Sunday, March 1, 2015

They Didn't Laugh... #becauseY

We have a tradition at the Y. At most big meetings, someone shares their "Y story." It's a way to remind those of us who work there that the YMCA is much more than just a place to work out. This March, as the YMCA of Central Kentucky conducts our annual fund drive, I want to share my own "Y story." I hope it will inspire you to think, to move, to donate, and maybe even start a Y story of your own. Here's chapter one.

The Five: why had God let me live?
I wasn't dead, and I had no idea why. My Brother-in-law, Aunt. Cousin, and a dear Friend had all been diagnosed with cancer within a few weeks of the day I was. I was the last one alive. With every clear scan, I grew more confident that God had saved my life. The last time I saw him, my Brother-in-law whispered to me through tears of joy, "It's all going to be worth it. God has saved you for a reason." I wanted to believe him, but for the life of me, I could not imagine what it might be.

Mrs P opened her email one morning in the spring of 2011, and called for me to hear it. The YMCA of Central Kentucky was starting a new program, in association with the Lance Armstrong foundation called LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. For twelve weeks, a small group of cancer survivors would work together with a team of personal trainers to build strength, flexibility, and endurance. That was all well and good, but the part that got my attention was a free, three month citywide family membership at the Y. We could spend the summer going to the pool, instead of sweating through the long Kentucky summer. A couple of lame gym classes a week would be a small price to pay. Besides, I had been trying to get strong again.

As soon as I could get out of bed, a month or so after my treatment was over, I started walking. I wondered if I could jog. I had been having a recurring dream about running and flying ever since I started taking Percocet to reduce the pain of my radiation treatments. Years ago, I had tried jogging for a while, but a bout of depression sidelined me. Since then my weight had ballooned to over 400 pounds before cancer treatment almost starved me to death. Now 90 pounds lighter, I started out slowly, and built up to the point where I could walk/run for almost an hour. That winter, I had finished the Shamrock Shuffle 3K. Could I go farther?

I started reading about running, and continued my run/walk journey. As I grew stronger, an impossible, unspeakable dream started to form in my imagination. Could I run a Marathon? I didn't dare ask the question out loud. It was too ridiculous. Only Mrs P knew. But in my dreams, as I slept, I kept on running the country roads around Lexington.

Coach Carrie and Coach Melissa
When I arrived at the Y in June of 2011 for my intake interview, the trainers heard my story and seemed impressed. As we were finishing, they asked me if I had any fitness goals. For the first time, I actually spoke the words to someone besides Mrs P.

"I've been reading about this race in Midway, KY in October. It's called the Iron Horse Half Marathon. I've been having this crazy fantasy about running in it."

They didn't laugh. Coach Carrie looked me straight in the eye. "Absolutely. You can absolutely do that. We can help you get there." Coach Melissa's eyes sparkled as she nodded in agreement.

Mrs P and Mom always talked like that, but I had never had a stranger see such strength and potential in me. As I walked out into the blazing sun, I got the feeling that something very important had happened during my first visit to the YMCA.

I had no idea how right I was.

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