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Lesly Meachelle

By MEACHELLE BELLAN Although I usually write about various exercise instructors  at the Rady JCC, this time I’ve decided to write about coping with mental health.


One thing that has been proven to help people to become healthier when they struggle with mental health issues is to be physically active.  Research has shown, for instance, that physical activity can help in treating depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder.  
In my own family my cousin Lesly Katz is a perfect example of someone for whom exercise has been of tremendous help in coping with mental health issues. Lesly wanted to share her story in order to help others by giving them hope for a brighter future.  
In November 2008 Lesly was diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer.  It was then that her cancer nightmare began.  It was January 2009 when her treatments began.  Lesly recalls that her joy for life was nonexistent and that she felt lost and empty.  She felt that she was slipping deeper and deeper into a black hole and that she was going to remain a permanent resident there.  
 Lesly had always enjoyed shopping, food, family get togethers, people and, of course, exercise - something she had been doing for years.  Lesly says though that the love and support of family, friends, and especially her husband Jack are what put her on the road to recovery.  
I should mention that Lesly has also been struggling with bi-polar disorder for over 30 years, so when she received the cancer diagnosis, it was just one more burden to bear.   Regulating the medications she takes to treat her bi-polar disorder has been an ongoing battle as well. Every six weeks Lesly has gone to see her doctor for changes to her medications in order to regulate the dosages she takes and to determine which medications need to be increased, decreased or changed.  
Lesly says though that for three years she had been prescribed  a wrong medication. “My bright light of sunshine and information was delivered one summer afternoon through the knowledge of an RN who specialized in cancer treatments,” she told me.  Lesly was informed that a medication that she had been prescribed  for the previous three years to treat her cancer had actually been feeding her depression!  Lesly told the RN that her “health team” had made those decisions.  (Note here: research what goes into your body.)
It was after her third chemo treatment that Lesly began taking  Zumba training.  After six chemo treatments, 36 radiations and  18 herciptons (a targeted treatment for early stage breast cancer), Lesly reports that she was ready to start teaching Zumba.  Subsequently, she took Basic 2 Zumba, Zumba Gold, and Aqua Zumba.  
Lesly is a marvelous instructor who gives exemplary cuing and monitors the class, depending on who’s in it.  In my estimation she’s a role model for overcoming adversity in a tough world.  
So do things that make you feel good and if  you don’t, seek help.