Having cancer can be an isolating and disorienting experience—before, during, and even after treatment. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a place to meet a friend for coffee and conversation, take an uplifting exercise class, and get support in navigating your next steps to embrace wellness? Cancer survivor Linda Huffman Jones thought so, and in 2010, she and her husband David opened Healing Pathways in Rockford to help people and families facing life touched by cancer.
Years later, the Jones’ vision for a cancer wellness center is still seeing people through tough times. “OSF Healing Pathways is such a blessing,” says Angela Larson, a two-time breast cancer survivor. “I didn’t realize what would unfold here for me, but the love and connections have just been incredible.”
Angela derived particular benefit from a Writing to Heal workshop that was held at Healing Pathways. She was diagnosed for the first time at 29 years old and had a mastectomy when she was 30, a traumatic experience that she internalized. “My body went into mourning,” Angela says. “Writing opened up the floodgates and helped me heal.”
When she survived a second bout of cancer, Angela felt called to respond by helping others heal too. She now volunteers to lead programs focused on healing through art and writing.
Writing might not be for everyone, however. At OSF Healing Pathways, there’s a full calendar of free activities and services to support patients and their families seeking healing and wholeness together. The services are available to anyone, regardless of where they receive their cancer treatment. Here’s just a sampling of offerings:
- Survivorship Series: Keep learning and growing strong by learning from experts on topics such as Late Effects of Cancer Treatment, Dealing with Fear of Recurrence, Nutrition & Exercise, and Stress Management
- A.R.E.giver’s Support Group: Care. Advocate. Resource. Educate. Practical and emotional help for those who accompany a cancer patient on her journey.
- Lunch and Learn: Enjoy a healthy lunch while gaining helpful information on things like managing lymphedema and the potential benefits of aromatherapy
- Coffee and Creativity: Bring your notebook, knitting needles, or your painting project and enjoy fellowship and relaxation while creating something new and beautiful with friends.
- Oncology Massage: Studies show massage therapy reduces fatigue and promotes relaxation to ease the side effects of cancer treatment.
Program coordinator Amy Mullen is convinced that something special happens at OSF Healing Pathways. “The best part about my job at OSF Healing Pathways is how much I am continuously impacted by the resilience and courage of the wonderful people that I get to serve in this community,” she says. “They come to our center to be uplifted, to receive support, and for their stress to be alleviated, but I think that the beautiful gift that staff and providers receive is simply the gift of being a small part of their story.”
There are approximately 20 active volunteers at OSF Healing Pathways, varying from licensed massage therapists, reflexologists, licensed clinical social workers, dietitians, nurse navigators, exercise instructors, and multiple volunteers who assist with clerical duties and reception. Together they serve roughly 50 guests per month, a number Amy would like to see grow by adding additional volunteers to provide massage therapy and reflexology services. Monetary donations are also welcome.