LIVESTRONG Program Going Strong at the Rye Y

While Lance Armstrong’s final place in sports history will be determined by future generations, there’s no doubt that the LIVESTRONG foundation (established in 1997) and his leadership of it will be seen as a major turning point in the fight against cancer.

a3ivingstrongTHUMB
Published September 7, 2012 1:52 AM
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a3ivingstrongTHUMBWhile Lance Armstrong’s final place in sports history will be determined by future generations, there’s no doubt that the LIVESTRONG foundation (established in 1997) and his leadership of it will be seen as a major turning point in the fight against cancer.


By Bill Lawyer


a3ivingstrongWhile Lance Armstrong’s final place in sports history will be determined by future generations, there’s no doubt that the LIVESTRONG foundation (established in 1997) and his leadership of it will be seen as a major turning point in the fight against cancer.

 

Right here in Rye we have a perfect example of the goals, programs, and successes of LIVESTRONG.

 

According to Haley Gardiner, LIVESTRONG’s manager of community programs and engagement, “Since 2007, LIVESTRONG has provided more than $2.5 million in funding to support the development and expansion of the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program. She added, “This grant covers the costs of training and supporting program sites and a one-time grant of $3,500 to each of the 100+ YMCA Associations.” LIVESTRONG At The YMCA programs are taking place in 25 states, including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

 

The program is free for participants, who also receive a full Y membership for three months. Each receives a two-volume guidebook that is a “companion for cancer survivors as they navigate the health care system. It contains helpful information and journal spaces that help survivors address the physical, emotional, and practical concerns they may have during the cancer journey.”

 

Rye’s Y took on the LIVESTRONG program nearly a year ago. It’s the only one in Westchester County. The Rye Y actively applied to be part of the program, as an extension of their Activate America initiative. The program costs the Rye Y $475 per participant.

 

Among the over 90 participants who have “graduated” from Rye’s program is my wife Sharon. Last summer she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She underwent surgery in late August followed by intensive chemotherapy through mid-January of this year.

 

By chance, I happened to get a flyer that month from the Y about their LIVESTRONG program, which I passed along to her. She contacted the Y’s Laura Tiedge, Director of Healthy Living, who manages the program. After “passing” a screening process to determine her physical ability, desire, and commitment, Sharon was enrolled in the summer session, along with nine other “girls of summer”, as they called themselves.

 

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a 12-week, small group (maximum ten persons) program designed for adult cancer survivors. It provides support in the transitional period between completing their cancer treatment and the becoming physically and emotionally strong enough to return to their normal life or their new normal.

 

The program is conducted outside of medical facilities to emphasize that LIVESTRONG is about health, not disease.

 

The goal is to help participants build muscle mass and strength, increase flexibility and endurance, and improve functional ability. Additional goals include reducing the severity of therapy side effects, preventing unwanted weight changes, and improving energy levels and self esteem.

 

And, the program provides participants a supportive, all-in-this-together environment. For those not already Y members, LIVESTRONG is a great “free test-drive.”

 

YMCA fitness instructors work with each participant to fit the program to their individual needs. The instructors are trained in the elements of cancer, post rehab exercise, and supportive cancer care. Participants get specific activity sheets and work at their own pace, with two instructors assigned to each group.

 

As Sharon describes it, “We were not exactly in the peak of health, and we were definitely a challenge for the fitness instructors. But everyone on the Y staff, starting with Barbara Hughes, the membership director, made us feel that we had value and potential.”

 

The program was not for everyone. By the sixth week, the group was down to seven participants. Those remaining developed a close bond and a strong sense of loyalty to the program.

 

The demand for participation has been so high that the Y expanded it to four overlapping groups at one time. “We didn’t need to promote the program,” Tiedge said, “because we were getting referrals through the Cancer Coalition of Westchester County.” With help from RyeTV, they produced a very moving video, which features comments from program participants.

 

The Rye Y is planning a promotional and fundraising campaign to tie in with national LIVESTRONG Day, which is Tuesday, October 2. They are also looking to work with the Rye-based Sole Ryders organization.

 

The bottom line, according to Sharon Lawyer, is “that on this journey I have people to help me live better – a goal I never imagined one year ago.”

 

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