For exercise physiologist, personal trainer and lifetime athlete, Joy Chiekwe, the hand-painted word ‘strong’ is a fitting choice to wear across her face with pride.

Much of Joy’s life has centered around sports, movement and goal-setting. These longtime passions have evolved from years spent playing competitive basketball and ultimate frisbee to now helping patients maintain or improve strength following cancer treatment.

As a clinical exercise physiologist, Joy uses exercise as a form of medicine to prevent and manage chronic disease, as well as help those living with and healing from life-changing conditions, like cancer.

An area of pride is Joy’s work with the ACCESS (Activating Cancer Communities through an Exercise Strategy for Survivors) program, where she works with cancer patients and survivors at the QEII Health Sciences Centre and across the Maritimes.

“A big part of my role is working with individuals to understand their cancer journey, their treatments and experience, and how we can incorporate movement and activity into their day-to-day,” says Joy.

The 12-week exercise program includes aerobics, cardio and resistance training, depending on a patient’s unique needs.

According to Joy, for some, it can be as simple as patients’ getting their daily steps in or using the floor or living room chair to maintain muscle and functional strength.

“The survival rate for cancer patients is continually increasing and improving, but the adverse effects from treatments are not,” says Joy. “Our ultimate goal is to help patients better cope with their treatments, reduce their time in hospital and improve their overall experience.”

Joy and the ACCESS team are fierce advocates for the role exercise and physical activity can play in the continuum of cancer care.

For Joy, her role has also introduced her to “some of the most inspiring people” she’s met.

“When you start in this field, you may have an automatic perception that these are folks who are incredibly frail and really struggling,” says Joy. “While that’s certainly the case for some, there’s also a lot of strength and a lot of hope in the people you get to meet and work with every day.”

The best days on the job are those when patients share that they’ve regained a sense of control.

“When it comes to cancer, there’s so much that’s out of your control,” Joy describes. “To see a patient’s eyes light up when they realize they can still do certain things or when they’ve reached a certain goal…it’s incredibly rewarding.”

A reason to ride

For second-time rider, Joy, her reason for participating in this year’s Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal is simple.

“I’m doing it for our patients,” says Joy. “For the individuals I’ve met and worked with and those I’ll continue to see right up until Ride day – in a way – it’s showing them that I’m here fighting for them too.”

So, if hopping on her bike and pushing herself to succeed can show some solidarity – while also impacting local cancer care at home – it’s a challenge she’ll happily undertake with pride.

As part of that challenge, Joy says she has big plans for her 2021 Ride.

Her goals include training for her 75-kilometre distance, raising as much funds as she can, and recruiting an all-star squad for her team, Black Wellness Co-Operative.

The team name reflects a newly formed group of Black health and wellness professionals in Nova Scotia – including Joy – who are committed to providing expertise, knowledge and training to underserved communities.

“I’m excited to ride and support a cause that so many of us are touched by,” says Joy. “I have friends who’ve been impacted by cancer and it’s really come to light how important this type of event can be.”

Taking place on October 2, 2021, Ride for Cancer powered by BMO Bank of Montreal will see hundreds of participants riding their choice of distance via the Rum Runners Trail or by the road – a safe distance apart. You can support Joy’s team by clicking here!


Rider Stories are presented by:

Our Ride Community is comprised of inspiring advocates, warriors, survivors and fighters. This community is the reason we ride, to make an impact on cancer care for them and for future generations. As a proud sponsor of Ride for Cancer, AstraZeneca helps share these stories and inspires our community to continue the fight against cancer.

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