Cancer survivors strengthen their bodies and minds at Boroughs Y
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Region – Launched nationally in 2008, LIVESTRONG at the YMCA began in April 2013 at the Boroughs Family Branch YMCA in Westborough. A collaboration between the YMCA of the USA and the LIVESTRONG Foundation, it’s a physical and wellbeing initiative that helps participants affected by cancer strengthen their bodies and minds. Overseeing the program locally is Wellness Director Christine Salovardos.
“LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a 12-week program offered twice a week, completely free for survivors and their caregivers,” she explained. “It doesn’t matter what stage of cancer they’re at; they can be in treatment or cancer-free for years. The program gives them the opportunity to connect with people who understand what they’re going through in a comfortable environment.”
While Guillermo Fuentes of Marlborough regularly walks for exercise, he had never considered going to a Y until his son suggested LIVESTRONG. A little over four years ago, Fuentes was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive brain tumor. In addition to more structured exercise, he welcomes the program as a chance to share how he has been affected by his diagnosis.
“My life completely changed,” he said. “I had to retire immediately after they operated on my tumor. The operation was on a Friday and I was walking around the hospital by Sunday. They gave me 14 to 16 months to live. Since then, I’ve lived 49 months and I feel good.”
Fuentes said that he’s feeling even better since participating in the LIVESTRONG program. He also mall walks 45 minutes in between the days of the 75-minute classes at the Boroughs Y.
“When I would walk before, my muscles ached the next day, but now this is helping me do a little more every day,” he said. “Whatever is going to happen to me is going to happen, but I want to do the most I can. I hope that in the next year I’ll be exercising more.”
David and Carol Conrad of Upton heard about the program from friends who recommended it after participating at the Springfield Y. Each of the Conrads is now cancer-free after David was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010 and Carol with colon cancer in 2009.
“My wife wanted to do the program and I want to support her in any way I can,” David said. “It’s turned out to be a good thing because we both had become kind of sedentary.”
Now, he’s recommending the program to others.
“I’d recommend this to anyone who wants to get off their rear end and move,” he said. “I told my doctor that I’m doing this program and he’s happy as a clam.”
Groups are limited to six participants. They don’t need to live in the nine communities that the Boroughs Y typically serves. Days and times of classes are determined by the participants’ schedules.
Salovardos said that she’s inspired by each person who participates in the program.
“They come in with different stories and backgrounds,” she noted. “Some had never exercised before and they’re learning how to do it. Others are learning how to exercise again. And some are in the midst of treatment when there are days they don’t want to get out of bed, but they come in here and do their best. We help them get comfortable using the equipment and show them that they can do things they didn’t think they were capable of doing. They’re carrying on and living healthier and more productive lives as a result of this amazing program.”
For registration information for LIVESTRONG at the Boroughs Y, call Salovardos at 508-870-1320, ext. 290. For more information, visit ymcaofcm.org/livestrong-at-boroughs.
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