A charity launched by a Measham fitness instructor to help women get back into exercise after treatment for breast cancer is celebrating after it was awarded more than £5,000 by the Big Lottery Fund.

Michelle Scott-Worthington had the idea for Supporting Confidence Through Exercise when seven ladies from her classes were diagnosed with the disease within weeks of each other.

The charity, which launched last year, now runs eight week long programmes which are free to breast cancer survivors and act as a stepping stone back to fitness, as well as offering emotional support.

Michelle said: “We’re delighted that the lottery has awarded us £5,545, a terrific sum which is going to mean we can offer three more programmes, and will really help us change lives.

“Survivors find that when their treatment ends, they leave hospital with a leaflet of exercises and an appointment for their next check-up. They sometimes feel as if they’re just being left to it and expected to return to ‘normal’.

“But for many, they simply can’t. They might have limited movement, because of scarring, or that their body shape has changed due to their surgery or treatments. So they can be incredibly self-conscious about joining a class.

“We offer a stepping stone towards improving their physical fitness after living through breast cancer, but most importantly a fun, welcoming place where they can meet others who have been through the same.”

Michelle, a fitness instructor for 30 years, was shocked when in January 2012 seven women from her different classes told her that they had been diagnosed with breast cancer after they had attended routine mammogram appointments.

Realising that after their treatment her clients would have post-operative scarring and may be self-conscious about how their bodies had changed because of surgery which would perhaps make it difficult for them to return to regular classes, she began extensively researching how she could help them.

She discovered The Pink Ribbon Program, a progressive tailored plan of gentle exercises created by American former college professor and cancer survivor Doreen Puglisi and specifically designed to help breast cancer survivors regain physical strength and flexibility, as well as offering emotional support.

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Michelle now leads SCTE’s classes, after being fully trained by Doreen herself. Each class is a two hour session, which includes gentle exercise, a coffee and chat break as well as putting the fun into fitness with taster sessions of Nordic walking, African drumming or belly dancing.

She said: “These might seem a bit unconventional, but they use the same muscle groups that many people post-surgery need to work on – so everyone has a laugh and usually don’t even feel like they’re exercising.”

Rachel Moorcroft, 53, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and who had a mastectomy, took part in one of SCTE’s classes last year.

She said: “The physical scars affect you, but it’s the mental scars that take longer to heal. I would have found it really difficult to go to an exercise class where there were superfit 18-year-olds in lycra – it was great to go to a class where they understand the treatment and understand that you’re older.”

Lynne Showell, 68, who has survived breast cancer twice in 1983 and 2009, is now one of the charity’s trustees.

She said: “Because of my treatment I suffered severe scarring pain in my side for more than 30 years. When I first went to one of Michelle’s classes I said to her: ‘you’re not going to make me put my arm over my head are you?’ because I didn’t think I could do it.

“It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly through the exercises, I found I had more mobility. For me, it has been life-changing.”

More details about the charity are available by visiting here.