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dances her way to cancer recovery

LO Jazzercise instructor now healthy and ready to rebuild life and career

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - To celebrate her recovery from cancer Yachiyo McLaughlin took a vacation that included a visit to her native country of Japan. Now she will concentrate on rebuilding her business.

Cancer plays no favorites in choosing its victims.

When it came to health, fitness, exuberance and charm, no exercise instructor could surpass Yachiyo McLaughlin of Lake Oswego Jazzercise. But all of that could not prevent her from getting ovarian cancer a year and a half ago, not only threatening to end her business but end her life.

Upon returning to her Jazzercise class in the Wizer Building recently, McLaughlin was triumphantly greeted with smiles, hugs and high fives by her students; some of who hadn't been to class in a long time because she was not there to instruct them. Spirits were sky high when they posed for a group photo.

"After 18 months of being out of Jazzercise, I'm back!" McLaughlin said.

But before she could experience the good times, McLaughlin had to go through a lot of pain, uncertainty and fear.

Her journey of illness and recovery began on January 2013 when she felt a lump in her stomach. Even though she didn't know what was wrong, McLaughlin held off until May before seeking treatment. Then she got some bad news: She had a 4.6-inch-by-6-inch tumor in her left ovary. In July, she had surgery to remove the tumor, and she underwent "very intense" chemo treatment from August through July.

But that was not the end of McLaughlin's ordeal. Doctors later found a cancer cell in her appendix. Once again her life seemed to be in the balance.

"I wondered 'Why?'" McLaughlin said. "I had always taken care of myself through exercise and healthy eating. Because I am Japanese I've always eaten a lot of vegetables, fruits and fish. Ovarian cancer is very silent. Often when you find it, it's too late.

"I thought I might have only three to four months to live. I thought, 'How long have I got?'"

But her life of exercise did end up making a huge difference in McLaughlin's recovery. She turned out to be a great advertisement for herself.

"Exercise kept me fit," said McLaughlin, who prior to her illness had taught five Jazzercise classes a week. "I sailed through my chemo in four or five months. I had heard horror stories about chemo therapy, and to be honest, I felt great. I had no side effects. I really had an easy time because I was so fit, and that is why I really recommend to everyone that they exercise and stay fit."

Especially Jazzercise, which she has taught for 10 years.

"It's a total workout," McLaughlin said. "It's cardio, strength and stretching. You can burn 700 calories in an hour. It's one of the best exercise programs, and I've tried everything, Zumba and everything else. Thanks to Jazzercise, I have great blood flow."

Now that McLaughlin is back to bouncing around on stage, her friends and students are delighted.

She has even convinced women who promised they would never take up Jazzercise to take up Jazzercise.

People like Cathy Rowland, who now serves as her class manager.

"I thought never in a million years would I do Jazzercise," Rowland said. "When a friend told me about Yachiyo's class I told her 'I don't dance.' I only came two years ago because people raved about Yachiyo. She is a super instructor and a most gracious person. I also like it that I don't have to show up in leotards."

Now that she has no traces of cancer and is back to being her old terrific self, McLaughlin is working hard to rebuild her life and her business. Her life is well on track, but the future of the Wizer Building is very much up in the air. Still, even if McLaughlin cannot continue in her large studio in the Wizer Building, she is confident she can find another studio that is close by, and she is striving to rebuild her class membership.

"I want them ALL back," she said.

McLaughlin has one reservation. Although she declined to give her age, she said, "I'm old."

She looked just a bit crestfallen when she admitted this. Yes, she is a grandmother. However, it helps that people express shock when they hear this, and she says, "I feel great."

McLaughlin has one other objective in her new lease on life. She wants to move from Beaver Creek to the Lake Oswego-West Linn area because she believes it is the greatest place in the world to live and the most beautiful place ever.

She noted, "All of my friends live in Lake Oswego or West Linn except me."

To learn more about Yachiyo McLaughlin and Lake Oswego Jazzercise, call 503-805-8191.

The class is held at 317 Second St. on the lower level of the Wizer Building.

Cliff Newell can be reached at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com.

Photo Credit: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Yachiyo McLaughlin was greeted like a returning hero when she arrived to teach her first Jazzercise class at the Wizer Building in 18 months.


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