BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Recovering from cancer is an uphill battle, and recently the Summit and Berkeley Heights YMCAs have joined to help the cause. For the past year and a half, they have been participating in the Livestrong program, which is designed to help adult cancer survivors get back in shape.

According to its website, the foundation's goal “is to help participants build muscle mass and muscle strength, increase flexibility and endurance and improve functional ability. Additional goals include reducing the severity of therapy side effects, preventing unwanted weight changes and improving energy levels and self-esteem."

Lisa Monaghan, who is the wellness director at the Berkeley Heights YMCA, is also in charge of the Livestrong program there. She has been there for five years and teaches four fitness classes a week.

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Monaghan said the Y is a very friendly place with dedicated members, many of whom she has grown close with.  

“It’s a really positive place to work,” she said.

Livestrong is a 12-week program, meets twice a week, is open to any type of cancer survivor and they don’t have to be a YMCA member, but they need to have a doctor’s release to participate. The survivors do cardio and strength conditioning and other activities like zumba and yoga.

The YMCA applied for the program and once they were accepted, Monaghan and nine other people from Berkeley Heights and Summit received training on how to deal with people recovering from cancer treatment.  

“I was really excited because the program is really fabulous,” she said.

Monaghan said the program has made a significant difference in people’s lives. Classes are relatively small; therefore she is able to become close with most of the people.

It’s really about catering to each person’s individual needs, she said. Every survivor has different problems adjusting to life, and Monaghan said she does her best to help. She said because some people are still dealing with infection, fatigue or other issues, it can be difficult sometimes.

“It’s been very rewarding because of the changes that you can help somebody make is significant,” Monaghan said.

Monaghan said her favorite part of the program is seeing someone do something that they didn’t think they would be able to do and the toughest part is realizing she can’t fix everything.

The Livestrong program is free and it takes place at the Summit YMCA during the day and at the Berkeley Heights YMCA at night. The next one begins Dec. 4.