Diane Finnegan has been a part of our Y community at our Hal Welsh East Area Y since it opened its doors in 2004. The Y has been a family affair, as this is where her two sons learned to swim, played basketball, participated in sports conditioning at the Manlius Y and even attended Camp Iroquois. Though this is where their Y membership started, it has changed drastically throughout the years.
In 2011, Diane was working in a high-demand work environment at a rate of nearly 70 hours per week. Because of her busy, hectic schedule, she neglected her health, didn’t exercise, and ended up gaining 40-50 lbs. Three years later, Diane’s father passed, and, to add insult to injury, Diane herself was diagnosed with breast cancer the following month. “I was still reeling from my father’s untimely death at age 70, and now my life was at risk.” Her life was turned upside down and her emotional and financial stress was at an all-time high. She spent most of 2014 in treatment, from surgery in April, to chemotherapy from May through August, and daily radiation from September through November. “By the end of my treatment, I was physically, emotionally, and financially spent.”
She was introduced to our LIVESTRONG program, a 12-week cancer survivor’s program focused on the survivor’s strength, fitness and quality of life. She also joined Laurie’s Hope, a program specifically for breast cancer survivors to help members thrive by maintaining physical fitness, improving nutrition, and making connections with other survivors. “I was welcomed to that program with open arms,” Diane states, “and it helped my family and I heal.” At this point, the Y was more than just a place for her children to learn & thrive – it was just that for her now as well.
In an effort to engage Diane in a new activity, Valerie Clarke, Diane’s friend & a fellow Y member, suggested they learn to play tennis at the Manlius Y’s FAST (Fun Adult Starter Tennis) program. Though skeptical at first, it was exactly what she needed to move forward with her life. “I fell in love with tennis,” she explains. “The strategy, the laughter, the exercise – they were all such positives. I played 5-6 times a week.” With a coach like Gyata Stormon, who was also a breast cancer survivor, she felt she was in good hands, as she explored this new facet of her Y membership.
The beginning of 2019 marked five years since the passing of Diane’s father and her breast cancer diagnosis. In retrospect, she describes those to have been both the worst and best years of her life – all with support from her Y community. “I credit the Y for being there for me, in more ways than one, every single time in my life when I’ve really needed help. That is how the YMCA saved my life.”
Your Y membership is always evolving as your lifestyle and emotional needs change. Joining the Y means joining a community that supports youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. It provides a community of like-minded individuals while providing the resources and support you need to learn, grow and thrive through all phases of your life. As you grow stronger, you’ll strengthen your family and your neighborhood, and that makes us all stronger.