GENEVA – Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva quietly marked its 15th year on Sept. 1, officials stated in a news release.
The center is closed except for limited on-site fitness programs, but all other services are now offered online.
The program to support people with cancer and their families was the brainchild of Batavia resident Joanne Hansen, a founding board member of LivingWell.
Since the late 1990s, Hansen had been proposing that Delnor Hospital – now Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva – open a center where community members with cancer could receive free supportive services.
She collaborated with other community leaders to create the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva, which opened on Sept. 1, 2005.
Now, 15 years later, more than 75,000 clients have received the equivalent of $1 million annually in free supportive services, from counseling and support groups to cooking classes, art therapy, yoga and massage therapy, the release stated.
And throughout its location at 442 Williamsburg Ave., small statues of pigs with wings can be seen, tucked into bookshelves and standing in the Remembrance Garden.
Back in 2005, Hansen was reading a philanthropy magazine when a piece of artwork caught her eye.
“It was a cartoon that had two men in it and one was saying to the other, ‘I heard your project was approved,’ and above them, pigs were flying,” Hansen stated in the release. “I knew right then it was a sign.”
A cancer survivor herself, Hansen was 44 in 1984 when she was diagnosed with lung cancer.
“I was terrified,” Hansen stated in the release. “And there were no services to support you then. LivingWell has become all that I dreamed of and more than I had hoped.”
According to the American Cancer Society, as of Jan. 1, 2019, there were estimated to be almost 17 million cancer survivors alive in the U.S. This number is expected to grow to more than 22 million by 2030, due to advances in early detection and treatment and the growth and aging of the population, the release stated.
“Studies have shown that supportive oncology services have measurable benefits for cancer survivors and their caregivers,” Dr. Robert Bayer, a Northwestern Medicine oncologist, stated in the release. “LivingWell addresses the physical, emotional, social and financial deficits that people face because of cancer diagnoses and treatment.”
LivingWell Director Angela McCrum stated in release that the center is the bridge that provides the tools and resources needed for cancer survivorship and for life with a chronic illness.
“The community has rallied behind its mission, donating generously to LivingWell, creating fundraising opportunities and participating in events like the annual Bridge Walk and the LivingWell Winter Gala,” McCrum stated in the release.
“The community’s commitment is why we are able to provide free support to our clients,” McCrum stated in the release. “We are thankful for every person who donates time, talent and resources to ensure LivingWell is here to serve cancer survivors and their caregivers.”
For Hansen, the small pig statues throughout the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center still serve as a reminder of the effort and compassion that went into creating the space that exists today.
“We give each person who visits something different, whether they like the wellness part of it, the group meetings or the culinary comforts,” Hansen said.
“They may be afraid to go in for all different reasons, and I get it,” Hanson said. “But once they go in the door, I love how they feel. LivingWell gives people a soft place to land during a very scary time. It’s like a warm embrace.”
More information about LivingWell and its programs are available online at livingwellcrc.org.