Tag Archives: breast cancer

Pilates Beyond Breast Cancer


Pilates Beyond Breast Cancer is….a pilates program designed to build stamina, improve posture, increase shoulder range of motion, regain function and release neck tension. Exercises for the arm, shoulder, spine, hips and core will focus on movement as well as strength. Join Certified Body Harmonics® Pilates instructor Anne Marie Collingwood to restore your foundation of strength, mobility and balance as you experience “The art of contrology”(Joseph Pilates)

Offered on: WEDNESDAYS   11:00am to 11:45am

Location: YWCA OTTAWA ST. 52 Ottawa St. N. Hamilton 905.522.9922 press 8

Fee: $64.00 for non-members

$48.00 for members with a YWCA Fit Pass or Health Pass Fall Session Dates: October 7 to November 25, 2015 . For more information or to register contact Anne Marie Collingwood 905.545.6249 ext 24 or acollingwood@ywcahamilton.org


Thank you for sharing…..an amazing woman’s breast cancer story

The ywcaencore program is a FREE health and wellness support program for woman who have had breast cancer at any time in their lives.  We have had many, many amazing women join us for this program to support their healing journey.  One woman, Amanda, has shared her story below.  As Amanda mentions, this program helps so many women, in  so many ways.  Please consider joining us November 1 and 2 at the Road2Hope to help support ywcaencore


Thank you for sharing your story Amanda



My Story

In May 2008, I was a healthy 29 year old active female who enjoyed life and was planning for the future. On May 31, 2008 I was in the shower doing a routine breast check and found a small lump on my right breast. I thought nothing of it but booked a Dr’s appointment the following week. My family Dr. was and has been amazing through everything and had me doing an ultrasound and biopsy very quickly. By the middle of June 2008 I was diagnosed with IDC stage 2 grade 3 Breast Cancer and was being told of my future; including multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, infertility and living a life with cancer and the life changing repercussions of all of these treatments. I and those around me were in shock and disbelief and we kept asking how and why? I am grateful to my husband, parents, my sister, family and close friends that did everything they could to support me and keep my spirits positive. Things moved forward very quickly from the initial diagnosis and I was told by my oncologist that I needed to act fast or the cancer would spread and I could die. His scheduled treatments were a lumpectomy with lymph nodes removed and then chemotherapy if my lymph nodes were affected.

By July 2008 I was scheduled for chemotherapy and was being referred to a fertility clinic for embryo preservation as the chemo could make me infertile. For me, infertility was worse news than the chemo. My husband and I were rushed through a cycle of fertility treatments spending over $10,000. This was not something we had planned for emotionally and financially. We were lucky to have support from family to be able to get the money in 2 weeks to go ahead with the treatments. Then moved quickly to chemo on Aug 15, 2008 and that would continue until November 28, 2014. I completed the genetic counselling and was told I had the BRAC-2 gene and I was at risk for many other cancers and the Dr. strongly recommended a bi-lateral mastectomy and a hysterectomy and I was scheduled with a surgeon to begin to discuss the options and plan for yet another surgery. My head and emotions were in a whirl wind and I couldn’t keep up.

Then, after most of my breast was removed during the lumpectomy, I was bald, skinny, and sickly looking from the chemotherapy, I reflected in the mirror and decided that I was a strong person and I was not going to let a diagnosis of cancer slow me down. I decided that this happened to me for a reason; I was going to do everything I could to take my health in my own hands. My husband and I did research, and started to become informed about breast cancer, treatments options, side effects, natural options and continually asked questions about supports and research for young women like me and it was very hard to find. My goal was to enhance the awareness that breast cancer does happen to young women, look at alternative and complementary medicines and treatments and to find resources in the local community that could assist me and others with the struggles that cancer brings. This was a struggle but I was determined. Many programs had barriers to access, some closed down because of lack of funding and just finding the programs was difficult. My oncologists did not provide any information of supports in the area and I was left to my own devices. Instead of feeling defeated, I took my frustrations and continued to enhance my learning, attended conferences of natural healing and decided I was going to be empowered by all my new learnings. My husband and close family supported me 100% no matter how crazy some of the new foods I and supplements I was introducing them to.

I had my bi-lateral mastectomy with implants at the same time in February 2009 and was on my pathway to recovery and had declined to have a hysterectomy and any other conventional medications. I had completed my treatments was using many supplements and natural remedies to get my body healthy again. I decided to dedicate my time and energy to my own healing and supporting and connecting personally with people and supporting them through their cancer journey; giving them tips, connecting them with resources, and providing a shoulder for them through their battle so they didn’t have to endure the helplessness and loneliness that I felt when I was going through my battle. I had done some of the hard work in finding information and now my purpose was to share and share with anyone that wanted to hear about it.

It was in 2009 that my physiotherapist Jodi Steele, through a program called Cancer Rehab, informed me about the ENCORE program thought the YWCA. Unfortunately for many reasons, I did not connect to the program again until 2012 when I contacted Anne-Marie and an evening program was running at the Ottawa street program in the spring of 2013 and I registered.  It had been 5 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I was in a much different space in 2013 then I would have been in 2009 but I was ready to see what the program offered. The program was FREE and the only stipulation was that you were either diagnosed with breast cancer or a survivor.  I enjoyed that there were people in different stages of their healing from breast cancer and Anne-Marie being a survivor herself knew what we were going through. The information and speakers that Anne-Marie brought in were exactly in line with the healthy lifestyle approach that I had adapted. I enhanced my knowledge, was introduced to some new professionals and services and some amazing people. The second half of the session was in the pool… oh how amazing to learn stretches and practice them with a group of amazing women. Each time I went to the program I wondered WHY is it not mandatory for the oncologists to promote and encourage their patients to attend programs like this. Where was this program when I was diagnosed and how come it took me researching and searching for me to find it?

ENCORE is a program that we need and we need more programs like this. Many people have donated money for years and years to find a cure for cancer. My goal now is to find supports and resources like ENCORE that works with cancer patients in teaching and support them through a difficult time and making these programs available to everyone. Make it something that is automatic for breast cancer patients to be referred to a program like this. This program needs to grow and be available at all YWCA / YMCA centers.

This year I am running the Road to Hope ½ Marathon with Anne-Marie and other participants from the ENCORE program and I have raised money that goes 100% directly to ENCORE. A ½ marathon has been on my bucket list of things to do and this year I will be able to check it off my list and support a program that I admire, love and am dedicated to spreading the word about. Through ENCORE I have met some amazing people who have become my support network and we will support one another through our different journeys in life.

Amanda Rahija


Can’t make the Road2Hope?

As you know, we are very excited to be a Charity Partner for the Road2Hope Race Nov. 1st & 2nd. If you are unable to walk or run with us, would you kindly consider donating to the ywcaencore program through the attached link. Anne Marie will be running the half marathon representing all the incredible women that have been through the program and those that are yet to come. Click on the link to connect with Anne Marie’s story of HOPE .


YWCAEncore and the Road2Hope!

As you may have heard, the amazing YWCAEncore program has partnered with the Road2Hope Race, Nov 1 and 2. Road2Hope race participants can choose to help the YWCA raise money for our amazing encore program that assists women who have had breast cancer on their wellness journey after treatment. Interested in joining us for this awesome event?

Please when registering – click on Charity and then select YWCA Hamilton to ensure that you are part of our team and that the sponsoring raised will go to support the ywcaencore program.

Donations can be made on line or you can pick up a Sponsorship envelope at the MacNab or Ottawa St. Fitness Centres.

Here is the link to the Road2Hope Registration page –


See you soon!

My Breast Cancer Story: Appreciation

October Breast Cancer Awareness Month
ywcaencore Stories of Inspiration & Hope
My heart is so appreciative of all of the women who so openly shared their personal stories on the blog over the past month. Reading the stories again, I re-live many of the emotions that I felt seven years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As I was writing a summary of the stories, something developed on the page that I believe is a key message of these accounts. The shock and fear at diagnosis became only the backdrop on my sheet of paper. What stood out on the page and similarly in these women’s lives, are the lessons learned and messages of STRENGTH, SISTERHOOD, FAITH, SUPPORT FROM FAMILY, FRIENDS AND COMMUNITY GROUPS, LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST, OPTIMISM, FRIENDSHIP, LAUGHTER, PASSION, LOVE, MIRACLES, JOY, HOPE, SEIZING THE MOMENTS, WELLNESS, LIFE IN FOCUS AND AN UNSTOPPABLE SPIRIT!
To all of the women that submitted your stories: you have taken us into your journey and we have cried with you, we have been educated by you, we have been challenged by you, we have empathized with you, we have been encouraged by you, we have been reminded by you of the importance of living every moment and we have been forever inspired by your spirit. Thank you so much for your openness and inspiration!
So the end of October and the end to our “Share your Story – Raise Awareness” campaign on breast cancer. The end – NO! These stories will be available in the ‘previous post’ section of the blog to revisit and to share with others beyond October.
As we continue our commitment to raise awareness of breast cancer and to empower women who have had to fight this disease, we hope that you will help us carry the messages forward.
with thankfulness,
Anne Marie

If you would like further information on ywcaencore, an after breast cancer exercise program, please contact Anne Marie Collingwood, ywcaencore Coordinator, at 905.545.6249 ext.24 or acollingwood@ywcahamilton.org

My Breast Cancer Story: Stay Positive Always

October Breast Cancer Awareness Month
ywcaencore Stories of Inspiration & Hope

After 24 years of marriage and three boys, my life was turned upside down when I found a lump in my left breast at age 47. This was completely shocking as there was no history of breast cancer in my family.

After taking all the tests and receiving the bad news all I wanted to do was lead a normal life. I continued to work as an administrative assistant during my treatments. I never kept my breast cancer a secret, and found that the more people that knew, the more support I received from family, friends and co-workers. After a few chemo treatments, I was not able to work for a few months because my body was telling me to rest.

Almost immediately, my hair, which according to my husband I have spent a small fortune on in my life, started falling out. During this difficult time in my life, my youngest son, while away on a hockey tournament, shaved the heads of his teammates and coaches. They also wore breast cancer ribbons on their jerseys in support of me.

When I completed all my chemo and radiation treatments, I joined the ywcaencore program and connected with a great group of girls and very special coordinators. I really enjoyed meeting with them each week as we exercised, ate healthy prepared snacks, and, most important, discussed our journey amongst ourselves with some emotional crying and happy moments. You gain so much support by sharing experiences, thoughts and fears with other women fighting the same battle.

I am now a 20-month survivor, and loving life to its fullest…breast cancer has sure changed my outlook on life!

Stay Positive Always,
Donna Beattie


October Breast Cancer Awareness Month ywcaencore Stories of Inspiration & Hope

BIG OR SMALL SAVE THEM ALL – I wear that on a t-shirt and I do not take that message lightly. At age 43, I lost one breast to breast cancer and my drive and passion is to help and empower women who have also suffered this life-altering disease. I am honoured to be an employee of the YWCA Hamilton with their strong commitment to the health and wellness of all women, and ambassadors at reaching out to women with breast cancer. The YWCA Hamilton offers the ywcaencore program, a free after breast cancer exercise program for all women. This program runs three times a year, once a week for eight weeks. The program offers gentle therapeutic exercises on land and in the water to help women build strength and increase flexibility and mobility. The setting is fun and supportive and provides a safe environment for sharing and building lasting friendships. In addition, throughout the eight weeks, women are educated and empowered through relevant discussions and community speakers.

We have been privileged to share in the lives of over 130 women and we honour them this month. They have shown great courage in the face of fear; strength when the body was weary; compassion even in the midst of their own crisis and a spirit that is inspiring beyond words. With these women as inspiration, we are presenting you this month with various stories from women who have been through breast cancer and have been impacted through the ywcaencore program. They share their stories, their hearts and their lessons.

May their messages be heard by women everywhere and may it ignite a fire in you as it has in me, to continue this fight against breast cancer and to never give up.

Anne Marie

Anne Marie Collingwood
ywcaEncore Coordinator

“Self-Exam Finds Late-Stage Breast Tumour in Nick of Time”

Click the link below to read the article, which contains an important message for every woman. This wonderful woman, Gina, is a past YWCAEncore participant!


Blessed “encore”

This morning, Anne Marie and I had the opportunity to meet our new encore group. ywcaencore is a 8 week (+orientation) after breast cancer exercise program. The program focuses on increasing the range of motion of the shoulder and chest area for women who have undergone any kind of breast sugery. ywca encore is more than an exercise program; by  providing  the opportunity for women to share their experiences, concerns and feelings in a safe and supportive environment. I feel blessed to be around these strong and amazing women and to be able to help them find their way to a healthier self.

As each of our participants  shared their story this morning, I was thinking of how glad I was that they picked our program to help them along their journey. I cannot imagine what all of these women have gone through: stress, sadness, anger, fear, pain… I am so grateful that we are here for them (whether it is  2 months or 10 years post treatment) and will be a positive experience in their lives. And from my own personal experience, I know that I too will learn so much from our next 8 weeks together.

I have only spent a few hours with our group this morning and it only took these few hours for me to realize how much I already admired their strength and positive outlook on life.  “The Human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” (C.C. Scott) I know that in the next few months, Anne Marie and I will have the opportunity to teach these ladies how to safely perform certain exercises, will introduce them to the benefits of water training, will teach them about healthy eating and its benefits, will bring in experts to speak about different topics of interest… But what I am most proud of is to have been able to create a safe environment where these women can share their thoughts and feelings, learn from each other’s experiences, and meet a group of women who will continue to inspire them. We can learn so much from each other; don’t you think? What are you most proud of today?


(image source)