It wasn’t the path Stephanie Angelo would’ve chosen for her life. “But, strangely, I’m so glad I went through it. I feel like I found a purpose,” said Angelo, the YMCA’s Livestrong program manager.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2011, though all initial signs pointed to the contrary.
“Three months before, I’d had a mammogram that was clear,” she said.
She said she felt something just wasn’t right about the spot on her skin and asked her doctor to do a follow up test, which revealed the breast cancer.
“I was so glad he was so thorough,” she said.
Angelo had a mastectomy on her left side, underwent chemotherapy and radiation. The thing she missed most was exercising. The Army veteran had enjoyed an active lifestyle much of her life and had taken up running in her late 30s. The fatigue of chemotherapy treatments sapped her endurance on walks and runs.
The mastectomy also affected her shoulder mobility. She found out about the Livestrong program while doing online research on exercising safely after cancer. The program is free to cancer patients at the YMCA.
“I wanted to safely rebuild my strength without fear of causing injury,” she said. “It was a slow and gradual process.”
Despite major surgery and reconstruction, Angelo said she feels at her best health wise. Now, Angelo is helping cancer patients the same way she was helped. Working with Livestrong was “like the stars aligned.”
“I’ve always been the type of person who looks for meaning,” she said. “God sent me down a path, and this has been much more than a job. It’s a calling, reaching people on a personal level.”
When battling cancer, she counts every win – even the small ones – as major victories. And there are times when her job takes an emotional toll.
“I do lose people who are younger than me and have children. I get a tremendous amount of survivor guilt,” she said. “I have to work through it.”