Cancer survivor sets up Boutros Bear and offers free course in response to Covid-19 crisis
Breast cancer survivor Sheila Kissane-Marshall has established a rehabilitation company called Boutros Bear offering a free 12-week health habits programme in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Sheila used a self-designed combination of exercise, nutrition and mindfulness to aid her recovery from cancer.
Now she is using her experience in the fight against Covid-19.
“I learnt the hard way, through my cancer, how powerful exercise, nutrition, and mindfulness can be in overcoming illness,” Sheila says.
“I want to share that understanding with others, to help them, and us, as a society, to beat coronavirus.”
Fitness videos for the course are provided by popular Los Angeles-based exercise instructor Amy Kiser Schemper, of BodyFit, through a series of videos.
Sheila is drawing on expertise from around Europe on nutrition, while London-based digital therapeutics company Prosoma is providing advice on mental health.
“Doctors agree that fitness, nutrition, and well-being play powerful roles in stopping people becoming ill, and in helping them recover if they are unfortunate enough to catch a disease like coronavirus,” said Sheila. “It’s no exaggeration to say that spending just a few minutes a day using the programme could be a lifesaver.”
The course is designed for all - from those with little or no experience of thinking about their diet, mental wellbeing or exercise to those highly motivated to workout regularly.
Participants will be asked to fill out an initial survey to determine their level of fitness and mental wellbeing before being given options for the online exercise classes, ranging from chair-based and breathing exercises to high intensity cardio.
Exercises are graded over 12 weeks as participants progress through the course to ensure maximum benefits.
“Getting out for a walk for a while is great,” Sheila said. “But this healthy habits course is designed to build on that.
“The programme also helps relieve anxiety about the disease, which is a big problem for many. It means you’re taking concrete steps to deal with it, and that always feels good.”
Sheila is seeking funding for Boutros Bear - which is registered at St John’s Innovation Centre - so that she can develop the platform and app to include specific courses for frontline NHS staff and other key workers impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, including detailed PTSD modules designed by psychiatrists.
Having also offered help to cancer patients through her Bosom Buddies group, Sheila also aims to offer cancer prehabilitation and rehabilitation courses online with leading oncologists, physiotherapists and level 4 cancer care-trained personal trainers.
She hopes to collaborate with researchers to capture data that help us understand the role of nutrition, exercise and stress reduction on preventing diseases, particularly cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung and liver disease.
But what of the name?
Boutros means rock and bear means strong and courageous - and Sheila says the aim of the company is to help provide such attributes during a period of uncertainty.
“Our bear will be with you to inspire you to live well during these times, by trying new foods, being physically active, getting out to reconnect with nature, where and when you can,” says Sheila, who lives with husband Robert Marshall, and their two children, near Cambridge.
Visit boutrosbear.com to sign up to the free course.
More by this authorPaul Brackley