Instead of shutting down free support programs for those living with cancer, the suburban Chicago non-profit Wellness House said participation has increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
“While the rest of the world might have been pausing because of COVID-19, cancer wasn't. In fact, lots of people felt a greater sense of concern, anxiety and isolation,” said Lisa Kolavennu, executive director of Wellness House, based in west suburban Hinsdale.
Wellness House moved quickly to get dozens of its programs online within 36 hours of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay at home order. Anyone living with cancer and their caregivers can find a list online at https://wellnesshouse.org/ and click to register. The classes are held via Zoom and are free of charge.
Kim Lee-Purnell, a participant who lives on Chicago's West Side and underwent a double mastectomy in December 2019, said these classes are crucial for her during the pandemic.
“I've been taking mindfulness classes, yoga classes, because I'm intimidated by the gym,” Lee-Purnell said. “I needed it more than ever. Because, along with me trying to heal, I also obtained lots of anxiety because of the pandemic.”
Marci Goldberg had a mastectomy in 2018 and has been cancer-free ever since. Goldberg said is she determined to stay that way by signing up for multiple Wellness House programs including virtual cooking classes.
“Eating well is going to help with cancer prevention, and continuing to be able to do my yoga class that I do with Wellness House and meditation classes and writing classes, it definitely gives me peace of mind,” Goldberg said.
Kolavennu said some of the classes could remain online indefinitely.
"Being able to access these programs online is really a game changer moving forward,” Kolavennu said.