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Cancer Support Community Celebrates Living, Learning & Loving
Holy Name Medical Center's cancer support services "replenish the soul"

When 29-year old, Jane Martinez was first diagnosed with cervical cancer she didn't want anyone to know. "I needed to keep it to myself until I had a plan to fix it," she explains.

"Fixing it" wouldn't be easy. She underwent intense surgery known as a radical trachelectomy, which included the removal of her cervix and the lymph nodes in her pelvis. While she looked forward to reclaiming life as a single mother, gymnastics coach, and photographer - when finally back at work - Jane found herself struggling. "I thought I was OK, but I was having trouble handling my emotions," she says.

For many people, receiving a cancer diagnosis and going through treatment is a time of fear and anguish. But it doesn't have to be.

Cancer Support Community (CSC) is a non-profit organization devoted to providing emotional and social support to anyone impacted by cancer. Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, is one of only seven hospitals nationwide to partner with CSC to offer a variety of free classes, workshops and events to all people affected by cancer, regardless of where they receive their treatment.

"These unique programs bring our participants together in a very special way that promotes social connection, emotional well-being and decreased feelings of isolation and loneliness," says Holy Name’s CSC program director, Courtney Lozano.

Take a look at the monthly calendar and you'll see there's something for everyone – from iPhone photography and knitting to expressive writing, cooking, soap making, and so much more. "Forty different classes are offered each month, each with the goal of fostering social connections through fitness, education, support and friendship," says Lozano.

Jane found taking yoga, meditation and participating in the program’s "cancer recovery fitness" class at Holy Name, not only helped her regain physical strength but mental strength, as well. "I'm very thankful for these classes, I don't know what I would have done without them," she says.

No matter what your stage in life, or stage in cancer, the program is empowering, says Patti Mayurnik. And she would know. Patti's ovarian cancer has recurred nine times in the last 14 years. "My cancer journey began in 2003, two months shy of my forty-first birthday," she explains.

When she first started treatment, CSC, didn't exist. But in 2016, the program formerly known as Gilda's Club found a new home at Holy Name. Patti started to take advantage of classes like drum circle, tango for balance, and support for women coping with gynecologic cancers. It wasn't until then, she says, that she realized just how hard her life was, before having this support. "The programs have enhanced my outlook, helped me to become stronger physically and introduced me to wonderful people who understand the anxiety and side effects that are a byproduct of cancer surgery and treatment," she says.

And then there’s Joyce Nadler. In April of 2015, Joyce's boyfriend was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Less than a month later, he died.

"My boyfriend was my life," she says. After his death, Joyce was devastated and feared she wouldn't be able to make new friends. That is, until she learned about Cancer Support Community which is also open to caregivers, family, and friends of those with cancer.

Now, Joyce's social calendar couldn't be busier thanks to all of the workshops. Her favorites include painting and crocheting. She’s also looking forward to a cooking class, where she’ll learn how to make bread. "I look forward to going," says Joyce, “There's no pressure, it's social, and you're with people in a similar situation as you."

Jane, Patti, Joyce and so many others might be living with the effects of cancer but thanks to CSC and Holy Name Medical Center, they are able to forget, if only for a brief period, to enjoy what they consider "a corner of paradise to help replenish the soul."

To see a list of upcoming events, visit holyname.org/regionalcancercenter or call 201-833-3392 for more information.