LiveSTRONG Graduates Like Family Now

liveSTRONG cancer program participants with coach

Sharon Harris, Jon Beckner, Lisa Guthrie and Brenda Brye started out their LiveSTRONG® at the YMCA program as strangers but have now become more like family.


“I never expected to be so close to everyone in our group,” says Sharon. “I would do anything for Brenda, Lisa, Jon and Coach Mike just as I would do anything for someone in my family! We are truly there for each other and I very much care about each of them. It has been such a blessing being part of this group and getting to know each other’s families too.”


After graduating from the 12-week cancer survivor program, the group meets two to three times at the North Brandon Family YMCA to work out together. You can find them chatting on the treadmills.


“At the graduation, Lisa and Jon said they were going to start working out together and I said, ‘it’s just not going to be the two of you. Brenda and I going to join you.’ And that’s how it started,” says Sharon, lovingly called the instigator or drill sergeant of the group. “She keeps us in line,” says Lisa. “We would really slack off if we didn’t have her.”


Both Sharon and Brenda are breast cancer survivors. Lisa had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Jon is a unique case where he had a rare type of cancer, called Wilms tumors, as a child. Jon said at first that made him feel like an outsider being that his cancer wasn’t recent “but I felt like family afterward,” he says.


The LiveSTRONG program is one that North Brandon Y Wellness Experience Director and LiveSTRONG Coach Mike Muñiz holds close to his heart. “I was very motivated to get involved with it, especially after the passing of my grandmother (from Stage 4 Liver Cancer) just to see all the benefits of the program and the difference you can make in people’s lives in such a short period of time,” he says.


The program keeps participants accountable. “It was regimented,” says Jon, who was a Y member at first before he found out about the program. “If I was left to my own devices, I’d sit on the couch.” Lisa agreed. “Me too,” she says.


Brenda poetically describes the program as a “wonderful sailboat in the middle of a storm. With Mike at the rudder, Sharon with the compass, Lisa with the anchor, Jon handling the sails and David (another participant) my dock and cover. My journey was hard, a challenge and fun. After 12 weeks this group, all the staff and members became a family for me.”


“They’re part of the reason I absolutely love my job, honestly,” says Mike. “The fulfillment that I get from seeing them succeed is far more rewarding than anything I can ever do for myself here in the Y. Heck, Lisa’s been out running races.”


“If you see me running, you better start running because something’s chasing me,” jokes Jon.


You may see some of the group, either walking, running or supporting each other at the Tampa Y’s 5th Annual Goody Goody Turkey Gobble 5K, 8K, & 1 Mile Walk on Thanksgiving Day. All funds go toward LiveSTRONG at the YMCA – a FREE 12-week statistically-proven exercise program designed for cancer survivors and their families. The main goals of the program are to combat the negative side effects of cancer treatments by improving the survivor’s balance, flexibility, endurance and strength; all while providing a support system to the group. For more, contact your local Y.


Pictured above: LiveSTRONG® at the YMCA graduates Sharon Harris, Coach Mike Muñiz, Jon Beckner and Lisa Guthrie say they’re more like a family now. 

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