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Two New Rochelle Women Win National Cancer Survivor Contest Through Rye Y Program

The women won through the Rye YMCA’s participation with LIVESTRONG.

New Rochelle residents Lucy Landi and Kathy Mandarano won the national cancer survivorship contest presented by the National Women’s Survivors Convention through their participation in the Rye YMCA’s LIVESTONG program.

Members of the same church, Lucy Landi and Kathy Mandarano met in 2010 when they were both undergoing treatment. They became close friends as they went through treatement, shopped for wigs and lifted each other's spirites. When Kathy learned of the LIVESTONG program, they both joined.

The LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program was created to fulfill the important need of supporting the increasing number of cancer survivors who find themselves in the transitional period between completing their cancer treatment and the shift to feeling physically and emotionally strong enough to attempt to return to their normal life or their "new normal." The program is conducted outside of medical facilities to emphasize that LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is about health, not disease. 

Together, Kathy and Lucy participated and they are now healthy and happy to be the winners for the NWSC survivor life makeovers. Sandy Ben-Nun, Colona IL from Illinois also won the contest.  

The three selected women will work with trained instructors who are a part of the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program and are trained in the elements of cancer, post rehab exercise and supportive cancer care. The women chosen will represent survivors of all ages, types and cancer stages. Each woman's story will be documented via on-camera interviews and through video diaries. The ‘transformed’ women will be revealed along with their stories during a convention-highlighted event on a Saturday evening.

The goal of LIVESTRONG at the YMCA is to help participants build muscle mass and muscle strength, increase flexibility and endurance, and improve functional ability. The program also aims to reduce the severity of therapy side effects, preventing unwanted weight changes and improving energy levels and self esteem, as well as assist participants in developing their own physical fitness program so they can continue to practice a healthy lifestyle, not only as part of their recovery, but as a way of life. In addition to the physical benefits, the program provides participants a supportive environment and a feeling of community with their fellow survivors, Y staff and members. 

Read more about the winners here:

Profiles of the Winners
Lucy Landi, New Rochelle NY

DOB 5/7/47 – Ovarian Cancer Survivor – Last treatment: October 2012 

Lucy was a 63-year-old mother of two adult children, and grandmother to seven between the ages of 5 and 11.  In the late summer of 2010 it was beginning to be more difficult for her to “hold her tummy in”.  She was experiencing bloating and was not sure of the cause.  By chance, her sister had sent Lucy’s daughter a subscription to a woman’s magazine.  In the first issue she received there was an article on ovarian cancer.  After reading about the symptoms of this silent killer, particularly unusual bloating, she immediately called her mother and told to her to go see her doctor.

 Lucy was already scheduled to see her gastroenterologist, so when she went in for her appointment she explained her symptoms and voiced her concerns.  Her doctor immediately ordered an ultrasound and CT scan.  When the results came back, she was confronted with a diagnosis of Stage IV ovarian cancer.

 It was November 2010 and time was moving quickly – more tests, surgery and chemotherapy.  Through it all, Lucy kept thinking about her grandchildren.  Her life was rapidly changing, but she had to fight this battle for them.  She needed to be there for them as they grew into adulthood.

 Kathy Mandarano, New Rochelle NY

DOB 3/6/65 – Breast Cancer Survivor – Last Treatment: June 2011 

It is 2010, Kathy was a 45 year old mother of three daughters ages 24, 19 and 17.  Her mother was diagnosed with critical illness and became bed-ridden.  Kathy became her mom’s full-time caregiver, along with the help of her siblings and aides.  As the months passed, Kathy watched her mother inch closer to death.  Throughout this challenging time, Kathy did her best to continue taking care of herself.  She had always eaten well, exercised and is diligent about her annual preventative medical exams.  But when she went for her annual mammogram, she was thrown another curve ball she never expected.  Two weeks before her mother’s death, and shortly after just completing a walk for breast cancer, Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Her mother’s death, the subsequent arrangements, and the Thanksgiving holiday kept Kathy busy until it was time to face her breast surgery.  She feels fortunate that the cancer was caught in the very early stage with no spreading to the lymph nodes.  A lumpectomy was recommended, followed by chemotherapy.  It was December 2010 and Kathy was buoyed by her daughters.  She knew she had to get through this for them.  She needed to raise these girls and that would require her to keep her perspective and remain positive and focused on her recovery.

Kathy and Lucy – Two Lives Intersect

One Sunday in late December of 2010, Lucy was at church, a place of refuge during the long journey through chemotherapy.  Seeing her mailman, Robert Mandarano (Kathy’s husband), she begins to chat with him.  Robert notices the tell-tale signs that Lucy is undergoing treatment and mentions that his wife is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.  Lucy’s response: “tell your wife to call me anytime.”  

That moment marked the beginning of a serendipitous friendship – a “divine intervention” bringing together two survivors to help each other through their cancer journey.  Lucy and Kathy became each other’s support system, for as much as their families try to be supportive and sympathetic, they simply can’t fully understand what the women are going through.  They go to wig stores and try out new hairstyles with each other, finding humor in an otherwise dreadful situation.  They talk each other through medical appointments.  They help each other compartmentalize their individual situations and manage the stress of living with cancer.  They support each other emotionally and share any new information they discover along the way.

During a follow-up visit with her doctor, Kathy found one piece of information that would excite both women.  When Kathy expressed her frustration with the weight gain and fatigue brought on by early menopause, Dr.Ashikari recommended that she contact the Rye YMCA about its LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program.  One of his Patient Navigator’s, Natalie, had been through the program a year earlier and had nothing but positive feedback about her experience.  Kathy had a chance to speak with Natalie and was sold.  She contacted the Y immediately to get the enrollment process started.  After she got off the phone with the Y, she promptly called Lucy to share the news.  Within minutes, Lucy was on the phone with the Y, enrolling in LIVESTRONG at the YMCA herself.

Within a few days of their initial inquiry, the two friends made their way to the Rye Y to visit the facility.  They were so excited and anxious to get started that one of our Survivor Advocates sat down with Lucy and Kathy and did their 1:1 interview on the spot.  With treatment over, they are thrilled to be starting their journey in February toward reclaiming their health – together! 

Sandy Ben-Nun, Colona IL
Breast Cancer Survivor 

Nominated by Jen Foley at Twin Rivers YMCA in Illinois.

Sandy Ben-Nun is a Breast Cancer Survivor, diagnosed in Dec. 2012 currently going through treatment. She is 45 years old. Married with 3 children ages 15-22. She is a nurse and works for a local hospital. She was proactive in her health and sought out the YMCA and wants to stay strong mentally and physically.

She lives in Colona, IL.  Her attitude is intoxicating; she just had a "shaving your head" party with cocktails and laughs with a bunch of her girlfriends. 

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Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that Landi and Mandarano are from New Rochelle. 

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