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Cancer patients graduate from LIVESTRONG exercise program

IDAHO FALLS — When Julia Petite found out she had colon cancer, she wanted to do everything she could to fight it.

Petite was diagnosed in February and started chemotherapy in April. The prognosis was uncertain but Petite remained optimistic.

“From the time of my diagnosis, I felt like I could handle this a lot better if I were fit and could get some strength back,” Petite tells “My oncologist was majorly on board.”

Petite learned about a nationwide program called LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. It was new in eastern Idaho and launched in August thanks to the work of Jo Lawrence.

“LIVESTRONG is a fitness-based, evidence-based program for cancer survivors. Anyone that is 18 and older who has been diagnosed with cancer is able to do this,” Lawrence says.

Julia Petite speaks with program manager Jo Lawrence during a LIVESTRONG at the Y class. | Nate Eaton,

Lawrence is the program manager and Betsy Keller is the teacher. Twice a week for 90 minutes, the cancer patients get together at the Y and exercise, receive personal training and socialize with each other. The course lasts 12 weeks and participants receive pre- and post-assessments.

“A lot of times the participants have very little energy and they still want to come because they want to be in this atmosphere. It’s a little community they create,” Lawrence says.

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LIVESTRONG launched nationwide in 2007 but Julia is among the first to participate in Idaho Falls. Thanks to a $7,000 donation from Idahoan Foods, participants don’t pay a dime.

“It was good for me to know that I wasn’t walking this path alone,” Petite says. “You only have to come one time and you just do what you can do. Betsy is so wonderful. She says listen to your body, do what you can do and don’t do anymore.”

LIVESTRONG at the Y Fall 2019 graduation class. | Courtesy Jo Lawrence

The fall session of LIVESTRONG concluded Tuesday night with a special graduation ceremony. Participants are now LIVESTRONG alumni and they can continue their workout programs by coming back to the Y.

Lawrence and Keller plan to launch another LIVESTRONG class in March and they’re looking for participants.

“I want to help as many people as I can. So does the Y,” Lawrence says.

As for Petite, her prognosis is good. She no longer needs chemotherapy and doctors tell her the cancer is in remission. She’s made new friends in her LIVESTRONG class and, with the help of exercise and healthy eating, has been able to conquer one of the toughest challenges in her life.

“We’re all in the same boat and we’re just rowing as hard as we can,” Petite says. “The support here is just amazing. Every cancer patient needs to come here and do this at least once. One time is all it took for me.”

If you want more information on LIVESTRONG at the Y, contact Jo Lawrence at (208) 523-0600 ext. 6 or email


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