Cancer survivors in East Bridgewater can't stop, won't stop
Apr 2, 2017 at 12:01 AM Apr 3, 2017 at 6:38 AM
After four weeks working toward a healthy lifestyle with the Livestrong fitness program, the Livestrong participants have found they're regained energy, confidence and motivation with each session.
Shannon Gallagher The Enterprise SGallagher_ENT
EAST BRIDGEWATER – When Marian Flammio first entered the brightly lit, second-floor fitness studio at the East Bridgewater YMCA and joined the circle of unlikely athletes four weeks ago, she was optimistic– but reminded herself to keep her expectations modest.
As if the breast cancer wasn’t enough, Flammio was suffering from the pain and fatigue, brought on by fibromyalgia, and amplified as a result of the cancer treatment.
Ever since the breast cancer, Flammio confided during that first Livestrong session on March 7, looking around the room at the empathetic faces of six cancer survivors– ever since then it’s been harder than ever to find motivation.
“I’ve had to pull back on my schedule so much, I’ve been so sedentary,” Marian said. “I have a track just across the street from me at home, and I don’t use it.”
While healthy living specialist and lead instructor of the Livestrong program Helen Byrne hasn’t had cancer herself, she’s worked with enough cancer survivors to understand its effects and how to motivate survivors to overcome them.
“What most of them are experiencing is a decrease in stamina, endurance,” Byrne explained to The Enterprise. “They’re energy is not what it was before the treatment.”
Without skipping a beat, Byrne chimed in, telling Flammio confidently, “You’re going to be walking on that track outside your house by yourself.”
Now, four weeks later, Helen’s suggestion doesn’t sound like such an impossibility.
“It’s uplifting,” Flammio said about her time each week with the Livestrong program. “It’s helping me to feel like I can accomplish things even in short periods of time.”
After four weeks working toward a healthy lifestyle with the Livestrong fitness program, the Livestrong participants have found they’re regaining energy, confidence and motivation with each session.
“I come out of here energized,” Flammio said, “I feel like the whole day I have energy.”
And she’s not the only one.
“I feel like my energy has improved,” Lois Sullivan of Halifax said. “I just feel more energized than I did before to maybe get up and do the dishes or get out and go shopping– which can always be dangerous.”
The group meets twice a week for an hour and 15 minutes each day, working with fitness instructors and other specialists, at no cost to the survivors, to regain what cancer has taken from them.
In the past few weeks, Byrne and the other instructors have begun introducing the Livestrong participants to the range of equipment and group fitness classes they can use to get active in the YMCA community.
“The goal is to get them to find out what they like here and to get them to start to come in maybe an extra day a week to work-out independently,” Bryne said. “Because the end goal is to get them to keep coming back.”
Charlie Rubino of Hanson said he’s already looking forward to workouts on his own.
“I’ve learned so much,” Rubino said. “I’ve really never exercised since when I was a kid– but that was another lifetime ago. I definitely feel better. I’ve met new people, new friends and it’s a whole new environment for me. I look forward to coming here on my own and working out.”
During a circuit training exercise on Tuesday, participants rotated between a dozen makeshift fitness stations organized throughout the fitness studio, working out for 30 seconds at each one with tasks such as push-ups, weight lifting, jumping jacks and jogging in place.
Some of the more complicated assignments weren’t always perfectly executed, but as long as participants were being active and trying their best, instructors were satisfied.
“I’ll turn around and they’ll be doing something completely out of the stratosphere, not even close to what they’re supposed to be doing,” Byrne said, “But they’re moving and that’s the whole idea.”
What the cancer survivors can all agree on: it’s the care and guidance of the Livestrong program that gives them the motivation to keep at it, even when the residual effects of chemo start to kick in and the room spins, or the post-radiation fatigue starts to become overwhelming.
“I’ll tell you something: these instructors are so great,” said Jan Nascarella of Whitman, “They’re so caring and patient. And it makes such a difference.”
“I just feel believed in by the instructors,” Flammio said.
Byrne said she’s already begun to notice an improvement in the group from week one.
“I’m already seeing, they’re bonding, they’re kind of becoming a cohesive group,” Byrne said, “They’re starting to step outside their comfort zone.”
In the coming weeks, participants will continue to try new things like zumba, water aerobics, TRX, spin classes and yoga. By week 12, Bryne said, the hope is everyone will have found the exercises they like to do and keep coming back.
“Im just excited,” Flammio said. “I know it’s positively impacting me and the more I move, the more it’s helping.”
The Enterprise is following six East Bridgewater cancer survivors in their 12-week journey through the Livestrong program.
Shannon Gallagher may be reached at email@example.com.