Staff Spotlight: Barbara Bour, Physical Therapist

Physical therapist helps patients get through treatment

Physical therapist Barbara Bour, at right, coaches Tyler Kleine during a muscle-strengthening exercise in clinic.

Within two months of being diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma, 8-year-old Tyler Kleine had lost 30 pounds.

“Everything had just wasted away,” said Tyler’s mother, Angela Kleine. “Even to stand up, it was difficult for him to get up off the floor.”

That’s when a friend whose son was also being treated for cancer at Shands at UF, told Kleine about Barbara Bour, a physical therapist for the Shands Cancer Center. Week by week, Bour has helped Tyler, now 9, regain some of the strength he lost while being treated for cancer. Therapy, at times, is disguised by balancing on balls, playing Wii and pushing himself across the floor on a scooter.

“She truly has been a godsend,” Kleine said. “He loves coming to her every week. She makes it fun for him. It has been such an improvement.”

Bour, a clinical instructor of physical therapy for the College of Public Health and Health Professions, has been taking care of Shands at UF cancer patients for about two-and-a-half years since leaving her pediatric practice in St. Petersburg to start a physical therapy program at the UF Shands Cancer Center.

As one of the only physical therapy practices in the country embedded in a radiation oncology department, the clinic aims to help patients cope with the physical effects of undergoing cancer treatment.

“We know from the research that has been done that there are early and late effects from chemotherapy and radiation,” Bour said. “Our job and our mission is to help manage the effects of treatment, or in some cases prevent the effects of treatment.”

For example, breast cancer patients can develop what Bour calls soft-tissue restrictions around pectoral muscles or under the arm after a lumpectomy or mastectomy. This can hinder how muscles and joints move, causing pain and limiting patients’ range of motion in their arms.

Patients can also develop a type of swelling known as lymphedema during treatment. In breast cancer patients, this can happen at any time, even years later, Bour said.

Bour and the five other physical therapists at the clinic not only offer physical therapy to try and ease patients’ symptoms, they also teach them how to stave off other treatment-related effects.

“I tell all my patients stretching is going to be your new best friend,” Bour said. “They need to pay attention the rest of their lives. We educate them so they have a level of awareness.”

Bour’s first lesson in caring for someone with cancer came more than 20 years ago, when her daughter developed leukemia right before starting kindergarten.

“There is a uniqueness to the cancer experience that is almost indescribable,” said Bour, whose daughter graduated from medical school last year and is training to become a pediatric oncologist. “It is amazing where strength comes from.”

— April Frawley Birdwell

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Spring 2011

From the Director’s Desk

The UF Shands Cancer Center is one of fewer than 20 centers across the country and the first in Florida to debut Intrabeam, a promising type of radiation that could transform the way breast cancer is treated.

Just What the Patient Ordered

Her husband placed the newspaper by her chair, carefully positioned so the article would be the first thing she saw. When Janice Northrup glanced at it, she discovered the answer she’d been praying to find.

Too Many Surgical Breast Biopsies?

Thousands of women receive unnecessary surgical breast biopsies in Florida each year, University of Florida researchers state in an article recently published online by the American Journal of Surgery.

A Place for Patients

Yoga classes at the Criser Cancer Resource Center are one of many ways the center helps patients and their families deal with the challenges presented by a cancer diagnosis or long hospital stay.

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