We all know someone who has received a cancer diagnosis. There is uncertainty, fear, and the inevitable physical tolls surgery and treatments take on the body. But there is also hope for the journey. LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is helping cancer survivors strengthen their mind, body and spirit.

John and Yvonne Harrison know that journey as well as anyone, as both are survivors of aggressive cancers and recent graduates of LIVESTRONG at the YMCA.

“We have been so blessed by this program because of the people we’ve been with and the people who have worked with us,” Yvonne said.

Yvonne was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. With the likelihood of recurrence high, Yvonne chose to move forward with treatment. Nine years later, John went to the doctor for an apparent pulled muscle in his back. However, the doctors found a 3cm mass on John’s spine. Four hours later, John was in surgery to remove the mass: a high-grade, poorly differentiated, small cell neuro-endocrine carcinoma.

“I asked if I could beat this, and they emphatically said, ‘No.’ They went on to say I had a 50% chance of making it 6 months,” John said. “I told my family, ‘I’m going to whip this thing.’”

As of May 2019, after years of surgeries, treatments and recurrences, John’s recent scans show no traces of cancer.

While their success is a credit to their mindset and doctors, John & Yvonne both credit the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program with helping them make continuing improvements in their health.

The program brings survivors closer to healthy living beyond cancer. Each week includes two 90-minute sessions with cardiovascular conditioning, strength training and balance and flexibility exercises led by trained Wellness Coaches.

Yvonne suffered from shoulder pain and lack of mobility related to her surgery and treatments. After twelve weeks, not only does she have more flexibility but she has gained strength in her shoulder.

When the program started, John used a wheelchair due to his high pain level and weakness. By the end of the program, John was unstoppable on the NuStep,  a recumbent stepper, averaging 170 strokes per minute for 35 minutes.

But they have also found a community of supportive friends.

In addition to exercising, the class spends time each week sharing their stories, devotions and successes.

“LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is great because it focuses on the mind, body and spirit,” Powdersville YMCA Wellness Director Paulo Passini said. “So many programs focus on strengthening the body, but this program also emphasizes building supportive connections, sharing encouragement through the challenges and resting in the strength that comes through our faith.”