Sep 30, 2010 Judy Salamone Uncategorized
For months, Eileen Altieri, 70, was not feeling well. She was tired and weak and just wasn’t herself. She didn’t want to go to the doctor, as she feared the worst. Finally, last January, with some coaxing from her daughter, Altieri, who lives in Syracuse, made the call.
“I was visiting my daughter in Brooklyn and she said to me, ‘mom, if you don’t call the doctor, you are being selfish,'” Altieri recalled. “I called and I got an appointment right away.”
Altieri’s fears were realized as she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs and liver and the doctor gave her just three months to live.
“I was numb,” she shared. “All of those months I talked myself out of going to the doctor because I was scared. I was foolish and now I had to face this head-on.”
Altieri immediately had surgery to remove a tumor and began her chemotherapy treatments at Brittonfield in East Syracuse. One day, as she was waiting for one of her treatments, she noticed a LIVESTRONG at the YMCA brochure on the table next to her. She picked it up and started reading.
“It was funny, I was sitting there, thinking to myself, ‘gee, what if there was a program out there where people who were battling cancer or who battled cancer could get together for support and workout’ When I looked down, saw the brochure and started reading it, I was amazed. What a Godsend.”
Since October of 2009, the YMCA of Greater Syracuse has offered the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA physical activity and well-being program. Over 100 cancer survivors have participated in the program which is offered at the three branches-Downtown, East Area Family YMCA, and the North Area Family YMCA.
The program, which is free to YMCA members and non-members, addresses the special wants, needs and interests of cancer survivors. The programs and services have been developed for and with cancer survivors, which include services in the area of wellness and childcare.
This Saturday, Oct. 2, each of the three branches of the YMCA of Greater Syracuse will be celebrating LIVESTRONG DAY at the Y.
Altieri began the Strive & Thrive Program at the East Area Family YMCA in April. Strive & Thrive is for adult cancer survivors who wish to build muscle strength, increase flexibility and endurance, improve overall functional ability, and reduce the severity of therapy side effects.
The program incorporates stretching, balance, core work and strength training and consists of 6-8 participants.
“I was always active,” Altieri said. “When I started the program in April, I was very weak. I came in very thin and really needed to build muscle mass and strength.”
During her first few weeks of the program, Altieri was only able to lift five-pound weights. By the end of the program in July, she was back lifting 15-pounds, her pre-illness weight, and bench-pressing 100-pounds.
“The support of the trainers at the Y is amazing,” said Altieri, who continues her workouts. “They push you in an encouraging way. They definitely encourage you to stretch yourself and do more. I walk out of there (the exercise room) on cloud nine.
“More importantly,” she added. “The sense of community is what it’s all about. We are all here because of a commonality. But, we don’t talk about our illness. It’s all very positive. It’s just a magnificent program.”
Altieri said that her cancer is almost gone. Her lungs are clear and her liver is almost back to normal. And, she no longer thinks about the prognosis that the doctor gave her back in January.
“The LIVESTRONG Program at the Y has been beneficial to me in so many ways,” Altieri said. “Once you begin to feel better, there’s more hope, you feel more powerful and it reinforces a positive attitude. I feel so good, I forgot how I felt when I first came in.”
Judy Salamone is the membership and marketing director at the East Area Family YMCA. Judy has been a freelance writer and editor for the past 25 years.
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