Living well is so much more…

As a 20-plus-year employee at the Melrose Family YMCA, Lori Navarro was often the person who opened the Y’s for the day. She was the first person many members saw and spoke to and she made them feel at home. A strong advocate for the YMCA, she put her full heart and energy into everything she did, whether she was caring for children in the babysitting room, working in membership, or greeting people as she supervised the welcome center.

She truly lived the Y cause and cared deeply about making the Y the best it could be. She would take the time to just sit and talk with a member who needed a friendly ear. Lori understood that some days, people need more than a great spin class from the Y to feel good. To Lori, the Y means family, and family is always there to lift each other up.

“At its core, my YMCA is a family,” says Lori. “When you see someone who might need a hand, you respond.”

Lori would still be working at the Y today if not for a cancer diagnosis she received in 2012. While undergoing a planned surgery, her doctor found tumors. She was diagnosed as having omentum cancer, a rare and incurable disease that affects her organs. A routine surgery turned into a life-changing event for Lori and her family.

When Lori felt she had become too sick to fulfill her duties, she made the difficult decision to resign from the Y on June 19, 2012. But that is not the end of her Y story. It was just the beginning of a new chapter. Lori may not have been an employee at the Y, but she was still there as often as she could be. She became a regular at the aqua stretching classes, going at her own pace and enjoying being in the moment in the water. She enjoyed the benefits of movement, but more importantly, being at the Y lifted her spirits. Whether she was stretching or sharing a laugh and a splash with the person next to her, Lori felt like she was home when she was at the Y. And, on the days when she wasn’t at class, her instructor Bea Mills called to check in and make sure she was OK.

And while the Y staff watched out for Lori, Lori was still watching out for the Y. When she saw a new staff member, she introduced herself. She kept an eye out for safety issues and for anyone (staff or members) who might need help.

Lori’s doctors are surprised and happy with her progress. She is still, as she says “a work in progress”, and will need regular check-ups and surgeries throughout the year. She believes staying active and engaged at the Y has played a role in feeling better physically and staying emotionally strong.

“I was always one of the biggest supporters of the Y,” says Lori. “Now I feel like the Y has rallied around me. Even the staff I did not know when I worked there are supportive. They know me, they know this is my place and the Y is family.”