• Wed July 14 2010
  • Posted Jul 15, 2010
BY JOE GARDYASZ Bill Throckmorton can tell you the exact number of radiation doses he received as he fought prostate cancer four summers ago. Three hundred forty-two. Every morning for 40 days, Throckmorton would ride his bicycle to Mercy Cancer Center for some of those doses before pedaling off to work or back home on the weekends. "Riding my bike was my way of surviving," said the 65-year-old, who credits his activity during treatment with the fact that he never had to miss a day of work because of the disease. Shortly after completing radiation therapy, he founded the Greater Des Moines chapter of Livestrong, the cancer advocacy organization launched in 1997 by world-champion cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong. "(Cycling) made me feel good; it helped keep my mind off of it," Throckmorton said. "I never felt like I was in a battle I was going to lose." The chapter now has about 150 members; about 80 percent are cancer survivors. Within about four months of treatment, tests showed Throckmorton he was clear of cancer. "I've always been a pretty positive person," he said. "I've always believed in a positive mental attitude. If you continue to grow the good things, the bad things just kind of disappear on their own." For the past year, cancer survivors in Central Iowa have had an additional resource to turn to: the YMCA Healthy Living Center in Clive, which offers a free 12-week program for cancer survivors in partnership with Mercy Cancer Center and the Greater Des Moines Livestrong chapter. Since opening in June 2009, the Healthy Living Center has had approximately 450 referrals from Mercy Cancer Center, and so far more than 360 people have participated in the program. Participants range from patients who have been recently diagnosed to 20-year cancer survivors and others who are terminally ill, said Trina Radske-Suchan, medical director of the Healthy Living Center. "We create an individualized exercise program for everybody who comes in for the Livestrong program," she said. The program is the second-largest medically related program at the facility, after the physical and aquatic therapy program. In addition to free access to the facility and the individualized program, Livestrong at the Y also offers group exercise activities such as spin classes, a water exercise program and a yoga class. "Many times the cancer diagnosis really motivates them to turn their life around and become healthier by making life changes," Radske-Suchan said. The Healthy Living Center was among a second group of 10 YMCAs across the country selected to offer the Livestrong at the Y program. "It happened to be good timing because we were just opening up this building," Radske-Suchan said. More than 20 YMCAs now offer the program, which is continuing to expand, she said. Dr. Richard Deming, Mercy Cancer Center's medical director, has referred the majority of patients who have enrolled in the program. He also serves as medical director for Livestrong at the Y, and even leads the weekly spin class. "Dr. Deming is an absolutely incredible person," said Throckmorton, who was treated by Deming and still receives his follow-up care from him. The two friends also occasionally cycle together, though "he could easily leave me in the dust if he wanted to," Throckmorton said. The Livestrong chapter has become a fund-raising force of its own in Central Iowa. It recently donated $10,000 to the Livestrong Foundation and another $10,000 to the Livestrong at the Y program. Next month, the chapter will hold its fourth annual United Against Cancer Bike Ride, which last year attracted more than 1,500 participants. "It's a really fun event, because a lot of riders are either survivors or are going through treatment," Throckmorton said. "Seeing that many people in their yellow T-shirts is really fantastic." Earlier this year, the chapter began a new program, Livestrong at the Schools, which is funded entirely by the Livestrong Foundation. Chapter members visited one fifth-grade class in Des Moines with information related to cancer prevention, and hopes to expand the program to more schools this year, he said. Members also participated in a Livestrong night at an Iowa Barnstormers game in an effort to raise awareness among the 9,000 football fans in attendance of the need to seek cancer screenings to catch the disease at its earliest stages. It all comes down to the individual lives that are touched, Throckmorton said. "If we talked with one person at that event and that resulted in them getting checked and detecting cancer early and saving a life, that makes it all worthwhile," he said.

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