Local Program Gives Cancer Patients Hope, One Workout At A Time

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By: Kara Duffy
February 10 2014

Thomasville, GA- Meet Rita, Fi, and Betty; these are just a few of the people who meet at the Thomasville YMCA to exercise together.

While it may look like just your ordinary workout session, these woman are extraordinary; they're fighters and survivors.

"March 13th, I was diagnosed with breast cancer," said Rita Curles.

"I had just retired from Southwestern in May, and they found out two weeks later that I had breast cancer," Betty Washington added.

Members of the Thomasville Y teamed up with Archbold Memorial Hospital to make sure those battling cancer, like Rita and Betty, have a place to go to find hope.

That's when they came up with the H.O.P.E Program which stands for Helping Oncology Patients Exercise.

Here's how it works; an oncologist refers a patient to the YMCA where they then receive a free six month membership as well as a personal trainer.

"We have 130 classes a week, so they can take part in all those classes," said Kim Smith the program coordinator for the Thomasville YMCA. "We have them swimming, we have them doing yoga, we even have them doing boot camp."

"Their cardiac output gets better, their pulmonary function gets better, their reserves are better so in theory that translates to they're better able to tolerate treatment and once they're through treatment, they recover better and faster," said Dr. Amanda Duncan May, an Oncologist at Archbold Memorial Hospital.

H.O.P.E members say, not only do they feel stronger physically, but also mentally.

"It helps tremendously to be able to come here and exercise and be a part of a group and everyone here is just so loving and caring," Curles said.

"When you're coming and you're smiling and people are saying, 'Oh you've had another treatment? How did you do?' It's just amazing," added Bonnie Spann, a cancer survivor and Thomasville Y member.

Smith says for some, the H.O.P.E Program is life changing.

"I had a lady who had pancreatic cancer and she had lost a lot of weight and she was very weak and she would come and didn't even think she could make it in the door, and the last time I saw her she said, 'Coming to the YMCA is like taking a magic pill,'" Smith said. "They come up here and they think they can't do anything and then they can lift more weight than they did the week before and it just empowers them."

While the road to recovery can be a long one, members of H.O.P.E say, it's a road they'll travel together.

For more information on how you or a loved one can become a member of H.O.P.E visit: www.ymca-thomasville.org.

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