The following is a story from a participant in the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Program. LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a 12-week, small group program designed for adult cancer survivors to help survivors feel physically and emotionally strong enough to attempt to return to their normal life or their “new normal.” LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is one of the four model programs available for replication in the 2011 Community Impact Project. YMCA’s should apply to have the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program available to their members.
Name: Fred Ciampi
To lose weight and get in shape before surgery, and to come back from stress and depression.
WHY I DID IT:
In January 2007, I was diagnosed with depression and extreme stress. I was unable to work or even function on a daily basis. I was under the care of a team of medical experts, all working to bring me back to “normal.” I was taking 12 to 15 pills a day, including antidepressants, sleeping pills, blood pressure medication, cholesterol medication and a number of vitamins.
After six months, I was almost back to my old self, and my wife and I planned a visit to New England before I started working again. Before we left, I went for a physical exam, and some of my test results were abnormal. My primary care physician urged me to make an appointment with my gastroenterologist to get a colonoscopy as soon as I returned. (I had just had a colonoscopy two years earlier.)
During the trip, my 35-year-old son was rushed to the hospital, where we discovered he had Stage 4 colorectal cancer. We stood by him during his surgery, the beginning of what would be a 3 1/2-year battle for him. Obviously, my stress and depression came back.
Back in Tampa, I discovered I had Stage 3 colorectal cancer. I had surgery and began 12 weeks of chemotherapy. After the chemo, I found myself extremely depressed and with very little energy. To make matters worse, in December 2009, I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and surgery was recommended on my lower spine. Three different doctors told me that before I could have the surgery, I needed to lose at least 30 pounds. My weight-loss program began at that moment.
HOW I DID IT:
My wife and I visited the New Tampa Family YMCA to see what programs they offered for weight loss. A staff member noticed my Susan G. Komen breast cancer T-shirt, and I mentioned that my wife, Jean, and I are both cancer survivors. The staff member told us about the Y’s LIVESTRONG program. At the time, the New Tampa Y was one of the first in the nation to offer this program, which is a partnership with Lance Armstrong’s LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG program provides one-on-one sessions with trained wellness professionals for three months. Workouts are specifically tailored to your individual needs, be it weight loss, weight gain or strength training.
We signed up and immediately began working out with our trainer, who was a combination drill sergeant, nutritionist and counselor. She taught us about our bodies, including how to exercise and how to eat healthy. After three months, I graduated from the program. I no longer needed a cane or most of my medications, and I was 20 pounds lighter. The best part was I no longer needed back surgery.
We currently participate in the Y’s SilverSneakers classes and the Y’s Personal Exercise Program, which teams you up with a health expert for one-on-one wellness sessions in the gym.
In January, my son lost his battle with cancer. We were able to spend nearly a month with him prior to his passing. I was sad and knew that I could slip back into depression. I knew I had to get back into my wellness routine.
The week we returned to Tampa, I participated in a LIVESTRONG spin-a-thon at the Y. It was difficult to get back into the swing of life, but it was also great to see my friends and know that I had their support and love. Through this whole thing, we’ve learned to lean on each other. That’s the unexpected thing about the LIVESTRONG program, SilverSneakers and the Y in general: We’re a family. We encourage each other, check on each other and witness the positive changes. It’s truly amazing.
GOING THE DISTANCE:
My initial goal was to lose weight so I could have back surgery. Four months after joining LIVESTRONG, I went back to my doctor. He was amazed! I was a changed man.
Today, I’m down 25 pounds from that original weight. I’m back to working part time, and when I’m not working, I’m volunteering with sick children at the Shriner’s Hospital. That’s my new goal, to stay healthy enough to live life actively. I often tease the staff at the Y about making me too well, being healthy again has me busier than ever.
There are times when we all need someone. For me, this someone is my wife and best friend, Jean. Together, we have our friends and extended family at the Y. With this support group we can accomplish anything. If you need help, turn to the Y, they are there for all of us.