To the untrained eye, the people who meet at the Thomasville YMCA every Tuesday and Thursday morning look like any other.
But, they all have something in common -- each is battling or has battled cancer -- and is a participant in the "Helping Oncology Patients Exercise", or 'H.O.P.E.' program.
Started in October of 2010 as a partnership with Archbold Memorial Hospital's Oncology Center, the program is open to local cancer patients and those who've been in remission up to a year.
Says YMCA fitness and wellness director Kim Smith, "This has been such a blessing to everybody that's involved ... not only do we exercise with them, but we do a support group with them. They're our friends -- we've built relationships with these people."
But not all participants joined the group willingly.
Jean Murphy was one such reluctant individual who resisted her doctor's advice to join the group.
Says Murphy, "After I had my chemo treatments I didn't want to do anything. I just wanted to lay on the couch. I said, 'You just go on an leave me alone and let me lay here."'
But after three months attending H.O.P.E. workout sessions, Murphy says her outlook has changed.
She says, "It's made a dramatic difference, mentally and physically, because mentally you're just as wiped out as you are physically, so being around the girls, doing the exercise, interacting with them, it;'s been just a blessing to me."
Other participants agree.
Says Debbie Hogan, a breast cancer survivor, "It just makes you feel like you can conquer the world!"
YMCA officials say they're hopeful the program will continue breathing new life into people who may have momentarily lost their spark.
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