Renee Gossman (73 y/o) // mother & grandmother // instructor of the YMCA’s “Circle of Hope” water aerobics class for cancer survivors // volunteer in the GHS Cancer Institute lobby // former special educator at JL Mann (taught there for 28 years; retired in ‘01) // survivor of endometrial (uterine) cancer (diagnosed ’12); & of husband (passed away from heart disease, ‘05)

“I have an undergrad degree from Kentucky & a grad degree from Furman, but I went to Greenville Tech when I was 65 years old & got my personal training certificate. I have always been a water person, always been a swimmer; so I turned all of that personal training information to personal training in the water & water aerobics. That requires another certification from the Aquatic Exercise Association. I took a year off when I had cancer…I was really too sick to work. Now I teach a cancer survivors water aerobics class to the most brave, courageous & remarkable people. They are so much fun, & they are gaining so much strength in their bodies! You can see them improving month-to-month, gaining strength & flexibility, balance, improved coordination – water work is fabulous.

“I was diagnosed in 2012 with endometrial cancer. Dr. Larry Puls is my oncologist, & I still go to see him. I’m just a few years out. He’s one of my great supporters, & really likes the idea of water exercise for people. He helps me with that by sending me folks.

“The Y offers the class free of charge. It’s called ‘Circle of Hope.’ So people who don’t have a lot of resources are able to come. Oncologists are getting very good about sending people to me. That’s huge! We have these wonderful people in the water. We get a lot done, but we’re also very friendly with each other, & we have a lot of laughs.  I have men & women, all ages, from 35 & up – I’d say the average age is in the 50s. Well, I’m always the oldest person — I am 73. But that doesn’t bother me!

“I’ve had this little cottage in Pickens County for 24 years. A few years ago, I decided to sell my home in Greenville & move out here fulltime. I have a little garden, & I grow a lot of my own food. I’ve been blessed with a lot of energy. I am living the life I love, & loving the life I live. This is so cool! It’s like I’ve dropped off the grid, but I go to Greenville twice a week to teach my classes, & to volunteer in the lobby at the GHS Cancer Institute. Because when I was in treatment there, I never met one frowning, crabby person — & you know when you are in a bad way, you start to bargain with God? I was like, ‘OK God, if you let me get better, I want to be one of the people here that greets other people coming in that might get a bad diagnosis, or already have one. I want to be one of the happy people here that gets people to where they need to be.’

“It’s really interesting. I’ve lived a long time, which means I’ve had a lot of life experiences. Some of them have been great, some of them not so great. I’ve had a lot of personal loss in my life. But I am convinced that I do not let one event — no matter how awful it may be — define me. I always try a way of reinventing myself after every negative life encounter.”