Super Mom Tackles Cancer with Newfound Mobility

Written By Leila Amin

Neel Dutt always considered herself an active woman. As a mother of two sons and an accomplished employee at a financial institution, she pushes herself to be successful in every aspect of her life.

Image of Leila Amin and Neel Dutt
Leila Amin, occupational therapist at Princess Margaret's Function and Mobility clinic, helped Neel Dutt regain her mobility after her breast cancer diagnosis. (Photo: Leila Amin)

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2012, things changed. By July 2013, Neel had undergone two surgeries and chemotherapy at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and found herself feeling fatigued and weaker than ever before. She desperately wanted to get back to the active lifestyle she had before her cancer diagnosis.

A test of strength

The next step for Neel was to start radiation treatment – however – since she was not able to raise her arm high enough to rest on the radiation table, she was referred to ELLICSR's Function and Mobility clinic at the Princess Margaret. That’s where I met Neel.

Hi, my name is Leila Amin and I’m an occupational therapist (OT) in the Function and Mobility clinic at ELLICSR Survivorship Program at the Princess Margaret.

In the Function & Mobility clinic, occupational therapists and physiotherapists (PTs) work together and with patients to help them regain strength and range of motion in their upper bodies after breast cancer surgery. First we assess your strength and range of motion, then we develop a personalized exercise program with you, arrange follow ups and help connect you to other services you may want or need. Our main goal is to help you help yourself. We take the time to show you how to do exercises correctly and give you information about posture and how the body works during exercise, to make it easier to remember what to do, but why you’re doing it. Together we can talk about how your arm affects your ability to work and brainstorm ways to modify tasks so you can continue to work.

Attending the Function and Mobility clinic, Neel was able to improve her range of motion and strength in less than a week so she could start radiation as soon as possible. When I congratulated her on this remarkable achievement, she replied “even though the range of motion in my arm is good enough for radiation I want it to be even better, I want to be stronger and fitter than I was before I was diagnosed with cancer.” And her actions certainly reflect this – Neel practiced her home exercise program vigorously for 7 days straight and wasn’t ashamed to ask her family members for help around the house so that she could prioritize her energy to do her exercises.

A patient’s success in our clinic truly relies on their own inner desire to achieve their goals. As an OT my main priority is to listen to my patients’ concerns, to dig deep and find out what truly matters to them and then work with them to provide a sustainable and feasible exercise plan that facilitates their participation in meaningful occupations.

The Function and Mobility clinic is part of an umbrella of survivorship clinics which also includes the Fatigue, Neurocognitive and Lymphedema clinics.