Cancer survivors find opportunities at the Y after treatment

Holly Frei, 76, credits the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program with saving her life.

It’s not an exaggeration.

Before cancer, Holly was an ardent walker and quilter.

After her double mastectomy, radiation and subsequent treatments, the debilitating side effects left her fatigued, off balance and dealing with neuropathy. The only reason she got off the couch was to help take care of her grandkids after school.

“I knew I was in trouble,” she says. “I hurt all over. I had no umpf.”

She joined the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA’s 4th group in January 2017. The program helps cancer survivors regain their well-being, strength, flexibility and confidence after diagnosis and treatment.

It quickly became obvious that she felt better after her semiweekly sessions at the Eugene Family YMCA. She started the fitness routine slowly but her energy gradually came back and her body didn’t hurt as much.

“You can’t fight off cancer if you don’t feel well,” she says.

Throughout the following 12 weeks, Holly made friends with the people in her cohort. Those friends made it easy to meet at the Y for other classes.

“Since I moved here shortly before my cancer diagnosis, my friends are all connected with LIVESTRONG or my cancer support group,” she says. “But that means that we understand each other in an important way.”

She also felt deeply connected to the program’s Y instructors Colleen Glick and Lisa Milton.

“Colleen and Lisa are nurturing and they really care,” she says. “I respect and admire those two and I couldn’t have done it without them.”

It’s been two years since Holly graduated from the LIVESTRONG program but she never left the Y. Every Tuesday and Thursday, she meets her friends at the Basic Strength group exercise class and she enjoys their company at LIVESTRONG potlucks once a month.

“In life, there’s quality and quantity,” she says. “I’ve had a long life, but I’m looking for a good quality life. I have that now—along with the camaraderie of my friends in the movement center.”