Goodbye to an Inspirational YMCA Member, VHL Syndrome, Survivor and LIVESTRONG Program Member

Cheyenne, Wyoming, Here Comes Cathy!

On Monday, August 28th, 2017, a group of YMCA Water Fitness enthusiasts met for a farewell breakfast. Cathy, a member of the AquaBody Blast class, planned on moving to Cheyenne, Wyoming the following week. Cathy exercised harder than anyone else in the pool, so intense other members stepped back in awe of her…and to avoid the wake she created. (In fact, that morning at the diner one participant, Pauline, grinned as she “chided” Cathy for all the splashes she endured from her enthusiastic work-outs.) Cathy earned greater admiration from the group as they watched her bounce back after multiple major surgeries in the 5+ years since joining the class. Cathy’s energy belied the unexplained, and oft medically-dismissed health issues she had dealt with since she was child, including lack of coordination, dizzy spells, digestive disorders and losses of sight and hearing.

In a 2014 YMCA Blog post, Cathy shared, “My dad died 3 months before my 31st birthday, His autopsy read, “congestive heart failure,” but he had been sick for years with digestive disorders. Despite what my family or physicians thought, I was convinced whatever killed my dad was also killing me. Ten doctors and three months later I got one last birthday present from my father: vindication and a name for my condition…Von Hippel Lindau Disease (VHL)!

The doctor who diagnosed my disease ordered several tests. The tests revealed multiple cysts and tumors through out my body; classic in VHL patients. Computer searches helped me discover the VHL Family Alliance and directed me to studies by the NIH (National Institute of Health.) I learned VHL had a genetic component. The NIH accepted me in their study group and also determined I had kidney cancer. They operated on that tumor and then on a large one in my ear. In the 23 years since, I have undergone 23 surgeries, including 12 major surgeries, experimental drugs and more medical tests than I want to think about.”Goodbye member

Cathy then stated, “I set a goal when I was first diagnosed to make it to my 50th birthday…March 10, 2014.” With her excellent medical care and the YMCA of Broome she has! She said she heard about the LIVESTRONG program at the YMCA of Broome in 2012 and signed-up. Her LIVESTRONG personal trainer/facilitator taught her how to exercise and use the equipment in the Wellness Center. She followed up with YMCA Fitness Classes at least 3 days a week, including the 9 a.m. AquaBody Blast Class and Tai Chi.

Cathy shared her gratitude for the YMCA. She mentioned how each instructor encouraged her until she became confident in her abilities. She said the YMCA has made her physically and mentally stronger for her busy work schedule and for her future health battles. Those future battles have arrived in a steady stream over the last 3 years. The removal of her cancerous pancreas left her a functional Type I Diabetic with more additional complications. Other major surgeries since and those she still faces forced Cathy to give up her retail manager job and reach the decision to relocate to Cheyenne, Wyoming so her mom can help her.

Three years ago, the ever-positive and determined Cathy said, “I have achieved far more than I ever thought possible in my fitness and wellness journey!” At breakfast she explained she is now part of multiple NIH studies. At least one of which is a 30 year study…and she fully intends to reach that long-range goal, too! She checked out the Cheyenne YMCA online. She’s ready to share her enthusiasm for how the Broome County YMCA helped her! She set to try their facility and go make some waves in the pool.

The dozen who showed up for breakfast represented dozens more who have been touched by Cathy’s perseverance and very positive attitude. The LIVESTRONG Program members said goodbye at their annual picnic in August. YMCA staff and Cathy’s friends are filling almost every minute of her calendar with farewell gatherings.

Cathy, the YMCA of Broome County thanks you. Your example in great adversity inspires us all! Wishing you health, wellness…and some visits back to the 607!