The YMCA Has Changed Me for the Better. I Want to Inspire Other People.

My Y Story: Steve Cleveland


YMCA Member Steve Cleveland loves the Y. “I’ve never been happier. I’m a very active member. I’m there no less than five days a week. I work out 2 to 3 hours at a time, sometimes a little longer. I’m positive that’s what keeps me alive. It’s the vigorous exercise,” he said.

Steve, a 73-year-old retiree, has faced some serious health challenges. “I started working out when recovering from my first bout of lung cancer in 2009. I was a salesman, traveled a lot. We all have good intentions when on the road, but it falls apart when you are out there conducting business. I had a physical and two weeks later my doctor quit. The new doctor that took over his patients was looking through patient files. He didn’t like the x-ray he saw in my record. Had he not seen that, this story would not have been told. I was told surgery needed to be scheduled, but the doctor was booked for months. I called the oncologist and spoke with his nurse. I said I would take the spot of any cancellation. Fortunately, I got in fairly quickly.”

This was a wake-up call to live a healthier lifestyle, but it took Steve a while to take action. “While I had tubes in my side flushing out my lungs, I still smoked multiple times a day. I even walked out of the hospital dragging an IV pole, and took cigarette breaks.  I continued to smoke for three more years after my lobectomy. It’s hard to imagine, but true. I heard that I was a week away from carrying around an oxygen tank for the rest of my life. I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for 50 years and finally quit smoking in 2014. At one point, my doctor said that I had nine months to live,” Steve said.

When he was discharged from the hospital, he started walking five miles a day, and realized he felt so much better. He was living in Ohio at the time and joined a gym.

While on a path to better health, Steve was dealt more devastating news in 2012 that he had colon cancer. “It laid me up for a long time. I was out of the gym game for better part of a year. I moved back to Massachusetts to be closer to family and joined a gym.” He had to take a leave of absence from that facility when going through his treatment. When he was ready to resume working out, he joined the YMCA of Greater Nashua, where he could not be more happy.

“I’ve gotten to know everyone who’s in there (the Nashua YMCA branch) between 7am and 11am, most of them by name. Some I have conversations with; some I have serious conversations with. I’ve made a lot of good friends at the Y and I’m very comfortable here. I would say going to the Y is the best thing you could ever do for yourself. As the physical health gets better because of doing exercise, so goes the mental health as well. As you do all these things, you are meeting people. People are willing to help each other. There’s a lot of camaraderie. It’s like finding a home away from home,” he said.

Steve is an ambassador for our Y, sharing his story of success. “Without hard work, you don’t get good results. The Y is healthy for everyone. They do tremendous things for everyone. It’s changed me for the better. I want to inspire other people,” he said.

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