LIVESTRONG AND THE YMCA
My 12-week Livestrong Program at the YMCA ended last week.
The program is free for cancer patients (current or past) and their spouses or caregivers. You can attend a YMCA and have access to facilities and all classes during this time. Oh, and it’s also completely FREE!
This is my personal review of this wonderful program. First, I want you to feel a little of what it’s like to live through cancer. Then, I want to answer a couple of questions.
Specifically, what did this program mean to me?
Why should cancer survivors or anyone currently fighting cancer attend?
STEP INTO OUR SHOES
First, a brief glimpse into what happens during cancer treatment.
In my situation, I was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer from July, 2014 through January, 2016.
I wrote about how my cancer was found here.
What happens to you when you’re now a cancer patient?
During treatment and even years later, your mind, body and spirit become depleted. Doctors, nurses, and volunteers are kind—to a point—but are not there to build you back up.
They are there for one thing: kill the cancer and get you back to square one.
With little room for coddling.
My surgeon had a wonderful bedside manner and showed empathy. He was always good for a warm hug.
Barely recovered from surgery, my oncologist informs me my cancer is HER3+, and I need chemotherapy to make sure all the cancer cells were gone.
She puked it out, then sat there, staring at me.
She might have been a blinking traffic light with the humaness and empathy she showed me.
The nurse? Also a cold fish. Maybe because they’d seen so much suffering, they didn’t want to become emotionally involved.
This is the beginning of losing your humanity.
You’re given the chemo green light. Now what?
More scheduled surgery to install a port inside my chest in order to inject the poisonous drugs into my system.
Every three weeks, 6 sessions of chemotherapy was scheduled, then 18 subsequent treatments of a specific targeted drug called Herceptin,
How long would this take I asked?
I never did get a straight answer, even after posing the question several times.
The actual treatment lasted an entire year.
You feel like you’ve entered a war zone.
Medical personnel place masks over their faces. Nurses sanitize, snap rubber gloves in place, and don hazmed suits to hook up saline solution, and two other liquid drugs to pump through my body.
Very clinical, very matter-of-fact. You’re now a chart, not a human.
The nicest part?
The comfy recliner.
Ah. Relax for three hours. Here’s a magazine.
Three bags of clear liquid are delivered. The first is hooked up to the plugs coming out of my chest.
I look like an alien right now.
#1 hooked up and ready.
Now you hear soothing sounds of the machine.
Whir, click. Whir, click. Whir, click.
Every click sending the silent killer through your veins.
Now, you get your choice of another treat!
A menu is handed to you. Your choice is a dry sandwich of turkey, ham or tuna on bleached white bread, a bag of oily, salty chips, and a can full of sugary soda?
What tops it off?
A cup of pig fat ice cream. Yum. Yum.
How ironic is this at a renowned cancer hospital?
The waiting begins. For what?
Bone weary tiredness, nausea, lack of appetitie, diarrhea.
After spending the night in a hotel room I couldn’t enjoy, I head back to Moffitt for a shot of Nulasta.
The miracle shot!
To boost my white blood cells so I wouldn’t get infection.
My arm stings as if I’d been stung by a hornet.
Once home, I slept three straight days.
I had no appetite, but was encouraged to eat.
We were given a cookbook with great recipes!
My body had to rebuild itself, and after two weeks I began to feel semi-normal again.
That’s my cue. Back to Moffitt for more chemo!
My hair started falling out in clumps, so I had my head shaved. I called myself a Star Trek babe.
I could rub my head in the shower and slough off the remaining prickles.
That was kind of fun.
A bit of peach fuzz stayed on my bald head. You also lose your eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair on your arms and legs. Choosing a wig, I decided to became a redhead until I couldn’t stand the itchiness. So instead I wore a nice little orange bonnet.
Pretty cool, huh?
At least you don’t have to shave for a year. They said some women liked this.
Have you ever heard the term, “Chemo brain?” It’s true.
Chemo causes fuzzy brain.
You can’t think straight along with being tired, sick, fatigued, depressed.
This not only goes on for the entire time you’re getting treatment, but for years afterward.
I still experience some of this and it’s been almost two years since I finished treatment.
Is this everyone’s experience?
No. This is mine.
Some definitely experience longer and more painful treatments than me.
Now, after your body has been beat down, depleted and sometimes defeated, you need some small victories under your belt. A chance to feel human again.
Two years later I stumbled across a newspaper advertisement for the Livestrong program offered by the YMCA. I wrote earlier here how another newspaper article saved my life. What is it with newspapers?
So, why should a cancer survivor attend this wonderful program?
For one thing, it’s 100% F-R-E-E!
At your own pace, you’ll be doing strength training, cardio, stretching, yoga, and tai chi, to name a few. A nutritionist was scheduled and talked about eating healthy food for life.
REASONS TO ATTEND
Need another reason to attend? Here are 10 more:
1) The YMCA has trained and dedicated employees and volunteers who will help you move your body again, and gently push you farther than you thought possible.
Thank you Bill and Cathy at the Suncoast YMCA!
2) You will not be alone. You’ll be going through the program with people that have been in your shoes and know what cancer is all about. You’ll make new friends.
3) You’ll gain a new positive mindset about your body and your life.
4) It’s like a cup of cool water to your spirit.
5) You begin to feel alive again, think life, and eat right to live.
6) You’ll tone up and perhaps lose weight.
7) Your attitude will improve. There’s a glimmer of hope for a better life.
8) Your energy will soar.
9) You’ll stop thinking of yourself as a victim—but instead a victor!
10) You can LIVE Strong AGAIN!
Watch a video testimonial of a Livestrong participant here.
Is it possible for you to feel good again?
I no longer want to be tired, fatigued, and worn out. I want to feel good.
My new motto?
“Live Strong for as Long as I live.”
There’s no doubt this program is a five-star winner.
Get started! Find your own YMCA in your area here.
Here are the links you will need to get started. Do it for yourself, or refer someone you love.
Are you a cancer survivor or know someone who is? Tell me about about it. I’d love to hear from you!