Try as we might to ignore it, cancer demands our attention. October is Work Out for Pink month at the YMCA. We ask members to wear pink when they work out to help increase awareness of breast cancer and celebrate those who have overcome it. The Y has programs in place to support these overcomers and guide them to regain their strength after fighting such a difficult battle.
Cancer is devastating in many ways. “Not knowing what the outcome will be is emotionally devastating,” said Sheila McGill, Healthy Living Director at Katy YMCA. “It’s devastating financially because it’s so expensive with the treatments, doctor’s appointments and hospital bills. It’s physically devastating. One round of treatments can knock you out for a week.”
Y member Jeanne M. is familiar with this devastation. The months following her stem cell transplant and cancer treatments left her feeling weak and isolated. Simply walking down the hall made her winded.
Jeanne heard about the LIVESTRONG program at the Y and decided to sign up. LIVESTRONG helps cancer survivors improve their physical and emotional well-being. Some days participants go swimming, some days they take a yoga class and some days they just get outside to be active.
LIVESTRONG Coach Karen Peters said she has had participants come in to class who could barely walk. After four weeks of participating, these individuals were taking line dancing classes.
Jeanne says the class was the first “cancer perk” she experienced.
“The program is primarily an exercise program,” said McGill. “It focuses on getting cancer survivors back to their regular level of activity. More importantly, it provides a social setting to bring people together and help them know they are not alone.”
The Y provides this program with a community of support and a safe place to meet together. The first meeting of class is a time when participants can share their testimony or just listen to others’ stories. Because the class is normally around five to seven people, it’s easy for classes to bond quickly. This bonding and vulnerability helps participants heal.
“The Y is a place for all of us to heal and strengthen our spirit, mind and body,” said Charlotte Vargo, Healthy Living Director at Langham Creek YMCA. “Cancer survivors can do this in the pool, group exercise classes, wellness center or simply meeting with friends in the lobby for coffee. As a pioneer for healthy living, the Y offers community support in an environment hospitals and clinics cannot.”
LIVESTRONG is funded through each Y center’s Annual Campaign, so it is available as a free service to anyone who qualifies. Participants also have free access to the entire Y facility.
“Our goal is to introduce them to a lot of different classes, workout equipment and water activity so they can find out what they like and do it on their own after the class,” said McGill.
Thanks to her participation in LIVESTRONG, Jeanne rebuilt the muscles that had deteriorated as a result of the disease. It wasn’t easy, but she saw improvements in how she felt and what she could accomplish.
“We help cancer survivors become productive, strong and determined people,” said Peters.
Jeanne’s story is a testament to the impact the Y and LIVESTRONG have on a person’s life. “The LIVESTRONG program helped me so much,” said Jeanne. “I got my strength back so I got my independence back, which encouraged me and gave me hope.”
The class is offered to all ages of people from all walks of life. It brings together people who may not think they have much in common and forms a community that gives and receives help from one another.
“The Y is part of the support system that survivors need,” said Vargo. “We are all survivors in some way or another. We all fight battles, but it is an easier fight when we have a community behind us.”
Find out more about Work Out for Pink.
Find out more about LIVESTRONG.