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Twenty-five years ago, I was happily working full-time as a nurse when I was suddenly diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease. The pain had become so intense that I couldn’t work and had to go on medical disability. 

My doctor recommended regular, low-impact exercise, combined with rest and diet to manage my symptoms. I’d never been a gym person, but I knew that I needed a structured exercise program or I wouldn’t stick with it, so I decided to try the Kelowna Family Y. Right away, I knew that Aqua Fit was perfect for me.

The atmosphere, energy, and the support of the instructor and everyone in the class kept me coming back. 

Unfortunately, a few years later, I developed severe arthritis as well. At times, the pain was so intense that I could hardly lift an arm to eat or brush my hair. Between 2006 and 2022, I also had to have both of my knees and shoulders replaced. 

Two women are wearing workout clothes and walking an indoor track at a gym. They are smiling at each other, one is a YMCA staff member with dark hair, the other is a member with white hair.


I knew the surgeries would be difficult and that my best chance at a full recovery would be getting in great shape ahead of time. I came to the Y before each surgery and worked with a trainer to strengthen the muscles around my joints. It was hard work, but the exercise and the encouragement of the trainers made me feel confident when I went in for the surgery, and I knew what to expect when I came out. 

Like many people on disability, there was no way I could afford this type of membership and training at other gyms, and I couldn’t have done all the pre- and post-surgery exercises at home. Fortunately, I qualified for the Y’s financial assistance program, and could join at a price that fit my budget. It was such a relief to know that I could consistently afford my membership. Seeing all the familiar faces and knowing they were there encouraging me and propping me up – on good days and crappy ones! – kept me going and really helped with my recovery. 

I originally came to the Y to find a way to manage pain after my Lupus diagnosis 25 years ago but I found so much more! Today I’m still friends with people I met at that first Aqua Fit class, my bionic joints are in good shape, and the Y has become a routine part of my life. 

Now, when I come to the Y I know I’ll see friends and people of all ages and walks of life – little kids playing, swimming or dancing, moms and dads watching and smiling, teenagers playing basketball, and the grey-haired group doing Fit for Life – all set to a soundtrack of great music and laughter. And there are never any tears – except maybe when the little ones realize it’s time to leave.

The positive energy in that building just makes everything easier to deal with. 

Stories like Mavis’ would not be possible without the support of generous donors who keep vital YMCA programs and services free or subsidized to those who truly need them. Learn more about our cause, if you are able, please consider making a financial contribution or joining our team of volunteers today.

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