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Rochester YMCA offering free day at the gym for cancer survivors and family members

Rochester YMCA offering free day at the gym for cancer survivors and family members

The Rochester Area Family YMCA is open to all cancer survivors and family members Sunday, June 5 in support of National Cancer Survivors Day.

The Y is dedicated to strengthen the Rochester area community through quality programs featuring youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The Y has been a pillar of strength and support for over 70 cancer survivors the last 2 years through a free program to cancer survivors, LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA. 

“LIVESTRONG® to me means a life transformed. Layers lifted off a new beginning and a fresh start.  LIVESTRONG® is support when and where you need it in a loving, generous and non-judgmental environment. LIVESTRONG® means giving me permission to focus on me - my mental and physical well-being.” -cancer survivor from the LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program. 

A cancer diagnosis brings unknowns to individuals and family members. LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA is a free, 12 week program designed to provide support, encouragement & education on how to live a healthier life in mind, body and spirit. Certified LIVESTRONG® instructors provide the support, instruction and education to the individuals that are part of the program, and family members are also welcome to participate. Over 77 individuals have been part of this group at the Y in less than 2 years. Additional sessions are being planned now for the 2016 year.

One survivor's story

When Mike Poterucha walked into LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA last fall, he was angry. “That first day, I remember walking into the room and thinking I didn’t want to be reminded of my cancer,” he recalls. Mike’s battle with acute myelogenous leukemia was a challenging time for him. He almost died from his treatment and had spent time saying good-bye to his family.  

“When the hospital sent me home, I  remember my niece saying to me, ‘Now you have a new normal.’  But I didn’t want a new normal; I wanted the old normal before cancer.”

At first, Mike wasn’t entirely sure about LIVESTRONG®, a 12-week program for people diagnosed with cancer to help them reclaim their strength. He wondered if the others could relate to him.

One morning before a LIVESTRONG® class, he went to the doctor for his routine blood test. His cell counts were down. “I was so scared,” Mike recollects.“Then, I went to LIVESTRONG®. I shared with the group in tears my dismal news. Everyone knew about the anxiety of testing and the possibility of your life going one way or another. I remember feeling free to share my emotions. Then, another participant asked if she could hug me, and one by one, everyone came forward to show their support.”

This day marked a turning point in Mike’s life.  He came to  realize that LIVESTRONG® offered the emotional and physical support he needed to cope.

Prior to LIVESTRONG®, Mike was rather intimidated about joining the Y. He didn’t have a clue about how to use the exercise machines and doubted his own stamina. But after finishing the LIVESTRONG® program, there was no question about becoming a member. “I now feel at home at the Y,” he smiles, “When I come in for a workout, I am greeted by staff and other members. I feel comfortable  asking when I don’t know how to use a machine or want someone to check my posture. To me, the Y is not just a gym with a pool. That is the skeleton, but the muscles of the body are the relationships.”

Mike ponders what it is about the Y that makes people feel at home. He is certain it has to do with the empathetic members. While he was in the hospital, a nurse came and sat down in his room. She asked him how he felt. She had no agenda and wasn’t there to check on his medical status. She was there to listen. “Her empathy meant the world to me on that day.”

Mike believes that healing happens just by a person feeling he/she has an open door to share. “I see the same culture at the Y, from the employees to the members, who care for one another in a real way. I am grateful to have found a home at the Y.”

To learn more about the LIVESTRONG® at the YMCA program and availability, please contact our LIVESTRONG® staff at 507-287-2260,, or visit our website at

This post was published in partnership with the Rochester Area Family YMCA.

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(Cover graphic: The Med City Beat)

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