Stay Strong Program and YMCA Provide Strength to People Undergoing and Recovering from Cancer

Betty Lou Walsh Brown and Theresa Brewer

Betty Lou Walsh Brown was first diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago and in 2014 her sister Theresa Brewer discovered she too would undergo treatment for the same disease.

During a time of what seemed like constant despair, Betty Lou had a conversation with Kathy Woodhouse, breast health nurse manager for Horizon Health Network. From that moment forward the sisters’ attitudes confidently changed.

“Kathy told me that Theresa and I needed to go to the Y for the Stay Strong Program,” she said.  “She gave me a brochure and said she was signing us up.”

At that moment the sisters didn’t realize the benefits they would receive from the Stay Strong Program, but today they are encouraging other cancer patients to get involved.

“After the program we joined the Y and keep coming because it really does make you feel good,” Theresa said.

Stay Strong is a unique 12-week, free exercise program at the YMCA of Greater Saint John for all ages undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and hormonal therapy treatment for various cancers. The main objective of the program is to minimize the negative side effects that people tend to experience from cancer treatments. It also helps to improve quality of life and allows individuals to maintain their independence.

And the sisters explain how it’s more than just being active; it’s about the relationships you build throughout the Stay Strong program as well.

“There were two men in our program and they just wanted to talk to someone who was going through a similar situation,” Theresa said.  “You build relationships that also help you feel better about what you are going through.”

Even though Betty Lou and Theresa are finished the program, they still feel as though they are reaping the benefits they received.

“While we are exercising at the Y, the Stay Strong staff follow up with us and make sure we are doing okay,” Betty Lou said. “People should come because it makes you feel better, and although your body is down and you are going through Chemotherapy, when you leave the Y you feel good and you want to do more.”

Today you can find the sisters taking in an Aquafit class or walking the indoor track at the Saint John Regional Y.

“The Stay Strong program didn’t only physically benefit us, but it helped us mentally as well,” Betty Lou said. “It gave us our confidence back.”