Suzy Klimek never asked, "Why me?" when a mammogram spotted her cancer in February 2007. She had eight biopsies, a partial mastectomy and radiation, and she took a low-grade chemotherapy drug for five years to beat it. Fortunately, her cancer was noninvasive, and she had a great prognosis.
That doesn't mean she didn't have low moments. The typically fun-loving, bubbly 58-year-old had to lean on family members and friends during her road back to good health. She continued to work at Runkel Abstract & Title throughout her treatments, too. But the support and sense of worth did little to alleviate her lethargy and feelings of ill health.
A friend told Klimek about the Livestrong exercise program for cancer patients at the YMCA. She enrolled and grew to enjoy the social aspect of the class, the chance to try new classes each week of the series and learning from guest speakers.
The sessions begin with a baseline fitness assessment, and the goal is for participants to see progress in their cardio endurance, flexibility, strength and overall health, and ultimately arrive at a level where they are comfortable exercising on their own and well after the Livestrong program ends.
Klimek is now halfway through the Livestrong program, and she has learned that she can do much more than she thought possible.
"We have the empathy for the word 'cancer' but every case, individual is different," Klimek said. "It's good to be around positive people. You learn from each other."
Dozens of Wausau-area cancer survivors have graduated from the Livestrong program since it began in 2011.
The sessions meet twice weekly for 12 weeks, beginning with a small group discussion time and warm-up. The emphasis is on building strength in the body and mind, but that doesn't mean participants don't make time to socialize, compare battle scars and give each other advice on overcoming cancer.
Most survivors in Livestrong have been diagnosed with breast cancer, although the program, which is held at both branches of the YMCA, is designed for those fighting any form of the disease.
"They look for comfort in one another," said Livestrong instructor Shannon Wagman at the Aspirus branch in Weston.
About half of the participants have been new to exercise and the other half are trying to find "their new normal" after cancer, Wagman said.
The next session of Livestrong will begin in early January at the Wausau branch and in February at Aspirus in Weston. Call 715-841-1854 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
- Carrie Hutton is the communications director at Woodson YMCA in Wausau.