Deb's Story | West Suburban YMCA

Deb's Story

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Participant and Volunteer

My family and I were never members at the West Suburban YMCA. My daughter took an exercise class here, and even then, it was for a temporary need that we fulfilled. It was after I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time and was finishing up radiation in the winter of 2017 that I went to the Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies at Dana Farber Cancer Institute to find out what I could do to get back on my feet. They pointed me towards LIVESTRONG at the YMCA and gave me Jane Carroll’s contact information. I had such mixed emotions of anxiousness and excitement when I made that phone call.

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA was in the middle of a session when I spoke with her, but Jane put me on the waiting list for the following session. I eagerly awaited the start of the program and as the classes began, I was ecstatic and began to feel like I was coming out of my shell. The results of the class were better than what I had expected. I had always been somewhat active before, walking my dog and going to a yoga class regularly. I found it interesting that the first time I was diagnosed, my doctor had never suggested physical activity to help with my recovery and cancer fatigue. With what I was hearing from the community I was gaining from the program, it was becoming more encouraged by doctors and the medical community through a number of research studies that people with cancer should avoid inactivity, and that increases in physical activity could improve physical health, overall quality of life and decreases in cancer-related fatigue.

When the 12-week program ended, I missed it immediately. I missed the community experience of going through this together with people of all different ages and stages of recovery. Not only had we gained physical strength through the class but achieved emotional and mental strength from getting to relate to one another about our experiences. There seemed to be an unspoken rule, we did not have to talk about our cancer and yet some of us would still informally venture into the conversation and connect with one another about what brought us to LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. Since graduating from the program in June 2018, I have come back as a volunteer. I help with small tasks, but to have the opportunity to watch this program through a different lens is truly an amazing experience. Now, I am getting to see first-hand the change the instructors always referred to in my class with these participants. The LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program was able to bring a deeper connection to survivors like me through the shared experience of building strength physically, mentally, and emotionally. I look forward to continuing to give back.

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