YMCA cancer camp helps survivors thrive

- When it comes to hitting the gym, simply surviving is the goal for some people, but the Campo Family YMCA in Valrico is often filled with true survivors.

Like many other branches, this YMCA participates in the Livestrong program for cancer survivors and their families. It's 12 weeks long and free for any cancer survivor. The program is meant to help them rebuild their physical strength while giving them a support system to lean on.

Livestrong coach Keely Seymour says participants often come to them at a low point.

"They feel helpless sometimes. They don't know where to go. They didn't get a lot of follow up after their diagnosis," she explains.

Dina Warych had small cell lung cancer which metastasized to the brain and turned into brain cancer. Her doctors have treated it to the point of being manageable. After her body was beat down with chemotherapy, she turned to the program in hopes of regaining the strength she lost.

Since Dina has completed the course, she is back to a place she never thought she would see again.

"I didn't realize how much stronger I could become. My doctor is very impressed on how much I do have back because he said sometimes you won't get any of it back," she says.

Janna Roome endured surgery, radiation, and three months of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. She is new to the Livestrong program.

While Janna is looking to restore strength she's lost while fighting cancer, she hopes to gain even more.

"I'm going to see I'm not alone and I'm not the only one who says it’s ok that I need a nap every day, and it’s OK that I get sad sometimes," she explains.

Janna's story is a stark reminder that life after cancer isn't easy.

"Everyone really wants to support the person who is going through chemo. Everyone wants them to feel beautiful and great about themselves...But once you're done they're like congrats! Great! You did it! So proud of you! Now go live your life. They forget that you almost don’t remember how to," she said.

The goal of the Livestrong program is to help them remember. Coaches want to show survivors they can be stronger, physically and mentally, than the day they were diagnosed.

Dina Warych has a message for anyone who beat cancer, but is still struggling to get their old self back.

"As soon as you feel better get up and come to the Livestrong program because it's not only about weights and everything. It's about companionship. It's about people being there for you," she said.

For more information on the program or to find a participating YMCA near you, visit http://www.livestrong.org/what-we-do/our-actions/livestrong-programs/ymca/

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