Monday, August 15, 2011


Charles Cawley is a member of the Alexander Family YMCA. Read his success story.

It all started at a drive-in movie.

Charlie, only 19 at the time, smoked his first pack of cigarettes to impress his date. Nearly 45 years later, Charlie found himself facing bleak news: he had been diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), a condition that often leads to emphysema.

“The doctor told me that I had the lung capacity of an 80-year-old,” Charlie said. “I was only 65!”
Charlie at the Y

Charles Cawley's father—a life-time smoker—had spent his last few years breathing with the assistance of an oxygen tank before he tragically passed away from emphysema. Fearful of a similar path, Charlie turned to the Y.

“I had a membership to the Y for a few years, and I figured  I might as well use it!” Charlie joked.

Charlie took it slowly. At first, he just walked a few laps around the track. Then, he added hand weights to his routine. Before long, he noticed that his morning walks with Tallulah, his white Miniature Schnauzer, were much easier.

From here, it became a game of slow addition. Charlie began watching his food intake, aiming for balanced meals while avoiding carbs and red meat.

“It isn't a diet,” Charlie explained, “I just became mindful of what I ate.”

He then added deep breathing exercises to the end of his workouts.Charlie encountered his “moment of truth” when he returned to the doctor nearly a year later.

“After running a series of tests on me, the doctor reported that I had lost thirty pounds, that my cholesterol levels had returned to normal,” Charlie recalled, “and—get this—I now had the lung capacity of a 20-year old!”

With some surprise, the doctor cancelled Charlie's prescription to treat his COPD. Charlie jokes that his prescription and his Y membership cost the same amount; so why not choose the membership?

Now, Charlie logs a two-hour workout three to four times each week. His routine includes everything from elliptical cardio to abdominal exercises, always followed by deep breathing exercises.

Charlie reports night-and-day changes. Not only does he feel stronger and more confident, but has energy to do the things he loves—such as photography. Charlie's 15-year career has earned him national acclaim as an artist in the Triangle. Look for his second book in early 2012.

“Yes, the body changes, but the soul doesn't have a clock,” Charlie said. “I feel like I'm 18-years old, and I probably always will!

In July, Charlie celebrated his 68th birthday and almost two years of being smoke-free. And if you see him around the Y, congratulate him! His weight loss is now at 45 pounds, soon to be 50.

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