Livestrong at the YMCA is a 12-week, small group program developed in partnership with the Livestrong Foundation to help people who are living with, or beyond cancer.
Many people affected by cancer need support and help dealing with the physical and emotional challenges the disease brings. The Plant City Family YMCA continues to provide that support at no cost to cancer survivors and their families.
Livestrong is designed for adults who have become de-conditioned or chronically fatigued from their treatment and/or their cancer. The YMCA offers a safe, supportive environment where participants have the opportunity to improve their functional ability and to strengthen their body as well as their mind and spirit.
Every Livestrong participant has a unique story. We have people come to us at different ages, with different types of cancer and at different stages of treatment or beyond. One of our graduates, Lisa Browder, went through the program in 2016. She talked with me about what made her come to the Y, what she got from the program and what keeps her coming back.
Before cancer, Browder was very active and healthy. She was diagnosed in 2016 with stage 3 breast cancer and immediately started chemotherapy to reduce the tumors before surgery. After four months of chemo, she had neuropathy in her hands and feet and gained 36 pounds.
“Everybody else gets cancer and gets skinny, and I got cancer and got fat,” she joked.
She had a double mastectomy and, two months later, she underwent another surgery to remove lymph nodes. After that, she drove to Moffitt Cancer Center for rehabilitation twice per week. She had the option to continue rehab in Tampa for another 16 weeks but chose to do Livestrong instead.
Browder called us to ask if her mom, who was already living with bone cancer for five years, could do the program with her. They were able to go through the program together. After an initial meeting and assessment, they met twice per week with a Livestrong coach for their workouts. Lisa said that one of the best things about Livestrong is how individualized the program is.
“We had set goals at the beginning of the program,” she said. “My goal was to be able to run two miles without stopping. My mom‘s goal was just to be able to stand for five minutes, so her goals were very different than mine.”
The assessment at the beginning was very important to Browder. Even though she was attending with her mom, she didn’t want to be lumped in the same category.
“She has bone cancer and I had breast cancer,” she said.
The post-assessment was a big benefit to Browder. Due to her node dissection surgery, she still does not have full range of motion in her right arm, but to see how much further she was able to reach versus the day she started was a win.
Browder says the support system she gained from Livestrong was unexpected. She explained that they would meet, talk about how their week was going and whatever they wanted to share and then they would exercise with the Livestrong coach there to guide them and help them to each reach their own goals.
“There is absolutely nothing to lose,” she said. “Why would you not? You have everything to gain from this program.”
Angela Fulgieri is the Wellness Experience Director at the Plant City YMCA. Contact her at email@example.com.