I received an email recently from Paula Simon, who is one of the friendliest and nicest people I know. She also happens to be a Membership Associate at the Orokawa Y in Towson and told me a story that is as good a Y Monday Mission Update as you’ll read. So, Paula, the floor is yours:
I have been thinking for quite a while about telling 'my story' of the past year, not as a way of gaining sympathy or attention, but as a way of expressing how much I appreciate my fellow associates and member friends I have made working in Membership at the Orokawa Y in Towson since 2016. Trying to fit my story on the brief form provided just does not work, so I am writing to share my story with you, and if you feel it is worthy of sharing in some format, please do.
In February 2020, just prior to Covid's encroachment on all of our lives, I was diagnosed with Chordoma, a very rare spinal cancer. I learned that I would need to have a two day massive surgery at Johns Hopkins, followed by physical therapy. As life would have it, my April 2020 surgery went well, but what followed was a complete breakdown of almost all functions in my body, including blood clots, kidney failure, and bleeding ulcers. I ended up spending 47 days in Hopkins’ intensive care unit and inpatient physical therapy, with outstanding care. But, I was in such a weakened condition that it was hard to imagine getting back to normal activities, let alone working part time in Membership at the Y again. I spent much time in bed praying I would recover and thinking about how I needed to face months of home and outpatient physical therapy.
But this story has had an upward trajectory and a happy result, with much of my gratitude and thanks going to the many very kind Y associates and member friends who truly made me grateful to be 'back in the saddle.' I returned to the Y as a member in November 2020 to begin personal training, and then returned to the membership desk in April 2021. Whether it was Celeste Holthaus and Amy Gantz-Cheatham, from the moment I learned of my diagnosis, offering to bring me back on payroll as soon as I would be able; to Ivan Rodriquez, who has been my incredible Personal Trainer; to my Y Book Club members who turned out in enthusiastic form for both virtual and face-face sessions this year; to so many members who have kindly prayed for me, written me, supported me, and listened to my travails; to aqua class instructors and members who have welcomed me back to class; to my fellow membership associates who helped remind me of the tasks we perform daily; to other Y associates who check in and ask me how I'm doing and wish me well; they’ve all been terrific. All of these wonderful people have contributed to one of the major reasons that I have healed from a very long and scary year (Covid isolation layered on top of my illness and recovery).
This past year has given me a true appreciation for being healthy and the role the Y plays in my life. So often we read about members' thankfulness for what the Y provides them. The same can be true for Y associates, and I for one want to personally thank all those who have helped me to thrive.
The Y community is lucky to have Paula back, healthy and spreading joy in her unique, optimistic way. Her story teaches us so many different things, including how important having a Y community can be.
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland