Hunter children's exercise program helps kids recover from cancer treatment

Leaps and bounds: Aidan Jelenic, 5, with exercise physiologist Eden Macneill, of Hunter Rehabilitation and Health. Picture: Marina Neil
Leaps and bounds: Aidan Jelenic, 5, with exercise physiologist Eden Macneill, of Hunter Rehabilitation and Health. Picture: Marina Neil

AS far as Aidan Jelenic is concerned, his weekly session with an exercise physiologist is simply good fun.

“He doesn’t realise he is doing an intensive, fundamental movement program,” his mother, Sharon Jelenic, said.

“He just thinks it is a lot of fun and games. He lights up every time we go.”

Just as Aidan was learning how to run – and jump with both feet – as a two-year-old, he was diagnosed with leukaemia.

“He had some chemotherapy and steroidal treatment that unfortunately affected his muscles,” Ms Jelenic said. “He was weakened by some of those treatments while he was stuck in a hospital bed.

“For him, this is a catch up on all those skills that unfortunately got pushed to the side while he was having intense treatment.”

Aidan, now five, was referred to a funded, 12-week exercise program at Hunter Rehabilitation and Health by the physiotherapy team at John Hunter Children’s Hospital.

“It is so good to see him do ‘normal’,” Ms Jelenic said.

“Normal is something a lot of these kids miss out on while they are getting treatment.”

The program is being funded by Ronald McDonald House and the Leukaemia Foundation.

Ryan McCathie, of Hunter Rehabilitation and Health, said prescribed exercise was now a clinical recommendation for everyone undergoing cancer treatment. This program aimed to help children “catch up” with their peers once they returned to school PE and sport, as well as aid their recovery and improve their quality of life.

“We understand their condition, and what they can and can’t do,” he said. 

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