The YMCA, Ensuring a Brighter Future

Kelli Oldenburg

Renews her health with LIVESTRONG at the YMCA


      As a new breast cancer survivor, Kelli Oldenburg is more physically and mentally fit than before her stunning diagnosis at age 43. She compares her cancer journey to a fast-moving train: “A lot of decisions needed to be made in a relatively short period of time, and you just have to keep moving forward.” When the train stopped, new doors opened to a YMCA program to carry her on to the next, healthier destination. Kelli’s oncologist gave her information about LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, a small-group fitness program for adult cancer survivors. The course immediately appealed to her. Surgery and chemotherapy left her feeling physically weak and lacking self-confidence.


      LIVESTRONG at the YMCA kicked off the Pilot Program in March 2011. “Since then we have had over 300 cancer survivors graduate from our program,” says Denise Malone, program manager. “Kelli's success in LIVESTRONG is directly related to her impeccable attendance and being open to trying new modes of exercise. This has allowed her to find things that she really enjoys doing so that she can continue on this healthy lifestyle journey that was developed during the 12-week program.” Although some days were more difficult than others, Kelli reached her goal to attend each class. “It uplifted me; it was good for my psyche,” she says. “It was a stress reliever, and I knew I was doing something good for myself.” Struggling with fatigue and some pain, Kelli continued her job and LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. “Working and going to LIVESTRONG helped me to feel better about myself,” says Kelli, adding that the love and support from family and friends helped give her strength as well. “I’m so glad the Y offered this program. I don’t know if I would’ve had enough motivation to do it on my own.”


      Following a regular mammogram appointment in March 2014, Kelli was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I never expected it; I was in disbelief,” she says. Kelli relishes the camaraderie of other cancer survivors. “We can all relate to each other’s struggles. I realized I wasn’t alone,” Kelli says. “I can see their inner strength, and it’s so inspirational. I enjoyed meeting these people. They’re all wonderful.” Kelli also couldn’t share enough good things about the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA instructors that give personalized instruction in a group setting. “They’re awesome people. They’re taking time out of their own lives to help you try to get your strength back,” she says. “The whole environment is supportive. There is a common understanding in the class.” Upon graduation, Kelli says she felt mixed emotions: happy about her renewed health and sad the program ended. “Kelli is a very kind and caring person who developed many new relationships with instructors, volunteers, and classmates,” says Denise.


      Then Kelli learned about the follow-up program, "Stronger Together,” a weekly fitness class for LIVESTRONG at the YMCA Alumni. “It allows them to continue exercising with fellow cancer survivors in a safe and comfortable environment,” Denise explains. “They meet in the Fitness Studio and do everything from chair yoga to resistance band exercises to strength circuits.” Today it’s part of Kelli’s cherished routine each Tuesday and Thursday. “This is carved out time for me. There is no excuse for me not to go. Honestly, this is the best I’ve ever felt in my life,” says Kelli, who encourages all cancer survivors to try the program. She’s just one example that LIVESTRONG at the YMCA helps people move beyond cancer in spirit, mind, and body. ~ by Kim Seidel, Seidel Ink LLC