was commissioned for the new windows as well as the restoration of the historic windows.
3. In the sanctuary The furnishings, designed by Brother Gary Marcinowski, S.M., include the altar, ambo, presider chair, processional crucifix, candles, cantor stand and Easter candle stand.
4. Wooden pews Curved wooden pews salvaged from a former church not only provide an aesthetic upgrade from metal-framed chairs but also contribute toward LEED certification through the reuse of materials.
5. Devotional areas On the north side of the chapel, one devotional alcove is devoted to Mary; one tells the story of the Marianist founders; and one is dedicated to Jesus.
6. Baptismal font As worshippers enter through the west doors, they encounter a baptismal font, emblem of the first sacrament of Christian life. At the font’s base stand restored wooden statues (formerly part of the unused pulpit) of Mary and the four Evangelists.
7. Eastern windows The crucifixion rosette, above the reredos, is flanked by two new rosettes, representing the Alpha and the Omega. To the sides, the four windows portraying Saints Peter and Augustine on the north and Saints Paul and Ambrose on the south have been restored.
8. Reredos High on the wall behind the altar, the statue of Mary, standing between the statues of St. John and St. Joseph, not only overlooks the assembly but also welcomes worshippers to the Eucharistic reservation chapel.
9. Stations of the cross Along the north and south walls of the chapel will be the Stations of the Cross by Ohio artist Michael Bendele.
10. Pathway of Discipleship In the new reconciliation room and south hallway, five new windows grace a Pathway of Discipleship with images from Jesus’ life: baptism, the Word of God, prayer, Eucharist and service.
11.Western windows The three rosette windows in the western wall have been restored. Relocating the organ and lowering of the balcony have made all these windows, for the first time in history, visible to those assembled in the chapel.
For more details, download the Chapel commemorative booklet.
BY THEIR HANDS
The mostly unseen hands of more than 1,705 donors helped renovate Immaculate Conception Chapel for the glory of God and the exultation of community. Their gifts made possible the $12 million, 14-month project.
“We give special thanks to our generous, visionary donors who made our dream a reality,” said renovation committee co-chairs Sandra Yocum and Father James Fitz, S.M. ’68.
In attendance at the rededication Mass were Francis and Janet Berkemeier, whose names are among those donors. They took special pride in the rich walnut woodwork on the reredos, where the statue of Mary stands with Saints John and Joseph behind the altar. The wood came from the trees on the family farm in Jackson, Michigan, where generations of Berkemeiers — and Flyers — have begun their trek to Dayton. Francis, a 1969 graduate, said the wood donation signifies the family’s enduring connection to UD.
“We can become part of the brick and the mortar and the landscape,” he said.
Outside, in the St. Mary’s Courtyard, an extension of the sacred environment of the chapel, is a garden in recognition of all those who made the renovation possible. The sculpture by Dayton metal artist Hamilton Dixon is reminiscent of a timepiece set to the 3 o’clock hour. Etched in marble is the Three O’clock Prayer, a prayer of spiritual unity for Marianists around the world. The sculpture now also unites the hearts of all those who have contributed to the spiritual heart of campus.
Watch the Berkemeier trees transformed for the chapel on YouTube.
The Chapel of the Immaculate Conception means something special to each of us for different reasons. Senior Ryan Phillips — the face of Red Scare, one of the longest-tenured student workers at the RecPlex and a Eucharistic minister — sat down with us to talk about his chapel moments.
Squint at first sight
I didn’t plan to attend the University of Dayton, but in the fall of my senior year, my family and I
visited anyway. It was the stereotypical college day. As my tour passed through the center of
campus, I squinted in the sun to look up at the blue dome of the chapel.
Breaking up is hard to do
There would be certain times when I would just go and sit in the chapel. I was there with my brother and one of my best friends a few weeks after my breakup with my high school girlfriend. There weren’t many words, but there was that comforting feeling of “I’m here with you.”
You go to any church back home, and a lot of people are just sort of sitting there. They’re doing their “hour of the week.” When I go to the chapel 10 minutes before Mass here, everybody is sitting there laughing and hugging and talking about
their weekends. That was the first time I saw and understood true community.
Center of it all
After returning from the UD Summer Appalachia Program, I realized that everything at UD is focused on the Marianist charism. It’s at the core of every decision we make. Brothers live in the middle of the student neighborhoods, and the chapel is in the heart of campus. The blue dome is so prominent because it is so symbolic of what
the University is based on: our faith.
Friends in faith
As a first-year student, I sat in the chapel with 40 other students for the Callings Christian leadership program. It was centered around the
Marianist tradition. That day, I met a lot of people with whom I have led retreats, and we’ve stayed friends. This year, I’m even living with three of them.
Brothers that pray together…
I just sat there and talked to my brother for an hour. That conversation wasn’t just between me and my brother, but between me, my brother and God because we were sitting in front of the Eucharist. Even in the moments when we sat in silence, we bonded over that.
My fascination with fear comes directly from my awareness of how life can change in an instant. I was in a car accident in the mid-1960s, when I was 6 years old. My dad crashed into a telephone pole while driving down a four-lane road. I flew through the front windshield and sustained major head and facial injuries. My parents were told at the time that if I lived, I’d be “a vegetable.” The doctors were wrong.
Within two weeks, I was out of the hospital, and I recovered fully.
Fear continues to lurk in my middle-aged life, and instead of ruminating about it, I decided to explore it from the mindset of an observer and collector. Through other people’s words and my visuals, I have been steadily creating what I call the Fear Project, a narrative about common and not-so-common fears that others have shared with me. These fears include death, failure, losing a child, losing one’s voice, losing one’s mind, centipedes in the shower, needles, cancer, speaking honestly with one’s spouse, déjà vu, seaweed, being wrongfully imprisoned, biscuits and clusters of small holes.
The project’s participants — friends, neighbors, colleagues, my students, family members, acquaintances and people I’ve never met — share their fears with me via email or in person. Many people have told me that after seeing a tangible interpretation of their fear, they feel less burdened by it.
Why talk about fear? Because we live in a world where fear is a driving force in our everyday lives, like it or not. Fear sells. (Buy this, or else!) Fear persuades. (Repent, or ye shall be damned!) Through daily headlines, we learn early on that the world is indeed a scary place — terrorism, school shootings, melting ice caps, epidemics, polluted water. If we’re not scared, we’re told, we’re foolish.
I’m often asked if it’s depressing for me to work on drawing these fear pieces. The short answer is no. It’s actually quite the opposite. A visual representation of fear generates thought and conversation. Placing fear in the context of drawings that are colorful, multilayered and accessible gives people a way to face the darker parts of their lives in a nonthreatening way.
I may dwell in this world of fear, anxiety and phobias, but honestly (and fortunately), I am not frozen with fear in my own day-to-day life. I’ve even done some things that exhibit some measure of fearlessness, I think — I’ve lived in many different states, tried on numerous jobs, hiked the entire Appalachian Trail in one shot and completed my first year-and-a-half of college-level French in my 50s.
I’ve said “yes” to many things before I had a chance to let any worries get the best of me. I have learned that “Onward!” is a powerful mantra. I believe that many people carry heaps of blankets of fear with them, yet they continually aspire to move beyond whatever holds them back.
This project resonates strongly with people, I’ve discovered — simply because of how deeply embedded fear is in most of our everyday lives. I’ve come to think of this project as my “fear beat,” and as long as fear remains a constant presence in our collective consciousness and conversation (which it will, no doubt), I know I will never run out of material.
Julie Elman is an associate professor of visual communication at Ohio University. She graduated from UD in 1982 with a bachelor’s in commercial design. She is happy to take your fears at fear-project.com.No Comments
They beat breast cancer, only to be battered by side effects of treatment. Assistant professor Mary Fisher is helping survivors thrive with research and clinical practices to keep their bodies in motion — and their quality of life soaring.
As co-chair of her 50-year class reunion committee, Joanne Daley ’57 stood out among her peers at Reunion Weekend 2007, buzzing around Kennedy Union and greeting her fellow Flyers with a warm hello.
Colorful scarves and hats hid the vestiges of her chemotherapy treatment. She remembers the sheer exhaustion she felt as she worked to fulfill the Reunion Weekend duties she had accepted months before a Stage II breast cancer diagnosis. A tumor in her left breast was triple negative, a type that tends to grow and spread aggressively. Daley says her doctors “threw everything they could at it,” providing a standard of care that sent her cancer into remission and extended her life.
On March 19, 2015, Daley, now 80, celebrated eight years of being cancer-free. A scar marking the spot where tissue was removed remains a permanent reminder of what she endured eight years ago; a compression sleeve on her left arm, swollen to double the size of her right, symbolizes the continuing physical restrictions she manages as a result of her treatment.
Daley’s story is one Mary Fisher has heard countless times in her career as a physical therapist and assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy: A breast cancer survivor completes radiation or chemotherapy, only to notice debilitating physical limitations, usually in the arm and shoulders, that weren’t present before.
“The survival rate for breast cancer is nearly 90 percent,” Fisher says. “After breast cancer treatment, we should be able to help these women return to the same level of quality of life they had before their diagnosis.”
That vision guides Fisher’s research as she works to raise awareness among survivors, their doctors and loved ones that the fight against breast cancer can continue, in a different arena, long after the cure.
MOVEMENT AFTER SURVIVAL
Three months after Daley’s surgery in March 2007, she developed lymphedema, a painful condition in which fluid fails to drain from body tissues, leading to swelling in the arm or leg. Removal of lymph nodes from around the armpit, called axillary nodes, is a common risk factor, and close to 60 percent of breast cancer survivors report symptoms of lymphedema after completing cancer treatment.
“It’s a pain in the butt — you can quote me on that,” Daley says.
The swelling in her hand and arm make gardening, one of her favorite hobbies, range from uncomfortable to painful. Washing dishes becomes a struggle with a swollen hand, as does the simple task of holding food in place to cut it. Trips to buy clothes become exercises in frustration, as Daley struggles to slide coat sleeves over her left arm. She must buy two sets of gloves to make a pair to fit differently sized hands.
As common as such complaints are, doctors and other health care professionals are usually more focused on keeping cancer at bay. The rest of the patient’s physical state isn’t often part of post-treatment conversation.
Because of her interest in physical therapy, however, Fisher listened to these survivors.
“While I was in graduate school, I had a conversation with a colleague who had breast cancer many years before, and she said to me, ‘You know, Mary, I’m still having trouble with my arm five years later,’” Fisher says. “That got me looking into this and thinking about it, and I began to read the literature and find out what kind of problems women who have had breast cancer treatments face.”
Among her findings is that not all regain full arm function even six years after undergoing surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. She is also finding that early intervention with exercise and physical therapy can help women recover fully.
It’s an easy solution in theory, but there’s another catch. By the time most women begin noticing signs of lymphedema, it’s too late for them to return to full function. Other limitations can be overcome through physical therapy and exercise.
Since 2007, Fisher has participated in multiple local and national studies to first confirm, and later, to determine best practices to address arm function limitations among breast cancer survivors. Her initial findings have encouraged her to promote prospective surveillance — the practice of monitoring an affected group after a medical event to observe pattern development — and early intervention efforts to improve survivors’ physical capabilities and prevent long-term functional limitations.
She considers prospective surveillance a paradigm shift in addressing the needs of all cancer survivors after treatment — a change Fisher says will improve the quality of life for men and women long after they’ve overcome cancer.
STUDIES IN MOTION
Until the late 20th century, breast cancer diagnoses were often delivered behind a veil of shame and secrecy, with women quickly given mastectomies to remove the affected breasts, often without fully informed consent.
Breast cancer advocacy emerged in the 1970s when women began to talk more openly about their diagnoses and push for more involvement in their treatment. Prominent women like Shirley Temple Black, the former child star and U.S. ambassador, and First Lady Betty Ford lent their voices to the cause. Women began pushing for research, more sensitive medical care and treatment options that didn’t result in mastectomy as a matter of course.
Nearly 40 years later, it’s clear such advocacy and awareness has worked. The long-term outlook for breast cancer survivors in the United States has never been better — in 2013, the National Institutes of Health reported a 90.5 percent survival rate five years after diagnosis, up from the 75 percent for women diagnosed between 1975 and 1977. Lumpectomy and radiation therapy, rather than mastectomy, are now the standard of care for early-stage breast cancer.
Because most survivors now live decades after their initial diagnoses, post-treatment complaints are emerging with greater frequency. As a physical therapist, Fisher began noticing a common trend among those who visited her for arm limitations. Quite a few had completed post-lumpectomy treatment in the past few months, or perhaps the past year or two, and complained of arm pain or limited function. Sometimes lymph nodes had been removed; in other cases, they had not.
“I can tell you this story over and over again,” Fisher says. “Even if she didn’t develop lymphedema, she can barely move her arm.”
Fisher wanted to know how long the problems persisted after cancer treatment. While completing her doctorate in rehabilitation sciences at the University of Kentucky, she began studying arm function in long-term breast cancer survivors. Her 24 years of clinical practice as a physical therapist at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton also influenced her research.
Her dissertation findings confirmed that breast cancer survivors had limited motion compared to women who hadn’t had breast cancer. This was especially true for left-handed women who had cancer on their right sides, and for right-handed women who had cancer on the left sides. Survivors also reported a slightly lower quality of life and slightly higher arm disability than women who hadn’t had breast cancer.
Fisher then had to rule out other possibilities for decreased long-term arm mobility before attributing the change to cancer treatment. Perhaps the physical issues were simply part of the normal aging process? Or were other factors involved? Those questions hadn’t adequately been addressed, she says.
To find out, she began conducting studies at UD in 2011 using healthy controls — 79 women who’d never had breast cancer or a shoulder injury or surgery — and compared them to 50 women who’d had breast cancer and treatments more than a year in the past. She put them through a series of tests, timing them as they picked up light objects and placed them on a shelf, similar to an everyday activity like putting groceries in a pantry.
The survivors had more disability and less arm function than the healthy controls, regardless of age, she found.
In January 2013, Fisher joined a National Institutes of Health team working with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, D.C. The group has been collecting data since 2004 on the arm function of most women diagnosed with breast cancer who have received services at Walter Reed.
The study examined 150 women after breast cancer treatment. The group measured the women’s arm functions at the study’s start and at regular intervals thereafter — one, three, six, nine, 18, 24, 36 and 60 months out. The following year, the group began collecting data on healthy control subjects for comparison.
Researchers used a tool called a perometer to measure changes in limb volume, such as swelling in an arm. Their results showed that even a 5- to 10-percent increase in limb size was not reversible. But there was also good news. Prospective surveillance alerted health care providers to increases of less than 5 percent in limb volume. Patients and providers then employed aggressive management, and patients showed less disability long term.
“At the first hint of preclinical lymphedema, which is a 3-percent difference in arm volume from the pretreatment measure, they’ll put a (compression) sleeve on the patient, teach her how to do manual lymph drainage and start an exercise program,” Fisher says. “They’ve found it very effective in often reversing lymphedema.”
The NIH team is now working to develop more sensitive tools to measure arm function and standard tests of muscular endurance for post-treatment evaluations, as none currently exist.
Limited arm function might be of less concern to survivors than the cancer itself, but Fisher believes cancer treatment shouldn’t rob women of what they enjoyed doing before their diagnoses, such as gardening, in Daley’s case.
“Ultimately, if arm function is impaired, quality of life is often diminished,” Fisher says. “That’s what we’re trying to address.”
STOPPING BEFORE IT STARTS
In 2010, Terri Baldasare, a former annual fund employee at UD, was more than a year out from the surgery that removed a cancerous lump in her breast. She traveled to South Carolina for a vacation and noticed her hand had swollen significantly after a day playing golf.
Baldasare, a Beavercreek, Ohio, resident and friend of Fisher’s, was aware of the potential physical changes she could encounter after surgery, but she thought she had avoided them.
“A year and a half [later] … you just never know,” she says.
Lymphedema was the diagnosis. As part of her ongoing treatment, Baldasare, 66, now has to wear a protective sleeve, which compresses her arm to reduce swelling and promote lymph drainage.
Fisher notes that lymphedema can develop at any point after treatment, even 20 years later.
Although Baldasare is managing her lymphedema through physical therapy and exercise, earlier examinations and treatment could have identified and prevented the swelling. Fisher says Baldasare’s experience is common — by the time a woman notices swelling in her hands or arms, the condition is often irreversible, making prospective surveillance crucial.
Although lymphedema might be among the more painful conditions a survivor can experience, patients who don’t develop the disorder could still find themselves struggling with arm pain. Fisher says some women move their arms and shoulders differently to avoid pain after surgery, a practice that ultimately worsens their condition and requires neuromuscular retraining through physical therapy. A typical course of treatment can be four to six weeks of motion and strength training; that can increase to two to three months for lymphedema sufferers.
Avoiding arm dysfunction altogether is Fisher’s ultimate goal for breast cancer survivors, but research shows that exercise and physical therapy can help mitigate existing limitations. She reviewed past studies from other researchers that debunked old myths, such as one suggesting that strength training was harmful for women after cancer treatment.
In fact, it has been shown to reduce swelling and pain.
Establishing the importance of physical activity provided another piece to the puzzle. Fisher’s next move would be testing other exercise practices to learn what could help women avoid or manage issues resulting from arm restrictions.
In 2013, Fisher received a University grant to study the possible beneficial effects of yoga for breast cancer-related lymphedema. Results of a seven-person pilot study indicated that yoga was a safe exercise.
Fisher continued the study in fall 2014, gaining funding from UD for studies examining yoga practice among women with lymphedema.
One study primarily examined yoga and arm volume, while the other looked at yoga’s effects on arm volume, along with balance and range of motion, in affected women.
Participants entered an eight-week yoga program. Devon Schmidt, an instructor at Day Yoga Studio on Brown Street near UD’s campus, led two classes each week, and participants completed a third at home with a video. Some participants wore compression sleeves during the classes, and Schmidt modified poses as needed based on physical capabilities. Some did arm and shoulder stretches while holding on to a chair. Schmidt modified popular positions like the triangle, a standing pose that opens the chest and shoulders while stretching legs and hips, by placing blocks on the floor for participants who couldn’t stretch their arms that far.
UD students pursuing their doctorates in physical therapy helped find participants and record data before, during and after the yoga class.
“It was amazing to hear their individual stories,” says Meghann Ford, a 2015 physical therapy graduate who worked with Fisher. “There were 10- to 15-year survivors, and women who were just going through another round of radiation. They were strangers when they first started, but by the time they finished, they were hugging, sharing stories and planning ways to meet after the class was over.”
For the first study, Ford and other students measured six participants’ arm volume, self-reported arm function, self-reported quality of life and hand grip strength. With the second study, which also included six participants, measurements for shoulder range of motion and balance were added, while hand grip strength was not measured.
Data was taken at the beginning and end of the yoga class, and for the second study, again at one month after the final class.
Results showed a significant decrease in arm volume after eight weeks, but no changes in the other measurements taken in the first study. With the second study, data showed a decrease in arm volume, an increase in arm flexion (raising arms straight up), an increase in quality of life and improved balance. Self-reported arm function showed improvement that wasn’t considered statistically significant, but quite significant from a clinical, or practical, perspective.
Daley, the octogenarian survivor, was a believer. “When I went to clean my flower beds that night in my garden after going to yoga class, I didn’t hurt as badly,” she says.
Schmidt wasn’t involved in data collection, but watching and listening to feedback from study participants also confirmed to her that yoga, notably the poses that involved stretching the arms and shoulders, had proven beneficial.
“I was actually surprised that they progressed so quickly,” Schmidt says. “I saw them improve as they progressed through the course, and some of them didn’t need modifications at all by the end of the eight weeks.”
Schmidt says some participants have continued to take classes at her studio, enrolling in courses open to the public and doing modifications as needed.
Fisher’s study also showed the importance of maintaining an exercise regimen. Gains made during the class were not maintained by the time the one-month follow-up date arrived, data showed.
Daley says she noticed three months later how much worse she felt because she hadn’t continued her classes. During the summer, she decided to change that and enrolled in a weekly yoga class for cancer patients and survivors at Kettering Medical Center.
“It’s very basic, but it’s certainly been helpful,” she says.
LIFE IN FULL
Fisher’s long-term goals are simple: make the recovery from breast cancer treatment as effective as possible so survivors can return to the life they had before diagnosis. This, she says, requires a multipronged approach to find the most effective treatments, educate health care providers about prospective surveillance and make care accessible to all.
The UD studies address the first goal of figuring out what works best for breast cancer survivors’ arm functions. Fisher has seven publications and presentations scheduled for 2015, and four of her doctoral students — Ford, Minna Cho, Olivia Morris and Karissa Feucht — presented a poster at the National Lymphedema Network’s 11th International Conference in Washington, D.C., in September 2014. They also presented at the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association in Indianapolis in February 2015.
The topic, “Effects of Yoga on Arm Volume, Quality of Life, Self-reported Arm Function, Shoulder Motion, and Balance in Women with Breast Cancer-related Lymphedema,” received a Graduate Student Showcase Award in Physical Therapy at UD. All DPT students are required to participate in research projects.
“I had never really been into research before this, but the experience really opened my eyes to being a part of research studies in the future,” says Ford, who’s now working at a skilled nursing facility in Springboro, Ohio. “This opportunity has opened a lot of doors for the four of us.”
Fisher is already beginning work on a study quantifying arm activity of women who had breast cancer on their non-dominant side. Her dissertation findings suggested that women with cancer on the side of their lesser-used arm experienced more long-term issues. She’ll now see if women with cancer in their non-dominant arm use that arm less than women who haven’t had cancer, effectively slowing recovery.
First, she is collecting data. Women who have had cancer and healthy women serving as controls are given activity monitors to wear on both arms for one week, and data from the two groups will be compared. Fisher has recruited 22 of 30 participants, and her study will continue through the end of the year.
Although studies are progressing, another paradigm shift might be required to fulfill Fisher’s other goals. Health care providers will need to encourage women to be acutely aware of potential physical changes after cancer treatment and immediately refer those women to physical therapy. University programs should educate students in health care fields about physical side effects so they can incorporate that knowledge in their future practices. Greater publicity — like this article — also increases awareness of lymphedema and other issues among those going through treatment and survivors.
Then there’s the issue of accessibility. Certain types of physical therapy could be out of reach for many lower-income women. Distance and lack of transportation could prohibit some from participating in physical therapy or exercise programs. Compression sleeves, a crucial element in lymphedema treatment, are costly and not often covered by insurance. Financial barriers prohibit survivors from managing their limitations effectively and prevent them from participating in everyday activities — whether they be jobs or hobbies.
Surviving breast cancer is a victory worth celebrating. After defeating it, survivors should be able to thrive as well.
Shannon Miller’s mother, Jennifer, is a breast cancer survivor. She has been cancer-free for 10 years.1 Comment