For over 16 years, the work at HopeWell Cancer Support has been based on the premise that people affected by cancer need more than just medical care. Each month, HopeWell offers over 75 programs — support groups, educational seminars, exercise classes and social activities — that allow cancer patients and their loved ones to access a community of support that is unmatched in the Baltimore metropolitan area. All of HopeWell’s programs are offered free of charge and are open to people at any stage of their journey through cancer.
I have been affiliated with HopeWell for over 10 years in many capacities, each of which has been deeply rewarding. I began my association with HopeWell as a member of their Professional Advisory Board, while still practicing breast surgery, and was immediately impressed with the way that the folks and programs offered at HopeWell seemed to consider the whole patient in a way that I often felt missing in the traditional practice of medicine and oncology. Often, in the rush to treat or cure the disease, there seems to be a failure to acknowledge the patient as a suffering human being, afraid and often in pain, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually as well as physically. HopeWell offers programs that bring these concerns to the forefront, addressing the psychosocial effects of cancer and end of life issues, as well as providing much needed community support, and a physical space where each participant can be who they really are, above and beyond the cancer diagnosis. In short, a place to come to life!
When I left the practice of western medicine, then, it seemed intensely important to continue my affiliation with HopeWell in a new way. While in Yoga Teacher training at yama studio in 2005, I completed my yoga internship at HopeWell, teaching an 8 week yoga session. As I began teaching Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction it seemed only natural to offer it there as well. My programs fall under the category of “Mind, Body, Spirit” programs, and I offer 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (Mindfulness I) and weekly Mindfulness practice classes (Mindfulness II), for graduates of the 8 week class, on an ongoing basis; twice monthly yoga nidra and Saturday morning yoga classes in winter. I also offer a bi-annual retreat called a “ Day Of Mindfulness”, a silent retreat day for those who have completed the mindfulness sessions.
My understanding of yoga, mindfulness and yoga nidra continues to evolve and transform, thanks to the gracious and enthusiastic participation of those wishing deeply to do all they can to enhance their own immunity and embrace each moment fully. The work I do at HopeWell continues to confirm my belief that it is possible to heal deeply regardless of the possibility of cure. The participants’ embodiment of the practices we do together is breathtaking and awe-inspiring as they cultivate open hearted compassion and acceptance with which to navigate their own cancer journey, and thus the journey of life. Most participants agree that the “suspension of distraction” that the diagnosis of cancer offers can truly turn into a gift that allows them and their loved ones to reclaim the precious moments of the life that they have, living deeply moment to moment, because that’s all any of us can really do.
My work at HopeWell has contributed greatly to my growth as a teacher and practitioner , and I am grateful to Suzanne Brace and the staff at HopeWell for allowing me to be a part of this most marvelous healing mission. I am convinced that HopeWell provides a unique environment for healing and hope that is unreplicated elsewhere.
If cancer has touched your life or the lives of your loved ones, I hope that you will explore the offerings at Hope Well Cancer Support. Visit them and/or make a much needed donation at www.hopewellcancersupport.org. Donations are critical to keep their doors open to all who utilize their services-and will help open the barn doors as well!