Bringing cancer support programs to everyone, regardless of where they live or receive treatment, is Maigenete Mengesha’s mission.
“That’s an important part of health equity is being able to offer our programs, our high-quality programs to anyone,” said Mengesha, the Director for Cancer Health Equity Initiatives for Wellness House, a Hinsdale-based non-profit that provides support services to cancer patients and their families.
Through a partnership with the University of Illinois Cancer Center and the UI Health Mile Square Health Center, Wellness House is offering dozens of programs at the Mile Square location at 1220 S. Wood Street in Chicago.
Two-time breast cancer survivor Jeanette Carter lives in Hyde Park and learned about the Wellness House support programs, that are offered completely free of charge, through her doctor, Deborah Manst.
“It really impacts them in a positive way and I’ve seen it myself in clinic,” said Manst, an oncogeneralist who provides clinical care to cancer survivors at Mile Square Health Center.
Manst urged Carter to try a Mediterranean diet, but Carter, wasn’t sure what that meant. She began taking nutrition classes through Wellness House at Mile Square Health Center.
“Once you get in the class, you learn that I can do these things at home and it makes you want to come back,” Carter said. “I feel better because I know that I can do it.”
In addition to nutrition and exercise classes, Wellness House also offers counseling.
They now have a new designation that allows a Wellness House facilitator to expand online counseling sessions beyond the Chicago area, to cancer patients and their families in other states.
“There are about 35 states that are participating. This is just one of the many ways that we are increasing access and really diversifying how we can reach people impacted by cancer,” Mengesha said.
On June 3rd, the partnership is hosting a “Surviving and Thriving: A Cancer Survivorship Event.”
It will showcase several of the programs that are offered Mile Square Health Center.
“Just a really fun event to come sample our programs that we offer on a regular basis so nutrition and exercise, support groups,” Mengesha said.
“Cancer survivors, caretakers, anyone can come participate,” Manst said.
“We have Spanish programs and also English programs, so it’s really great for the population, not just for the mind, but the body and the breath as well,” said Michelle Garcia, a certified yoga instructor who teaches a weekly class at the Mile Square facility.
Shavon Miller’s mother signed them both up for the Wednesday class. While her mom is the one battling cancer, Shavon admits she’s been stressed as her caretaker.
“She found the class and was like we should do yoga. I think that would be more relaxing, not only for you, but for both of us, something for us to do together,” Miller said.
Miller said the free class gave her a moment of peace.
“I feel great, very relaxed mentally and physically so it’s definitely worth it,” Miller said.