“I was on a machine working on my back muscles, and I started to cry,” says breast cancer survivor Janeen Walker. “I was overcome with this rush of gratitude because if it weren’t for the After Breast Cancer (ABC) program, I would not have been able to do that exercise alone.”
Janeen was diagnosed in October of 2017.
That December, when doctors discovered more cancer, Janeen had a double mastectomy and her lymph nodes removed. She had a second surgery in January.
Four weeks of high dosage chemo left Janeen emotionally and physically drained. She saw her weight drop to 93 pounds, and she became depressed and was unable to work.
A Spark of Hope
Janeen moved to Middle Tennessee away from family and friends in Illinois, and found a new doctor. While waiting in his office, a magazine article about the ABC program at the Sumner County Family YMCA caught her eye.
"I called the number in the article and was connected to the ABC Coordinator Jenadi Talbot," Janeen explains. “I knew nothing about the ABC program, but reading about it gave me hope."
Janeen was moved to tears on the phone because of Jenadi’s warmth. And Janeen knew she had made the right choice.
“On the phone, Jenadi warned me that when she met me that she was going to hug me,” explains Janeen. “Sure enough, when I came to our first meeting, Jenadi greeted me at the front door to the center with outstretched arms.”
Their initial meeting lasted over an hour, giving Janeen plenty of time to share her story.
“If it weren’t for Jenadi’s warmth and generosity, I would never have felt comfortable enough to meet with strangers in a class or group setting," says Janeen. “She accepted me and how broken I was, which gave me the comfort to move forward with the program.”
“Just months off of chemo, I was very weak,” says Janeen. “I could barely lift a gallon of milk, which made me hesitant to work out. I just wanted to do a little resistance training; I was afraid of even trying to lift a dumbbell.”
But then she met Candy Owens, a Pink Ribbon Certified Trainer at the Sumner County Family YMCA.
“I was intimidated when I first met Candy. Our group was seated in the ABC workout room at the Sumner Y, and Candy sat on the floor—got down on our level—and shared her breast cancer journey.”
Janeen felt an immediate connection and introduced herself to Candy through tears, telling the trainer she looked forward to working together.
In addition to leading the fitness instruction that is a core part of the ABC program, Candy guided Janeen and her group through different parts of the Y.
“Candy would talk about the different machines and explain how to use them and which ones were good for my particular condition,” says Janeen. “She gave me the confidence to walk on the wellness floor and tackle machines that looked very strange to me.”
Janeen believes in her heart that her participation in the program—along with the guidance, support, and mentorship of Jenadi and Candy—has saved her life.
“I came into the ABC program fragile, afraid, and broken,” Janeen says. “But graduated as confident and whole.”