Every cancer patient has the right to rehab
July 12, 2021
Every cancer patient has the right to rehab

I have known the Tegenkracht (Dutch for “counterforce”) foundation since 2007. I will never forget how, as a cancer patient, I gave a presentation in the canteen of the Amsterdam Sloten cycling track, together with a few others, about how I had “rehabilitated” myself. I had done that as an expert athlete (triathlete), but also with a “knife, piece of string and a shilling” approach…

Funded by Alpe d’HuZes, we had created a scientific program called A-Care to provide a scientific basis for rehabilitation. Since 2006, Tegenkracht has been making a serious effort to tackle this properly and it was Jelle Wolthuizen, a cancer patient who kept himself strong with training to get through his treatment, who established the foundation. From the very beginning, Tegenkracht has always been supported by professionals, including the sports doctor Jessica Gal, together with physiotherapists who put together customized patient programs and this approach has been refined, improved and expanded over the years to include nutritional and psychosocial support.

“My Tegenkracht” is a book that provides a wonderful insight into this important organization and its approach. Many patients share their experience in these pages, including those who have recovered, those who are still being treated and those whose disease is in a palliative stage. It’s impressive to read that Tegenkracht can support these patients to maintain a good quality of life during the time that they have left. The doctors are also mentioned and Jessica Gal cannot, and must not, be missed. She has always worked with heart and soul to help cancer patients, getting to work with an unwavering commitment and never giving up. The nutritionists have their say showing how to help patients with taste disorders caused by treatments and supporting with weight gain and loss programs. Just as importantly, the book features employers like Rik-Jan Modderkolk of PON Holding, a company which offers its employees the opportunity to rehabilitate at Tegenkracht and the Dutch National Police is also rightly included with their “Oncopol” programme, based on the results of A-Care’s scientific research. The foreword was written by René Medema, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital and the Netherlands Cancer Institute, who endorses the scientific need for good rehabilitation.

In fact Tegenkracht only has one shortcoming: there are simply too few cancer patients being referred to this great foundation. With 140 000 new cancer patients every year in The Netherlands, the 3 000 patients who have been helped by Tegenkracht over the years are far too few. This is a call for action to employers, health insurers, general practitioners, oncologists and, of course, to Tegenkracht itself. Their communication, or as I often say “their calling horn”, should sound at a higher volume because every cancer patient and their loved ones have the right to rehabilitation. Why would the heart patient benefit and not the cancer patient?

In short, reading this book is not just recommended, it’s a necessity! You can order your copy at www.tegenkracht.nl/mijn-tegenkracht

Peter Kapitein
Patient Advocate Inspire2Live