This is a guest blog from my husband, Steve. As many of you know, he was diagnosed back in 2002 with squamous cell carcinoma that had metastasized to the lymph nodes in his neck. His oncologist couldn’t find where the Stage IV cancer was spreading from (“unknown primary”). Finally in August of 2009, the tumor was found in his pharynx, at the base of his tongue.

This YMCA program is just what the doctor should have ordered. Six months out of chemotherapy, I was down to below 140 lbs (I’m 6’1″) and dragging butt. Maya Papaya was doing what she could, bringing me her leash so she could take me for walks. But my comeback was moving like the line to get a seat on the plane.

I went to the Y to check out their Tai Chi class and let it slip that I was recovering from chemo. They told me they had aFREE program for cancer survivors.

LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is a free, twelve-week, small group program for adult cancer survivors who have become weak and tired from their treatment and/or the cancer. The program is offered without cost to the participants.

About eight of us joined the second class offered at the YMCA Northwest.  Becky Behling, a certified personal trainer introduce us to the correct way to warm up, stretch, and work out. She, with occasional support from other YMCA instructors, taught us to use a whole bunch of props to exercise with: exercise balls, elastic bands, step boards, free weights and the gym machines, as well as chairs and walls.

We were introduced to yoga, Pilates, Feldenkrais, and simple meditation. In this way we were able to pick and choose what worked for ourselves.

Each of us had our own strengths and weaknesses, mostly weaknesses. We had been evaluated before the program started. The trainers understood each person’s capacity. They ensured that we could all work at our optimum pace.

At the end of twelve weeks we were evaluated again. My trainer, Becky Behling, devised a personal workout for me. Sweet! I was back up to 165 lbs. and able to work out 3 to 4 days a week.

Today, for example, I am using the stairstepper to climb 63 floors (over 1.25 miles) in 15 min. Last year it took me over 10 minutes to climb two floors when the elevator went out at Texas Oncology. I’m no Schwarzenegger but I grin when I look in the fitness room’s mirror now.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the work of my ATeam.  Karen’s acupuncture and Oriental medicine, Dr. Glen Luepnitz’s nutritional supplements, Dr. Jerry Casebolt’s energy work and a host of other talented healthcare practitioners from outside the mainstream all kept me healthy and strong from ’02 through ’09. I was able to take a pass on radical neck dessection, radiation from my diaphram up, chemotherapy, and having all my teeth pulled. The team all did their part and it worked as long as I did mine.

After years at keeping it at bay, in ’09, the lymph nodes on the left side of my neck grew huge. This was all brought about byME. I allowed myself to get way too stressed out over the economic downturn. That gave this cancer a toehold. It lodged in my lymph nodes and began growing at a frightening rate. Karen and the team encouraged me to consult an oncologist.

At Texas Oncology, Dr. Kasper’s chemo got me out of the weeds. For that I am grateful but even he was blown away by how I exceeded the expected outcome for their treatment. I declined their offer of radiation and got back on track with my A Team. 

The acupuncture care from Karen and the nutritional advice from Dr. Luepnitz were responsible for enhancing the effectiveness of the chemo. I am reading that more and more oncologists are beginning to understand the kind of positive impact nutrition, acupuncture and exercise have on cancer patients.

My wife, Karen Nunley, put all her healing skills to work to override my nausea, reduce the side effects of peripheral neuropathy, quiet my anxiety and keep my Qi moving. Her treatments made the darkness less dark and kept my guts from moving out.

I’m sold on concurrent healthcare. Western working with Eastern; different healing modalities working together with each individual patient to craft the most effective approach to sustaining that health once it is regained.

Bottom line is that I am back. Friends who thought I was a goner are shaking their heads. So are the docs. The workouts, the acupuncture, the diet and supplements, as well as the chemo, all played together nicely and Maya Papaya doesn’t have to beg me for walks anymore. 

For more information go to LIVESTRONG at the YMCA or call Ron Perry at 512.335.9622.