LivingWell Cancer Resource Center expanding as needs grow
BY LINDA GIRARDI For Sun-Times Media
Blueprint for cancer care: Architect Mike Elliott from Kluber (left), Living Well Cancer Resource Center Executive Director Nancy Vance and Darren Thibert for Shales McNutt look at the blueprints for the new LivingWell Cancer Resource Center on Williamsburg Aveue in Geneva. The new center opens May 4 and will feature free programs for people suffering from cancer. | Mary Compton~For Sun-Times Media
By The Numbers
People the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center has served since its inception.
Supportive care programs offered on- and off-site
Volunteers the center has. Many of them work in the medical profession.
Nancy Vance doesn’t just go to work — she lives her passion.
Her passion is inspired by the hope and optimism of cancer patients, cancer survivors and their families who have walked through the doors of Geneva’s LivingWell Cancer Resource Center seeking encouragement, knowledge and support.
“We feel their fear and uncertainty and to be able to empower them, and give them the hope and tools to get through a journey with cancer — and to walk beside them in their journey — is a privilege and honor,” said Vance, Executive Director of LivingWell Cancer Resource Center.
LivingWell is a community-based, non-profit center that opened in 2005 in Geneva, with the vision of providing wellness, support and educational services for individuals and entire families.
Vance said because of great medical advancements people are living longer with cancer. But previously there was no one to walk beside cancer patients and help them navigate some of the psychological-social issues associated with the disease.
The needs vary from individual counseling and caregiver support groups to finding the words to explain to a child that their mother has cancer.
Vance said statistics show half of all men and one-third of all women will get a cancer diagnosis in a lifetime.
“It’s a grim reality,” she said, acknowledging she, too, has had cancer in her family.
“Everybody’s life changes with a cancer diagnosis — we help create a new normal,” she said.
LivingWell receives referrals from 19 hospitals and 26 medical oncology practices and it partners with the physicians to assist patients in their needs.
“It is holistic care,” she said.
Vance said LivingWell outpaced five-year projections in its first 18-months.
“Our footprint expands as the need expands,” she said.
The Delnor Health System in 2010 provided a $4.1 million gift for the construction of a new facility located at the intersection of West State Street and Williamsburg Avenue in Geneva. Individual donors and board members provided the additional $1.5 million that was needed to complete the project. The new facility will open May 4.
“I am humbled by the success and I am extraordinarily pleased we have become an exemplary cancer resource center,” said Nancy Hansen, LivingWell founding board member and lung cancer survivor.
“For Nancy, it’s not just a job. She has built a fantastic staff that works as a team — they share her passion,” Hansen said.
Hansen said during her recovery she found there were no support services for her or her family members.
“It was almost 28 years ago at a time when lung cancer was a death sentence,” Hansen said.
Hansen’s vision was to find a way to give back to the cancer community.
Ruth Rank, a breast cancer survivor, said before she came to LivingWell she had hit a “brick wall” in her recovery when faced with the “fear of reoccurrence.”
“Cancer is a lonely and terrifying journey,” she said. “Even the word wafts fear. Living and navigating the journey is treacherous to one’s soul. It is easy to get lost and become overwhelmed with feelings of despair and hopelessness. I found help that enabled me to regain my footing and move forward with hope and confidence,” Rank said.
“We are fortunate to have such a wonderful resource in our area,” she said.
“It is daunting when you first receive the diagnosis,” said Jim Powell, a prostate cancer survivor.
He said he has found mind and body healing through the fellowship he’s experienced in yoga and other therapeutic classes.
“Everyone in some way is touched by cancer — if you have a bad day, you can talk about it,” Powell said.
Vance said a father of four young children arrived at LivingWell a couple of weeks ago because his wife had been diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer.
“He needed help to tell his children that their mom has cancer,” Vance said.
“He handed our office manager his insurance card and credit card, but we told him everything we do is free of charge and he broke down in tears,” Vance said.
Vance said LivingWell has been blessed with “incredible” community support. Two fundraisers are held each year for the center’s $1.2 million operating budget.
“Cancer patients and their families face so much — the medical bills can be financially catastrophic and to be able to say we got it — no charge — is a great gift.”