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Rehabilitation through Activity and Triathlon

By Diane Stokes

What started out as a hobby and a way to help middle-aged men and women get off of the couch and get active turned into so much more when a woman I coached, a double mastectomy reconstruction cancer survivor, told me that I “saved her life” by working with her after her debilitating cancer treatments. She showed tremendous courage in training, and seeing her cross the finish line of her first triathlon is something I will never forget. It set me off on a path to helping other cancer survivors the same way. I was determined to make it possible for them heal better and stronger after cancer treatments.

my storyAround the same time, my neighbor, Dr. Julie Silver, a rehabilitation specialist, finished her treatments for breast cancer and was appalled when she was told to “go home and heal” without any assistance from medical professionals. Luckily for her, she knew how to heal herself. Knowing that not all cancer patients would be as fortunate, she began to educate oncology and rehabilitation professionals, through lectures and grand rounds, on the need to offer cancer rehabilitation to their patients. She knew, though, there must be a better way to deliver the message.

As a marketing and sales professional in the high technology industry for almost 20 years, I had brought many “products to market.” I was confident I could help Dr. Silver deliver her message in an effective, systematic way and create a sustainable, hospital-wide program, based on the latest research in cancer rehabilitation. I was also very interested in continuing my work helping people.

The combination of working with cancer patients as a triathlon coach and the desire to educate cancer patients that they can heal optimally by getting rehabilitation after their treatments, catapulted me into founding Oncology Rehab Partners with Dr. Silver in 2009.

Our mission at Oncology Rehab Partners is to advance survivorship care by making best practices cancer rehabilitation the standard of care for survivors of all types and stages of cancer. Cancer rehabilitation can help survivors overcome the debilitating side effects of treatments by increasing strength and energy, alleviating pain and discomfort, and improving overall function.

What I found most inspiring as I moved further into the process of building the company and speaking with healthcare professionals, is that everyone seemed to want to “do the right thing” and provide the best care possible to their patients. The only obstacle was that there wasn’t an educational tool to train clinicians in evidence-based cancer rehab or an easy-to-implement, quality cancer rehab practice model.

I created the STAR Program Certification to fill these unmet needs. It is both a turn-key cancer rehab program that can be easily adapted throughout a healthcare system and a certification that gives clinicians the skills they need to address the unique physical and emotional problems of cancer patients during and after treatments. After only three short years, healthcare facilities in 40 states have implemented the STAR Program Certification, bringing cancer rehab to thousands of survivors.

My goals at Oncology Rehab Partners are aligned with the goals I have as a personal coach: to give cancer survivors the opportunity to heal as well as possible and enjoy the quality of life they deserve. Being able to work one-on-one helping survivors become more fit and to also pave the way for hundreds of thousands more to achieve health and well-being, is a dream come true.

Diane Stokes, MBA, a certified personal trainer and triathlon coach, is the cofounder of Oncology Rehab Partners. For more information about Oncology Rehab Partners and STAR Program Certification, please visit