My name is Helen. And I have a million (and two) reason to live healthier.
I moved from Detroit to Tampa a little over 3 years ago. My oldest son had tried many times to convince me to move here, where he and his family live. The timing was never right. I was working at a job that I loved and I hadn’t yet reached my retirement age. But in 2007, things changed: The downturn in the economy began to impact my job and I was diagnosed with colon cancer. Luckily, my diagnosis was early and I only required surgical removal of my growth, but “what if” ran through my mind. I decided to retire early and move to South Tampa. I soon found out it was the best move I ever made.
In South Tampa I was surrounded by restaurants, retail stores, parks and beaches … and I discovered the South Tampa Family YMCA. My life changed. You see, in addition to my recent cancer diagnosis, I had other health issues. I had lived a sedentary life and had been diagnosed as pre-diabetic with borderline hypertension. My doctor agreed that, rather than start medication, I should make lifestyle changes. I decided to make the Y my second home.
I now have a lifestyle I have never experienced before. I signed up for the Diabetes Prevention Program, with Yvette Wilmath as my instructor. It helps me make lifestyle changes, such as eating better and making a work out a schedule for daily activities. Since joining my cholesterol has dropped below 200.
I have tried almost all the active older adults and Silver Sneakers® programs. It’s nice to be someplace where we can challenge ourselves and still go at our own pace. They even sponsor trips for us. When I first joined, we went to the Ellenton Outlet Mall on the Y bus… I met my best friend here in Tampa on that trip.
I keep the following phrase in my mind when I don’t feel like getting out of bed and going to the Y: “If it’s good for the heart, it’s good for the brain.” You see, going to the Y is a lifestyle for me now. I can finally throw away my Jane Fonda tapes and other videos because now I am actually working out while making lasting friendships.
Even my grandchildren have gotten in on the action. When I joined the Y, I signed them up. Since they are both autistic we decided to send them to the special needs summer camp. My son didn’t think they would like it, but they loved it! They both have learned to swim and can dog-paddle in the pool, which is huge for them, they love summer camp and the water.
I love the YMCA. It’s a place for everyone – but a special place for active older adults. The YMCA makes us feel like we count, we matter. We get to dance, laugh and socialize, too. It’s a place that makes us stronger, both physically and mentally.