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Physical therapy helps Red Lodge woman get her mobility back after a mastectomy

Posted at 3:00 PM, Dec 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-22 17:00:28-05

BILLINGS - It’s a treatment among cancer patients that is often forgotten or goes unused, but it can mean taking control of a devastating diagnosis.

For Bonny Moore, physical therapy is giving her back the mobility she lost and getting her back to the things she loves.

“I live in Red Lodge. I love being outdoors,” said Moore. “There are ponds close by, or I can kayak. There's my mountain bike. I missed that.”

She’s been visiting St. Vincent Healthcare physical therapist Jolynn Miller for regular sessions for roughly two years.

“I've got a lot of tightness across the top of my collarbone, and my shoulder doesn't want to move as much as I want it to move,” said Moore. “And she just works out those areas.”

All this following her cancer diagnosis in June 2020.

“I was diagnosed with HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer,” said Moore. “So, they found cancer in my neck and on my rib and a large tumor with satellite tumors in my right breast."

So she came to outpatient therapy and started working with Miller, hoping it would ease the pain from her mastectomy and the symptoms it left.

“With a mastectomy, a lot of times the chest wall gets really tight,” said Miller. “People describe it as they feel like they have this tight sports bra, and they cannot adjust. They cannot move.”

Miller has been working in physical therapy for 11 years but really became focused on oncology rehab roughly six years ago.

Her mission is to give cancer patients back control.

“Because during active treatment, you don’t have a lot of say or control,” she said.

It’s something she saw firsthand, watching her own mother fight breast cancer.

“So, my mom it was a stage four breast cancer,” said Miller. “She's a survivor.”

Miller can't help it, finding herself getting teared up talking about her mother's fight.

“She had a bilateral mastectomy, and she had all of her lymph nodes removed,” she said. “She has done amazing.”

Her passion for helping cancer patients is rooted deep in how closely she watched her own mother struggle with mobility from her own breast surgery.

“I got into this because of my mom,” said Miller.

But on this day, in the basement of the Yellowstone Medical Center, Miller works to get Moore feeling stronger, through targeted massages on her arm.

And Moore wants other breast cancer patients to know, physical therapy is an option.

“I think there's so much benefit to it,” said Moore. “At the beginning of your journey with breast cancer if you didn't know that about physical therapy.”

It’s something Moore has come to learn and routinely do.

“Because it's like a wonderful massage where she is loosening the tissue,” she said.

It’s a part of her treatment that will eventually get her back to kayaking and mountain biking like she used to, but for now, checking off that Christmas list.

“I had chemo this morning and I’m Christmas shopping on the way home, and I feel great.”