When a physician told Judy Richman she would only need surgery to treat her early-stage lung cancer, her first reaction was a healthy bit of skepticism. The former nurse —who had retired just three months before her diagnosis—had treated thousands of patients in her career. She’d expected to hear about a treatment plan that included radiation and chemotherapy, but instead was surprised to hear that her surgery had been the only treatment she would require.
She called former colleagues to ensure they agreed with her care plan, and everyone she talked to was in complete agreement.
“They all said it was a clear-cut case, and that surgery really was all I’d need because the cancer was caught so early,” Richman said. “That gave me peace of mind. My surgeon encouraged me to start thinking of myself as a cancer survivor, and that helped me begin to focus on what I wanted to get out of life.”
Richman wanted to feel stronger, and wanted to regain the energy she’d lost after surgery. She turned to the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center to take the next steps on her journey.
“I looked at what they offered, and the fitness classes were really important to me,” Richman said. “Once I had the clearance from my surgeon to exercise, I was immediately involved. I didn’t want to go to a gym because I knew I was going to have trouble because I was missing part of my lung. I didn’t want to go somewhere where I felt like I was on display.”
During LivingWell’s fitness classes, Richman realized it was fine if she needed to slow down or take a break to catch her breath.
“Everybody there gets what you’re going through,” she said. “It was that sense of belonging that helped me keep going.”
Just a few months after she began attending fitness classes at LivingWell, in-person classes were canceled when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Although Richman missed seeing other cancer survivors in person, she realized that online classes offered many benefits, too.
“These virtual exercise classes are a godsend,” she said. “I can only walk and ride my bike so much. I want to keep active so that I can keep myself in decent shape. I won’t step in a gym. I do the classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and they’re keeping me moving and going.”
Through the years, Richman had driven past LivingWell many times, not fully understanding that the center offered so many opportunities for cancer survivors and their families. She joined the planning committee for the 2021 Bridge Walk to help spread the word about the free services that are available to community members.
“My sister, my brother-in-law and I are a team,” she said. “My brother-in-law is a rock star with fundraising, and it is really great. I’m flattered they care enough to do this to support me. We got involved because we get so much from LivingWell and we need to pay it forward. As long as I can, I will be supporting them.”
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