Empowering cancer survivors to improve their quality of life through a program of fitness and health.
Medical studies have proven that exercise can help minimize and manage the associated side effects from cancer and treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Exercise training can restore physical function, enhance quality of life, and mitigate side effects such as fatigue, depression, lymphedema, and other health-related changes. Fit to Fight provides a positive, exercise-based program for cancer survivors to re-establish trust in their bodies and maximize health, movement, and function across an individual's lifespan.
A licensed Physical Therapist directly oversees the program for ongoing development, screening, and mentorship of participants and the University of Montana Student Physical Therapist volunteers. Fit to Fight is a free program for cancer survivors to promote fitness and health from the time of diagnosis through the balance of life. The format is a small, organized group setting with individual tailoring. Each session consists of education and activities focused on the body as a whole to address the musculoskeletal, lymphatic, cardiopulmonary, and neuromuscular systems through balance, breathing and relaxation, endurance, strength, and functional training. This program does not replace the importance of individualized skilled physical therapy that one may require.
We aim to create a community, camaraderie, and a positive support system for cancer survivors. We focus on expanding an individual's activity tolerance, functional capacity, and quality of life through movement and education to assist in meeting one's health and wellness goals.
Aspen is a physical therapist at Alpine Physical Therapy South and Clinical Director for Fit to Fight. Aspen grew up in Missoula, Montana and received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Montana in 2018. Aspen has seen the positive impact this program offers for participants in rebuilding confidence in movement, strength and ability to return to life's activities. She is excited to be a part of Fit to Fight in order to share her passion for exercise and movement in this unique setting.
As program coordinator, Keesha leads our participants through exercise sessions designed to provide education about the benefits of movement and help participants accomplish their goals. Keesha hopes that Fit to Fight can foster a positive environment around exercise and help participants feel empowered to improve their quality of life. Keesha earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from Washington State University in 2018. She moved to Montana quickly after graduation and was enthralled by the adventures to be had in all the beautiful mountains. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Physical Therapy at the University of Montana and will graduate in May 2024.
Keesha enjoys being active outdoors during any season while hiking, running, biking, cross-country skiing and paddleboarding.
Sam Schmidt, PT, MPT, NCPT
Sam is a physical therapist and co-owner of Alpine Physical Therapy and PhysioTrekk, a walk-in, urgent care physical therapy, both in Missoula, MT. Sam is the co-founder of Fit To Fight and is currently serving as the Co-Chair of the Fight To Fight Board. Sam has witnessed the positive impact the program provides not only to the participants but to all the volunteers and staff. The program’s unique model of exercise, education, and group support offers a successful journey in renewing one’s trust in their body from strength to endurance to pursuits in all aspects of life. It is why Sam continues her commitment to the board and the organization.
Terry Carlson joined the FTF Board in 2017. She is a retired Soil Scientist, an outdoor enthusiast, and a cancer survivor. As I reflect on why I like being on the Fit to Fight board, my thoughts drift to being part of a community and encouraging people to stand strong against cancer. Based on experiences during my own cancer journey I can’t imagine healing from treatment without the benefits of being active and support from friends and family. The Fit to Fight Mission Statement is very powerful; I believe that quality of life is improved through a program of fitness and health and the support of those around us.
Natalie is Missoula an attorney with Cotner Law Firm in Missoula, MT. She has a diverse practice which includes family law, employment law, and general civil litigation. In addition to serving on the Fit to Fight Board Natalie is a board member of the WestSlope Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Andrew Larson is a born and raised Montanan. After college, he wandered to both coasts for about a decade before finding his way home in 2008. He has been a commercial banker for First Security Bank since landing back in MT. He feels lucky to call Montana home, and the availability to explore the outdoors with his wife and three daughters.
Cancer had a big impact on Andrew and his family with the loss of his father-in-law to Leukemia in 2002.
TESSA PERESSINI, CPA
Tessa is a CPA and Senior Manager specializing in taxation at Wipfli LLP. She is currently serving as the Secretary of the Fit To Fight Board.
Cancer impacts every family at some point, directly or indirectly. Tessa has been greatly impacted by the positive results this program has had on cancer survivors in our community. The built-in support system for participants who are all experiencing a huge trauma in their lives is irreplaceable. Tessa is inspired and amazed everyday by people overcoming the biggest obstacle anyone can face.
Teri has sat on many non-profit boards including 12 years as a founding board member with the Traveler’s Rest Preservation Heritage Association. Teri works at PEAK Health and Wellness. She is a life-long Missoula County resident and enjoys many outdoor activities with her husband.
Cancer has touched 10 members of Teri’s family. She shares Fit To Fight’s high level of commitment to participants.
Jenn is a physical therapist and the Program Director and Director of Clinical Education at the University of Montana School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science. For nine years, Jenn has been teaching students at UMPT about the importance of physical activity and exercise on preventing and managing cancer. She is a strong believer that exercise programs like Fit to Fight provide essential physical activity and social support for people fighting and recovering from cancer. She is excited to be a Board Member since 2021 and looks forward to continuing to support this life changing organization.
Ron Veilleux joined the FTF Board in 2010. He is the owner of MT ErgoFit, a company who assists employees with their health and comfort at work through ergonomics. Ron’s passion for the Fit to Fight program started when his mother was battling breast cancer and has continued as he has begun his own personal journey through cancer treatment.
Jen Fivecoat joined the FTF board in 2022. She is the Group Fitness Director and a personal trainer at The PEAK Health and Wellness center in Missoula. Jen specializes in exercise programming for people with chronic conditions and physical limitations. She has over 15 years working with a variety of clients including stroke recovery, joint replacement, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders and cancer recovery. As a breast cancer survivor, Jen has a special connection with those who have fought and survived. Based on her own cancer journey, she has experienced firsthand the vital role that exercise plays in recovery not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Jen’s greatest joys in life are her children Zane and Kelcie, son-in-law Josh and granddaughter Isla.