Cheryl Bevensee doesn’t take a single moment for granted. Battling three auto-immune diseases, she faces a number of debilitating physical challenges. While regular exercise and strength training are important to her overall health, these activities can also be detrimental to her joints, weakened from rheumatoid arthritis. Auto-immune diseases attack the body’s healthy systems, and part of her treatment uses chemotherapy drugs to stamp out her faulty immunity. Naturally, this treatment is itself a destructive force, leaving her extremely vulnerable to common colds and other infections that a healthy body can easily overcome. Her body’s myofascial system is also compromised; as her skeletal muscles tighten, she faces ongoing pain and increasing immobility.
Aquatic exercise, which uses the water’s resistance to deliver an effective, low-impact workout that is easy on the joints, is a lifeline for Cheryl. She first underwent pool therapy through Lancaster General Health, and was then referred to the City Center YMCA to continue her aquatic exercise. Cheryl was encouraged by all she could do in the water, including jumping jacks and crunches. Yet, given the devastating financial burdens she faces in battling her diseases, she was not confident that she could afford an ongoing Y membership. “This was literally a last stop, and a stop of desperation,” explains Cheryl of her first visit to the Y, “and then the Y gave me hope.” Cheryl qualified for a financial scholarship and now does thirty different exercises in the City pool, visiting up to four times per week.
Cheryl values her time at the Y for more than just the exercise itself. Despite her unique challenges, Cheryl feels that she’s surrounded by people like her – striving to recover, or get stronger. She’s inspired by fellow members who are making strides and persevering in spite of challenges of their own. She’s grateful to the lifeguards and aquatics staff for their warm welcome and support. With their encouragement, she recently swam her first lap; a seemingly insurmountable feat that is now a point of pride. She’s encouraged by the progress she’s made and is determined to keep working, concluding that “it’s a beautiful thing to be able to contribute to my own health.”