A Day In The Life Of A MOVE Cancer Rehab Instructor

I’ve been lucky enough to work for MOVE Charity since 2018 after a massive career change. Back then, the charity consisted pretty much of Founder Gemma Hillier-Moses, plus one other freelance cancer rehabilitation instructor who was about to head overseas which is why there was space for me to come in. In the very early days of the online programme, I would work with about 4 people at a time over 2 days and try to help with some bits of social media.  Now my work is a lot more varied and I work with about 12 young people at a time over three days, as well as deal with all new referrals. In the space of four years, the programme and MOVE Charity have grown beyond belief. Back then, referrals only came from Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and maybe one social worker elsewhere. Now it’s me, plus two other freelance cancer rehab instructors and we deal with referrals from across the UK, which is testament to the success of the online programme. So what does a typical day look like for me?

05:45 It’s rare that I’m not up before 06:00. I love this part of day. It’s my time, nobody disturbs me and there’s something beautiful and peaceful about seeing dawn break. I usually make a coffee and then sit down in front of the laptop and try to squeeze in a bit of Welsh learning on Duolingo. I’ve been set a really scary challenge of doing an interview in Welsh on a podcast later this year! My Welsh is really not at that level in any way shape or form yet, so I’m working hard and just trying to do a little bit each day. After welsh I might try and do 10-15 minutes of yoga or mobility. I don’t always love it, but I know my body is better for doing it.

06:30 Is that the time already? Well I better crack on and do some exercise! I’m very much a morning person and like to do most of my exercise before work. I enjoy triathlon, which involves swimming, cycling and running, so twice a week I usually head to the pool first thing, another morning I’ll get out on my bike for 60-90 minutes. If I’m feeling really energetic (and it isn’t raining,) I’ll ride to the pool. Other days, I’ll do a longer yoga session with friends in the morning and then run with my triathlon club in the evening.

08:15 Breakfast time! This is usually cereal and fruit, with a cup of tea then toast with peanut butter, if I’m still feeling hungry. I usually start opening the laptop again at this time, perhaps checking through emails or having a flick through social media.

09:00 I’m in proper work mode by now! Sometimes I’ll have a catch up with my colleagues, or the first call or workout at this point, or a call with a Health Care Professional about a referral. But often it’s time for me to check through any new referrals, reply to emails or start messaging people to fix up calls for later in the week.

10:00 We have a group meeting with a counsellor. This has been something fairly new that we do once every 6 weeks or so and it’s been a complete game changer. As we are all remote and working from home on our own, it’s easy to carry all of the emotion from our work on our own shoulders, try and deal with it in our own heads and just crack on. I really appreciate having a safe space and time set aside to talk through anything on our minds, or process our thoughts when someone dies.  We didn’t realise how much we needed this support until we started the first session with our amazing counsellor.

11:00 Time for a Zoom workout! I tend to do around 4-5 workouts over Zoom over the three days that I work for MOVE each week, but it really depends on each person I’m supporting. Not everyone likes the idea of doing something over Zoom! Some people want to get back to the gym, and we can write a programme for them and just have a catch up on the phone instead. While others want a programme they can do entirely at home, but without a Zoom workout.

12:00 I’ve had a few calls already this morning, but I’ve not yet had time to write next week’s programmes for them, so I need to just concentrate on doing that for 45 minutes. We catch up with each young person on the online programme every single week. Usually it’s over the phone, other times it’s part of the Zoom workout. Calls can last from 2 minutes to a really enjoyable 25 minutes when you learn a lot about the young person beyond their cancer. Those are the calls I love the most.

12:45 I’m getting really hungry now! So, I’ll switch off for half an hour or so and make some lunch downstairs. It has been a big adjustment going from working in a busy office full time as a producer at BBC Sport, to working from home as a cancer rehab instructor. It can be really lonely some days, but overall, I think I have a good balance. I work 3 days a week for MOVE. The other 2 days I do some coaching and I do a triathlon podcast which I am really passionate about.  My non-MOVE days are completely different and far less emotionally draining. Perhaps one day we’ll do more face-to-face work with MOVE Charity, but for the time being we know the online programme works and we are changing people’s lives every day. That’s a really special thing.

13:30 I’ve got an initial call with a young person who has been referred to us by their Cancer Nurse Specialist. We have a digital referral form for Health Care Professionals, so it’s really easy for them to send their patients our way, or for people to self-refer if they’ve finished treatment. We currently tend to get around 12 referrals a month, which seems to be increasing all of the time. Some of the referrals don’t go anywhere which can be really frustrating as it feels like a waste of time. But the majority of young people are really engaged and can’t wait to get started on the programme. During the initial call, I’ll make sure that the young person knows what to expect on the programme, I’ll find out a bit about them, their diagnosis and treatment and their relationship with exercise before and after they were diagnosed with cancer and then I’ll send them some paperwork we need completing before they can start.

14:30 I need to write another programme after a quick catch up call. Everything’s been going well for this person this week, so I’ll just make a few small tweaks to their strength programme and their cardio and I’ll find a different yoga for them to do.

15:00 It’s time for a presentation with Health Care Professionals who don’t know much about MOVE Charity, but hopefully after this they will and we’ll get some more referrals! I really enjoy this part of the job, when I get to shout about MOVE charity and the amazing work that we do! It’s not just the online programme, but 5K Your Way, the MOVE Against Cancer Podcast and all of the incredible educational resources we have too. It’s always so lovely hearing positive feedback from Health Care Professionals who have seen a huge change mentally and physically in their patients.

16:30 I’ve completed all of the appointments and calls I need to, so there’s just a bit of time left for a bit of admin. Perhaps I need to post something in the MOVE as ONE private Facebook group for 18-30 year olds and remind them of our monthly group workout session, or maybe I need to head to the post office to send resistance bands to the new people starting the 8-week programme next week.

18:00 I’ve well and truly switched off from MOVE for the day. I might be horizontal on the sofa for ten minutes just having a bit of headspace and processing another mad day. Or I might be psyching myself up to get to a running session with my tri club! Otherwise, the radio will be on and I will be starting to chop vegetables for dinner. Every now and then I’ll have to do an interview at 7pm with an athlete for the weekly triathlon podcast I do, Inside Tri Show.


21:45 I’m starting to think about going to bed. I tend to wind down by listening to some sort of audio, often the radio, but sometimes I might have a sudden urge to listen to something in Spanish (I studied Spanish and French at University.) If my brain is still with it, then I might flick through a little bit of a book that might help me with my Welsh. But if the brain isn’t in the mood for Welsh, I’ll probably send a few messages to friends and to my brother in Australia. I’ll drift off to sleep at some point over the 45 minutes or so.