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Published on November 10, 2017

Broken Foot Won't Slow Down This Three-Time Cancer Survivor

Ann FlahertyMeet Ann Flaherty: leadership skills developer, proud aunt of two nieces, exercise enthusiast, three-time cancer survivor and Pilates promoter. Her story is nothing short of amazing.

Ann was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 1979 when she was only 21 years old and seemingly healthy. Having one kidney removed and then undergoing radiation treatment for cancerous lymph nodes got her through that ordeal, and it set her on a path to living a healthy lifestyle that included regular exercise.

But in 2002, Ann had a second cancer diagnosis, this time in her colon (completely unrelated to her prior kidney disease, by the way). A Boston native who had since moved to North Carolina for her work in leadership development, Ann chose to be near family in the Northeast for surgery to remove the diseased part of her colon. As for where to do the chemotherapy treatment that was recommended, her impression of the Cone Health Cancer Center was better than her option to stay in Boston. She knows that staying in Greensboro was the best choice, enthusiastically citing the helpful staff and support groups here as playing an important role in getting her healthy again.

After all that, Ann had yet another scare. Something about her health just wasn’t quite right. Facing the possibility of a condition called leptomeningeal carcinomatosis (another dangerous cancer), she needed to go to a specialty medical center to get a definitive diagnosis. Thankfully, she did not have this condition, but the biopsy needed to rule that out left her with weakness in her legs. As a result, Ann thinks nothing of using a light brace that fits in her shoe to assist her with walking these days.

A skin cancer was her most recent cancer diagnosis, but she’s gone beyond that too. Not one to take it easy, Ann was helping some people move and suffered her next challenge—a broken foot.

Ann FlahertyAnn using Pilates Reformer

While her foot was healing, Ann learned about Therapeutic Pilates with Jennifer Paa, Physical Therapist at Cone Health Outpatient Rehab, and was eager to give that a try. She has not been disappointed. She says it’s been the perfect therapy for her. With Jennifer’s guidance, Ann uses a piece of equipment called a Pilates Reformer. On the Reformer, Ann puts her feet into specialized loops attached to a pulley that she says let her do more to strengthen than she can do otherwise—the straps both support her legs and give her just the right challenge for working her weak leg and core muscles.

Of Jennifer, her physical therapist and Pilates instructor, Ann feels she provides the perfect combination of expertise and kindness. And though her Pilates training as part of physical therapy has an end point, Ann will be able to continue practicing the Pilates that has been so beneficial at her gym. One of the great outcomes of all this? Says Ann, “Pilates has helped me be able to try and keep up with my two active nieces, who are the light of my life.”