GENEVA – Imagine a place where cancer patients receive counseling, stress-relief, medical updates and nutritional education as well as therapeutic massages and exercise classes.
Think of a place where specialized support groups for patients, family members and caregivers meet in a serene environment to face cancer’s challenges head-on.
And, consider a place where patients are able to express themselves in art classes, or help restore their appearances with special make-up sessions and from the selections in a fashionable wig boutique.
Now, imagine a place where all of those programs and services are available free of charge.
That is LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva, which is providing all of those services and more to hundreds of area cancer patients each week.
The center, in a building specially constructed for the purpose about five years ago, is located at 442 Williamsburg Ave. in Geneva and is particularly focused on helping the newly diagnosed cancer patient.
“That can be a very scary time, and we’re here to provide hope and education to patients and their families,” said Angela McCrum, LivingWell’s new director.
McCrum knows first-hand about patients dealing with that initial diagnosis, because she has been on the frontlines in the battle against cancer for the past 26 years.
Starting as a radiographer, or X-ray technician, McCrum diagnosed patients at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, later becoming a therapist at CDH.
“I loved building relationships with patients and earning their trust,” said McCrum, a resident of Roselle.
Later, McCrum took an even more aggressive approach as director of the Chicago Proton Center in Warrenville, where cancer patients receive advanced radiation treatment.
Now, McCrum has taken the reins at LivingWell, building on the legacy established by Nancy Vance of Batavia, who recently stepped down as director.
“I view LivingWell as a respite,” McCrum said. “It’s a family affair.”
Like Central DuPage and the proton center, LivingWell is under the umbrella of Northwestern Medicine, which operates the nearby Delnor Hospital on Randall Road in Geneva.
But patients coming from any hospital or treatment program may avail themselves of LivingWell’s services, McCrum said.
“I think what is so impressive is that we function on donor dollars to provide these services,’ McCrum said.
LivingWell’s 16 full- and part-time staff members include social workers, counselors and dieticians, supported by more than 100 volunteers.
Taking a tour of the facility feels more like visiting a first-class resort, with well-appointed rooms for educational presentations, counseling sessions and exercise classes. There is an art studio, children’s playroom, outdoor patios and gardens and an expansive kitchen and dining area.
“My goal is to make sure the staff has the tools they need and to build relationships in the community,” McCrum said.
Also new to the LivingWell staff is Sue Gillerlain of Batavia as the program and outreach coordinator, with responsibility for organizing special medical presentations for the center’s clients while supervising communications and social media for the operation.
Gillerlain said LivingWell services an average of 720 participants per week with more than 100 programs. In June of this year, there were 2,971 patient visits, she said.
Support groups are a big part of LivingWell’s services, and these are designed for patients facing specific types of cancer, including breast, prostate or leukemia. There are groups for caregivers and those suffering grief from the loss of a loved one.
Cultural changes and acceptance have altered the way people think about cancer, McCrum said.
“It’s not a stigma anymore. That makes it easier to provide support because you’re able to talk about it,” McCrum said.
More information and registration is available by calling LivingWell Cancer Resource Center at 630-262-1111.
LivingWell’s website address is: https://livingwellcrc.org.