building a support system to last a lifetime. I'm excited every time I come in here," says Rita Avila, a local cancer survivor. "I know that when I come in here I will always see a smiling face." But what makes this LiveStrong workout group so unique is the one thing the all of the group members have in common; they are all cancer survivors. "We focus on the whole person," says LiveStrong Project Manager, Ashton Caton. "We focus on healing the mind body and spirit."
"You need something and people and support to get you back into life again," says Jan Horton. Horton was diagnosed with breast cancer in September of last year. "I was told I wasn't going to have chemo. Then I was told, 'guess what, you're going to oncology and you're going to have chemo.'" After having a mastectomy and battling the disease head-on, Horton has now been in remission for six months and counting. But like many other cancer survivors, the treatments left her weak. "Chemotherapy drains you mentally physically." Horton says while rebuilding her strength through specialized training and exercise is awesome, there's another component to the program that she's thankful for. "You're together with other cancer survivors," says Horton. "They know exactly what you're going through." Horton's husband Bennie agrees. "The support system it provides gets you over that initial let down of 'I'm done.' But you're really not done."
Like other cancer survivors in the program, their focus now is getting their health back. "I know that if I have a problem then I can talk to them about it even if it's not workout related," says Avila. In the process, the group members are also making life-long friends along the way. "Cancer is a very isolating experience," says Avila. "When you learn that there are other people out there that have gone through the same stuff, it makes it feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulder."
"To know that someone thinks this was a blessing after their cancer diagnosis makes my job that much more meaningful," says Caton. The hope now is that this tight-knit group will continue to grow as word gets out about the LiveStrong program.
"We share our problems and we share our fears of getting cancer again," says Horton. "But this program knocks all that out." And from one survivor to others who haven't already heard about it, their message is simple; there is life after cancer.
"You just have to go on," says Horton. "Go on and enjoy every day because you have been given another life for another day."
The program is offered free to survivors thanks in part to several grants. To learn more about the LiveStrong program at the Rogers YMCA, click here.