MUNCY - Fighting for cancer can be a struggle for most, but the East Lycoming YMCA has a diagnostic remedy to build community support and create an atmosphere that is "very welcoming."
These survivorship programs for those diagnosed with cancer have been a rewarding experience for both trainers and survivors at the ELYMCA in Muncy Township.
According to program director, Stacy Eckert, LIVESTRONG is a new 12 week program introduced at the Y this year and is tailored for anyone over the age of 18 diagnosed with any kind of cancer.
BARB BARRETT/The Luminary
Trainers for LIVESTRONG at the ELYMCA are Stacy Eckert, Elisa Allen, Kathy Haines and Pat James. Donors, staff and survivors all receive a special t-shirt for the program.
The program itself was introduced in 2007 as a customized physical and holistic regime catered to individual needs of those with cancer to help them get stronger. Different classes suit different persons explained Eckert. "We offer yoga, some take nutritional courses, and personal physical training." Membership to the Y is open up to their families as well during the 12 weeks. "There is never a fee. It is totally subsidized."
A partnership with UPMC Susquehanna Health has been established and doctor referrals are made to the River Valley Regional YMCA. Bradford County was a co-pilot for LIVESTRONG. It is designed to get survivors back on their feet with a three month membership. "We will run three of these LIVESTRONG programs a year," Eckert said.
The first LIVESTRONG program at ELYMCA was introduced on January 23, 2017 and will run until April 14.
Instructors are trained in cancer survivorship, post-rehabilitation exercise and supportive cancer care. There are three trainers at the ELYMCA working with LIVESTRONG.
Elisa Allen, Wellness Director and trainer, said, "We work in small groups." There are ten active members who come two times a week for 90 minutes at a time with close to 80 percent attendance. "From day one of a diagnosis, with a medical clearance, you can be in this program," said Allen. Some group sessions work on personal training, cardiovascular strength, balance and physical well-being. Others enjoy swimming and weight training.
The benefits are many. Overall, they build strength, physical fitness, diminish side effects of therapy, develop supportive relationships and improve quality of life.
An initial test is given to determine flexibility and strength. "They move as much weight as they can do," explained Allen. "It is based on what is going on with them." Sometimes the training can be intense. It is physical, emotional and mental. "We want them to get healthy and we have a community for them here at the Y," said Allen.
"They are not done in 12 weeks. We have an alumni program, and scholarships offered too on a sliding scale." It takes $3300 to run one session of LIVESTRONG at the ELYMCA. Some sessions are offered in the evenings while others are available mid-afternoon.
Community support, donations and grant funding give the program its stability. "This program is not going away. We want to keep offering it," added Allen. Some areas now have a wait list and there are now five counties who are participating in the program.
A fundraiser, "Locks of Love" is set for Saturday March 11th at the Williamsport Branch at 10 a.m. for anyone willing to donate 8 inches of clean hair. Proceeds will benefit LIVESTRONG and all hair will be donated to make wigs for cancer patients.
Sponsorship options are also available starting at twenty dollars. Monetary donations are also accepted.
The Livestrong Foundation was part of the Lance Armstrong Foundation established in 1997 to improve survival rates and quality of life for cancer survivors.