She was in her early 50s (my age), funny, witty, a very bright spirit who truly wanted to be of service to her friends, and to humanity. I met her about seven years ago when I worked at the Y as an exercise trainer for people with cancer. This was an amazing experience, as I worked with some of the most courageous people I’ve ever met.
The group met at the Y, twice a week, to exercise under my direction. It was sponsored through the cancer center, and was a fantastic program. It was free for anyone with cancer.
Some of the participants weren’t too sick, as they might have been between rounds of chemo, receiving radiation only or simply tolerating the treatment well. Some were not so lucky. I worked with a woman who had no bellybutton because it was removed during a surgery. I worked with a man with no stomach and had to wear a backpack, which fed him constantly. I worked with people whose treadmill workout was two minutes long, at a half mile per hour. For some, getting to the gym was a workout. It was amazing for me to watch these people because, believe it or not, they progressed through the weeks. They got stronger, even while going through chemotherapy.
The people in the groups became friends with each other, laughed together, cried together, hugged each other, went to coffee together and called each other when someone unexpectedly didn’t show up. It was absolutely beautiful to watch, and I was honored to be a part of it.
After a couple of years, the program ended because of a lack of funds. That saddened me very much.
My dear friend who passed away this morning was one of the people in the group who inspired me and those around her. She’s one who came to workout consistently, sometimes with hair, sometimes without, sometimes with a big smile, sometimes with whatever smile she could muster up. But her spirit was always beautiful, and she was willing to do what she could to increase her strength and cheer on the others in the group.
I remember a woman once came up to me in the gym and said, “You know, Diane, I wasn’t feeling that great this morning so I was going to skip my workout. Then I thought of the group you work with and I thought to myself, if they can do it, so can I!” That touched my heart deeply.
Next time you don’t feel like exercising, you may want to think about my friend. Her name was Cara. Let her spirit inspire you to take care of your body. I know she would be delighted to inspire you.
By the way, the program is up and running again, through the Stuart C. Gildred YMCA, this time cosponsored by the Livestrong Foundation.