Belleville YMCA launches program for cancer patients

LIVESTRONG is a national program but it's the first of its kind in Belleville.

The YMCA in Belleville launched a program just for cancer survivors. Livestromg is a national program but it's the first of its kind in Belleville.

Participants said these classes are not only restoring their strength and confidence, but their will to enjoy life.

Every Wednesday, this group comes together at Downtown Belleville's YMCA to be challenged by a rather energetic instructor.

"The trainer caters your exercises to what you can do and not to what the other person can do," said participant Johnnie Brooks.

Each member works on strengthening different muscles.

"I wanted to have something for a person with my criteria knowing that it's never too late to start an exercise group," said Kathleen Brighton, a cancer survivor and participant.

It's not your typical exercise class. Everyone here has one thing in common.

"The most virulent form of breast cancer that there still is, it's called inflammatory breast cancer,"  Brighton said.

They've all been diagnosed with some form of cancer.

Some like Brighton have been in remission for years.

Brooks however, was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Months of treatments were beginning to take a toll.

"Surgery, chemo, radiation and I was very weak towards the end of the treatment." Brooks said.

He said his oncologist referred him to the YMCA's Livestrong program. Since then, he and other participants are noticing the results.

"This program has given me a lot more energy, strength, balance and just totally helped to build my body back up," Brooks said.

"I may regain full use of this arm, and even if I don't, I'm helping this to be whole," Brighton said.

But aside from physical benefits that are gained through the 12-week program, Livestrong instructor Stephanie Mclaughlin said the bond developed here continues for a lifetime.

"They rally around each other, good days, bad days we always work towards, you know what anybody can do on a given day,"  Mclaughlin said.

The Livestrong program is free to cancer survivors and includes a three-month membership to the YMCA for them and their family.


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