By Michelle Caceres

Cancer, multiple rounds of chemotherapy and an exhausting stem cell transplant robbed Boyette Springs resident Esther Kirk of strength.

“I knew I had to do something to get stronger,” said Kirk.

A friend encouraged her to participate in the Livestrong program at the Campo Family YMCA (located at 3414 Culbreath Rd.), a 12-week program designed to restore strength of body, mind and spirit in anyone diagnosed with cancer.

Participants, guided by Livestrong coaches and personal trainers, meet twice per week for an hour with the goal of building muscle mass and strength, increasing flexibility and endurance and improving functional ability. Additional goals include reducing the severity of therapy side effects, preventing unwanted weight changes, improving energy levels and self-esteem and assisting participants in developing their own physical fitness program so after graduation they can continue to practice a healthy lifestyle, not only as part of their recovery, but as a way of life.

Kirk, who graduated from the program in August along with nine other cancer survivors, enjoyed learning about different exercise options available (she wasn’t a fan of Zumba) and being able to talk openly about the disease with classmates and how it has affected them.

“I learned that I am stronger than I thought I was,” she said. “It was good for me to meet others who have been through similar challenges and feel a sense of camaraderie.”

Livestrong coaches Katie Swift, Keely Seymour, Bart Guida and Mindy Upton are responsible for guiding participants through the program.

Swift said exercising is a new experience for some participants and it’s rewarding to see them become physically and emotionally confident.

“We are passionate about this program and what we do to help people,” she said. “I love my job.”

The Livestrong program is a free program that runs in 12-week intervals. Anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, regardless of current condition or time spent in remission, is welcome to join. YMCA membership is not a requirement for participation. Participants receive a free 12-week family membership while in the program.

For more information about the Livestrong program, call 684-1371.