Dennis Y.

Lakewood Family YMCA

Cancer took a wicked toll on Dennis' body. It left him with an oxygen tank as his constant companion, and by the time he completed a single sentence, he was already out of breath. A healthy future seemed about as likely as a lottery win. When he started attending LIVESTRONG at the Y, Dennis couldn't finish his walking test, and he could barely communicate with his classmates and his instructors.

Each class began with a devotional, which someone read out loud. For weeks, Dennis declined to read. Finally, he admitted to a teacher that he couldn't read very well. His instructor encouraged him to try anyway. It took him a long time to finish those few paragraphs, but he made it through, and he enjoyed being able to read aloud. Everyone in the group encouraged his progress and created a safe place for him to risk failure.

The courage Dennis exercised in challenging his insecurity came with unexpected physical benefits, as well. As he continued exercising and reading, he realized it was becoming easier and easier to speak and breathe at the same time. Slowly, he emerged from his shell. By the end of the 12-week program, he was laughing and joking with his classmates and had increased his stamina enough to lift weights for 20 minutes after class. "This class taught me a lot about how to take care of myself a whole lot better," Dennis says. "I'm so grateful."