By Dave Molleck
Cancer is a word you never want to hear a doctor say, but unfortunately many of us have heard that ugly word and had to experience this conversation. Instantly you grow cold and the world stops as you try to digest the thought of having cancer and the effects of this disease on both you and your loved ones.
The medical treatments aren’t easy on our bodies, and our minds struggle with mental fatigue as we process the monumental task of overcoming the lack of energy caused by the drugs and treatments of cancer. With the help of the YMCA, and a unique 12-week program, you can find others who share your same dilemma. The Livestrong program is a free program—to members of the YMCA—that helps you build physical and mental strength, and you might build a new group of friends, too.
When I visited this group, I saw smiles and determination rather than sorrow and despair. These survivors were urging success to each other and building friendships. Regardless of race, age, or gender, there was a mutual respect and encouragement by all those participating in the program.
Here are some of the wonderful people participating in this unique program at the YMCA and what they have to say about it:
Lives in Davenport and is fighting the effects of breast and uterine cancer. “I came to the realization that I don’t have to go through this alone. I’ve made new friends and learned that exercise and working out helps with this fight against cancer. It helps to have a support system outside of my family members. I also watch my diet including eating more fruits and vegetables. I’ve been coming to the YMCA for five months, three times a week.”
Lives in Davenport and is a former truck driver fighting the effects of Esophageal cancer that metastasized to his brain. “I come to the YMCA two times a week and have been on the Livestrong program for five years. I feel a lot stronger while doing things like mowing the grass and I have much more upper body strength. To help counter the effects of cancer I eat healthier and exercise more.”
Lives in Davenport and is fighting the effects of breast cancer. “My second diagnosis of cancer, after surgery I had a 75 percent chance of the cancer not coming back. I could have increased my chances with chemo treatments, but I chose to live my life and exercise. This program is more than an exercise regime, it’s a support group and exercise plan geared to your specific needs. The staff is caring and truly concerned about your health. I also participate in Silver Sneakers. I feel this program is also helpful in keeping myself moving without pressure to do anything that I’m not comfortable doing. I truly believe the support from both programs and the staff has helped to make my body, and mental health better. I’m happy, active and on the mend to be cancer free.”
Lives in Bettendorf and is fighting the effects of breast cancer. “I come to the YMCA every other day. I love having someone keeping me accountable and committed to an exercise routine. I have a busy life with six kids at home and being in a program has allowed me to focus on my own health and well-being. I have also found it beneficial to have a program that understands specific limitations someone like me might have. Marli (the trainer), is very knowledgeable and knows what muscles would have been compromised by my mastectomy and potential risks of lymphedema due to node removal. Marli has been able to customize the perfect plan for me. I also enjoy the camaraderie of the group, being that we have all battled cancer in some form. I found out about the Livestrong program from a friend who is also a breast cancer survivor.”
“I strive to eat a diet with less sugar and other foods that cause inflammation. I also joined Hotworx in Bettendorf for the infrared energy and benefits. This helps with pain relief and loose joints after enduring many surgeries.”
Lives in Davenport and is fighting the effects of Breast Cancer. “The exercise helps with my mood, makes me feel better and I have more energy. It helps with my range of motion. I also try to sleep more, eat better, and keep active with things I enjoy. During the cancer treatment, I continued to walk my dogs and I rode my bike 11 miles once a week. I go weekly for a specific massage therapy for scar tissue and range of motion.”
Lives in Davenport and is fighting the effects of Pancreatic Cancer and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. “The staff is amazing! No one talks about the mental health benefits of the Livestrong program, but there are so many! Physically, the benefits have been increased strength, increased endurance, better appetite, and improved balance (I haven’t fallen in months). There’s a sense of community with other participants. Hearing other’s journeys has helped to put perspective on my own journey. This program inspires, motivates, and rewards everyone who participates. You can get out of this program as much as you put into it mentally and physically.”
“I now prioritize what’s important to me and my journey. Foods that I eat and people I associate with, to exercise or not, and what drugs I choose to take. I also open up about my cancer to include fears, hopes, and dreams. I love this program.”
There are many different types of cancers and many different treatments. The treatments can vary depending on the doctor, or type of doctor you choose to trust. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012 and the doctor who found the cancer wanted to use radiation to treat it. Of course, he had a TomoTherapy Radiotherapy System in his office, and he was eager to use it. I then went to an oncologist that started talking about the need to surgically remove my prostate. The second doctor said the TomoTherapy Radiotherapy would likely create more cancer down the road.
Two different licensed doctors with two different treatments. I chose to do “watchful waiting” and changed my diet to whole-food, plant-based nutrition—I’m successful about 80% of the time. After 10 years I continue to monitor my cancer by getting my PSA checked every six months and I’m happy to say that I still have not had to have any treatments and haven’t experienced any negative side effects (my last PSA was 1.9). What worked for me might not work for you, due to the different severities of cancer. But I encourage you to get a second opinion even if that means going outside your area. There are new developments in treatments of cancer every day. And there are internationally known medical groups that focus on the development of new options for fighting cancer. There may be a new option for you to explore.
One thing I think most medical professionals can agree on is the need for exercise and community support while fighting cancer. The YMCA is a great place full of positive attitude and support. The community feeling is abundant as soon as you walk through the front door and all the members I’ve encountered have been extremely friendly. This is a community waiting to welcome you into their programs. Give it a try because you don’t have anything to lose, yet friendships and support to gain.
For more information, contact the YMCA in your area and ask about Livestrong.