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I often have to remind myself that there is no excuse for skipping exercise or failing to push through the toughest of workouts.

I’ve been inspired by a lot of awesome athletes and cancer survivors during my journey. One being Margaret Wood, who I met four years ago during my first experience with LiveStrong at the YMCA, a cancer exercise program that helps strengthen the body, mind, and spirit during and after treatments.

Margaret, who was 92 when I met her, would drive herself daily to the Bettendorf YMCA for her workout in the LiveStrong program. She would say to me, “as long as I could move, I will keep coming to the YMCA.” Rain or shine, and even snow, there wasn’t a day she would miss.

A 49-year cancer survivor, Margaret often reminded me that we can beat the killer disease. She chuckled and would say she was one of the warriors who lived through cobalt therapy - a 1950s era treatment which utilized an external beam of gamma rays from radioisotope cobalt-60 used to kill tumor tissue.

Margaret joked with me that not only could I be her granddaughter, but I am as old as her survivorship. “More reason to not miss a day at the gym, right?” Her smile gave me comfort and a sense that one day, I could be just like her. She was right, exercise is the reason she had survived not only cancer but had stayed healthy for so long, inspiring all the lives she touched by just stepping foot in the gym.

The energetic and talkative 96-year-old continued with her workouts of walking, weightlifting, and cycling as of a month ago. Then she slowly started tapering back her workouts and eventually, we didn't see her as often.

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Sadly, I found out after my cycling class this past Friday, that Margaret had become ill and passed away. My heart sunk because I am one of those people that thinks if you are healthy and energetic, “you could live to be 100,” as Margaret once said.

Marli Apt, the coordinator of the LiveStrong program, always referred to Margaret as a true fighter whose energy was felt by all. “She inspired everyone she talked to,” she said.

If anything, Margaret Wood inspired me to never give up during my cancer journey. Smiling, chuckling, a little sarcasm and a lot of energy is what made this amazing woman a true inspiration to ALL of the participants of the LiveStrong program at both the Scott County YMCA and the Two Rivers in Moline.

Her spirit will live on at the Bettendorf YMCA. Margaret’s words of wisdom, encouragement, and inspiration will forever be remembered. Rest in Peace Margaret, a true survivor, and LiveStrong inspiration until the end.

The LiveStrong program is offered three times a year at both the Scott County YMCA in Bettendorf and the Two Rivers YMCA in Moline. For more information on the program, call 563-359-9622 or 309-797-3945. You also can learn more about other resources in the LiveStrong program at livestrong.org.

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