Vickroy: Y-Me closed but Cancer Support Center is here for you
DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-5982 July 20, 2012 8:36PM
Melissa Barrett, Executive Director of The Cancer Support Center, sits in their wig boutique at their facility in Homewood, IL on Thursday July 19, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media .
The Cancer Support Center is at 2028 Elm Road in Homewood, (708) 798-9171; and at 19250 Everett Lane in Mokena; (708) 478-3529. For more information, visit CancerSupportCenter.org.
Updated: August 23, 2012 6:04AM
Melissa Barrett is telling people to not panic.
Sure, it came as a shock to many when the Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization suddenly shut its doors July 12. Since 1978, the organization had been providing information and support to breast cancer patients and their families. On Tuesday, it filed for bankruptcy.
As upsetting as the news may be, Barrett is reminding people that free resources still are available to cancer patients, survivors and their families here in the Southland.
Barrett is executive director of the Cancer Support Center, which has locations in Homewood and Mokena.
“We want people to know we’re here for them,” Barrett said. “We’ve been here almost 20 years, and we offer a lot of the same kinds of services that Y-Me did.”
Each year, the Cancer Support Center typically serves more than 4,000 patients as well as their family members. That number, Barrett said, is expected to increase to 5,000 this year.
The center was formed in 1994 when six Southland women joined forces to open a home-like resource destination in the south suburbs for people with cancer. During that time, it has served patients and their caregivers, children, teens and friends.
The Cancer Support Center is a founding member of the Cancer Health Alliance of Metropolitan Chicago. Alliance partners are Wellness House in Hinsdale, Wellness Place in Palatine, LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva and Cancer Wellness Center in Grayslake and Northbrook. It also is the only center in the south and southwest suburbs that offers a sisters network, which is a branch dedicated to black women.
I recently toured the Homewood center, which is decorated to resemble a welcoming home.
It offers counseling, networking, massage and meditation. There’s an extensive library with up-to-date information on just about everything someone dealing with cancer needs to know, including books and pamphlets on nutrition, treatments and research.
In a wig boutique in a small room off the library, there are hair appliances in all colors and styles. For fun, Barrett said, staff and volunteers often try on samples, just to give themselves a new look.
A spacious great room can accommodate large numbers for board meetings, support group gatherings, cooking demonstrations and art therapy sessions. A recent project enabled grief-stricken family members of recently deceased cancer patients to make mosaic-style memory steppingstones.
Wellness programs are offered weekly, and they run the gamut. Participants can try yoga, qi gong, relaxation, Reiki and healing touch.
In addition to all the amenities and services a cancer support center could offer, there are lots of friendly faces to greet people and help them on their journey.
Among them is Mary Lou Wilson, a 32-year breast cancer survivor. Wilson has been volunteering at the Cancer Support Center for nine years, since she retired from teaching grammar school in South Holland.
“They treat me like family here,” Wilson said. She seems only too happy to return the favor to center newcomers.
Judy Themer, a full-time licensed therapist, runs support groups for individuals who have cancer, bereavement groups for those who’ve lost someone to cancer and general counseling for those who need one-on-one therapy.
Barrett said most of the people in treatment are cancer survivors but 35 to 40 percent are bereaved people who’ve lost someone to cancer.
It has been an ongoing mission of the center to provide high-quality services at no charge, Barrett said.
“That’s why we maintain a staff of licensed professionals in addition to our volunteers,” she said.
That, of course, costs money. The center relies on donations, grants and three big fundraisers to help make its annual budget of $1.1 million.
“We don’t get any federal funding,” Barrett said. But the organization did receive $35,000 from the Ticket for the Cure campaign a few years ago, she said.
Much of its fundraising money comes from its annual golf outing, which was held July 15, and from two yearly walks. The next Walk of Hope is scheduled for Oct. 7 in Homewood.