A Journey Through Cancer and the Power of Survivor Support

My Y Story: Jo-Ann Armamdez


JoAnn ArmamdezMy Y Story: Jo-Ann (Shalom) Armamdez 

By: Christopher O’Herren, a Champlain College student who is completing an internship with the Y. 

There is nothing worse than the feeling of knowing there is a tumor inside of you and that even the best odds can’t lower that chance of death from it to zero. The tension grows and grows until it’s either released and eased or the answer causes something inside us to snap.  However, there are programs that not only put you in a community of people facing the same issue but also give you ways to maintain your health better while fighting cancer.

In the YMCA, we incorporate The LIVESTRONG program, which is meant to equip those living with, going through, and moving past cancer with other survivors, which can be rather difficult for many. So, not many people wish to discuss their experience with cancer or with LIVESTRONG openly and want instead to keep that private. Luckily, we were able to find someone a bit more open to discussing the experience in YMCA Member Shalom Armamdez, who not only has a history with LIVESTRONG but is also a two-time survivor of cancer.

Originally a member from Albany, NY, Shalom took a job in Massachusetts and used the Nashua LIVESTRONG program. There, she made many connections that would be long-lasting friendships. “The coaches were always motivating and pushing us to our limits,” she explained to us when talking about LIVESTRONG’s determined coaching. LIVESTRONG was more than a group of people with chronic illness; it was a group of people who were struggling with the outcome of medical tests and had no idea what to do next.

For some, recovery from surgeries was essential. So, there was a lot of focus on that sort of focus work from a gym and health perspective. However, one of the other things LIVESTRONG did that Shalom highlighted was helping people practice mindfulness. While on the surface, this typically is seen as meditation, it’s really more about activities that revolve around not moving around so much. This had much to do with Shalom’s personal experience in fighting cancer and how it focused more on treatment that involved little to no movement. This can range from practiced breathing to journaling in addition to meditation and yoga.

In Shalom’s specific case, her cancer was affecting her Astroglia (a class of neural cells that help sustain homeostasis), so the treatment prescribed was Chemo and Radiation therapy. Since Radiation therapy was described as sitting on a table while a machine targets parts of the body with radiation, one can understand the valuable applications of mindfulness.

Shalom recently took an MRI in January of this year to see how the cancer was reacting to the chemotherapy she had been taking. When the results came back in they showed that the cancerous growth had significantly reduced in size. So she was taken off chemo and continues her job as an educator for those in need of a GED and other services in the Impacct organization. She had told us “You always expect the worst after the scan.” but she seemed just as determined as before to lead her life beyond her conditions.


Your support for the YMCA’s LIVESTRONG program can make a vital difference for cancer survivors like Shalom Armamdez, providing them with a supportive community and essential health resources that improve their quality of life. Please consider donating today to help empower more individuals in their fight against cancer and their journey towards recovery. 


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