Wareham YMCA helps cancer patients, survivors 'live strong'
Gleason Family YMCA staff honored graduates of the LiveStrong program on Thursday, June 28. The free 12-week fitness series is geared towards adult cancer survivors and patients, helping them to regain strength and confidence as they recover and seek treatment.
"It's probably one of the best things we do," said Senior Program Wellness Director Lu Brito. "People leave so much better than they started."
Among the graduates was 82 year-old Helen Westergard, a brain cancer survivor. Westergard frequented the YMCA when she moved to back to Wareham from Florida 12 years ago, but quickly fell out of her routine when she was diagnosed.
"I knew I wanted to come back after surgery," Westergard said. "But I was afraid I wouldn't be strong enough."
Westergard learned about the LiveStrong program through a friend and made the decision to enroll.
"I had no control over my surgery," Westergard said. "So this was my way of taking it back."
With the help of Brito and personal trainer Mike Gaydou, she developed a routine to work on balance and strength twice a week for three months.
"Folks that have had cancer can still get fit," Gaydou said. "Helen is a prime example of that."
Brito also pointed out that the LiveStrong program helps members to form support systems they may not have otherwise.
Karen Butler, a breast cancer survivor, has been volunteering with the program since her own graduation.
"It helped me feel like I wasn't alone," Butler said. "I'd just moved from Virginia, and I was terrified."
According to Butler, the support and positivity the YMCA offers is unlike anywhere else.
"I fell in love with the community," Butler said. "When you're working with other survivors, you understand each other better. You get to compare notes. It becomes it's own kind of family."
The LiveStrong program runs three sessions a year and is supported by the YMCA's fundraising efforts. It also includes a free three-month membership.
"It's an emotional experience," Brito said. "We just try to do everything we can."