Corinne Peterson provides sample massage therapy sessions in one of the Heartwood treatment rooms. Photo courtesy of Heartwood Center.

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When former State Senator Carol Ronen was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly ten years ago, she and her doctors decided a combination of radiation and chemotherapy would be the most effective approach.  While undergoing treatment, Ms. Ronen found comfort and support at Evanston’s Heartwood Center, a holistic health-care center located at 1599 Maple Ave. 

Ms. Ronen found the acupuncture and massage she received from Heartwood’s Executive Director Nancy Floy so helpful in her recovery that she felt all women facing cancer should have the opportunity to receive holistic care while undergoing cancer treatments.

Fully aware that many women facing cancer do not have the economic means to afford holistic care, Ms. Ronan pushed hard to receive a grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health. In 2004, with the support of Ms. Floy and the Heartwood community, the Women and Cancer Program was launched.

Today, Ms. Ronen is a cancer survivor and serves on the program’s board of directors. 

The program offers free holistic health services to women with financial need in the Chicagoland area.  Services include acupuncture, body work and psychotherapy, as well as classes in yoga, t’ai chi and meditation. 

“Our program is small, but mighty,” says Terri Clemens, program director. “In the past five years we have assisted nearly 100 women and given 523 treatments and 70 classes.”

The Women and Cancer Program is currently looking for participants. Ms. Clemens says they have funds to offer four treatments to fifteen women.  She notes that four treatments is “an arbitrary number and more money often becomes available so that further treatments can be offered.”

Women who take part in the program are able to decide for themselves which type of treatment will best suit their needs.

“If she is going through chemotherapy, for example, acupuncture or massage can be helpful in battling fatigue, anxiety or nausea,” says Ms. Clemens.  “If she has recently been diagnosed and is still grappling with it all, she may find psychotherapy most helpful.  But it is ultimately up to the women to design their own program.”

Ms. Clemens says people often find the Center a peaceful and relaxing refuge unassociated with their oncology department.

“This is a place where cancer patients can get some of their spiritual and physical needs taken care of,” says Ms. Clemens.  “Our holistic practitioners are available to listen to the women and offer suggestions for nutrition and lifestyle, things that are going to support them through their treatments.”

Women interested in enrolling or learning more about the project should contact Terri Clemens at 847-491-1122 ext. 23 or go to www.heartwoodcenter.