By Christine Bryant
Last year, a diagnosis of incurable prostate cancer rocked Jim Wade’s world.
The popular westside resident, who has served as DJ for the annual Hilltop Bean Dinner, slipped into depression, unsure of what his future held. Doctors advised him to begin hormone therapy and radiation treatments, which eventually shrank the cancer cells. Tests showed, however, they still remained.
Though he had the unwavering support of his family, it was difficult for Wade to talk with those who had not experienced what he was going through. That’s when he turned to the Hilltop YMCA, which offers adults affected by cancer a safe, supportive environment to participate in physical and social activities focused on strengthening a person as a whole.
In 2008, the YMCA partnered with Livestrong to help cancer survivors begin the journey toward recovery through the initiative.
The program, Wade says, changed his life.
“The LIVESTRONG program turned me around and took me away from my depression,” he said. “It made me try harder and inspire others to try harder.”
In 2012, the YMCA of Central Ohio applied to offer the program as a pilot in one location, said Caroline Rankin, director of chronic diseases at the YMCA.
“We needed to prove as a community there was the need for the program and that we could support it,” she said. “We were given the opportunity and started with the Hilliard Y in 2012.”
In 2013, the YMCA expanded to five more branches, and in 2014, it was offered at all 12 full facility YMCA branches.
The free, 12-week program is offered at the Hilltop YMCA, 2879 Valleyview Drive, Columbus, and meets twice a week for 90 minutes, using traditional exercise methods to ease participants back into fitness and help them maintain healthy weights. The program is funded through grants and fundraising.
“The program helps survivors gain strength, endurance and improve flexibility and balance,” Rankin said. “In each class, participants engage in certain activities on the wellness floor and then also try the different activities the Y has to offer.”
These include yoga, cycling, swimming and Zumba, she said.
“Basically any class or activity that is offered at the branch is an option,” she said. “The survivors and instructors for the program select different activities, so there is always a variety.”
Because no one experiences cancer in the same way, participants come to the program with different physical challenges and lifestyle goals. LIVESTRONG provides them with individualized attention and an approach to recovery that targets the areas they need to rebuild, Rankin said.
For Wade, the program also provided an opportunity for him to connect with other local residents battling the physical and emotional toll cancer takes.
“We all took an interest in each other,” he said.
Later this month, Wade will head back to the doctor to find out whether his cancer has grown again. He says no matter the results, he is thankful for the last year the program helped give back to him.
“I feel like I’m in a good place however long I have,” he said. “I’ve had this year to inspire others, so I’ve won no matter what.”
To participate in the LIVESTRONG program, Rankin says a YMCA membership is not required and is open to all cancer survivors. If interested in attending, contact the YMCA of the Central Ohio branch interested in visiting.
For more information, call 276-8224.