By Matt Leavitt
“When you cry like a baby, nobody makes fun of you because everybody’s been there.” explained Ed, a cancer patient fighting stage four melanoma. He was referring to the support group that he found in the Cancer Wellness House.
Just a few blocks east of downtown Salt Lake sits a beautiful old house nestled below the foothills of the Wasatch Front. This pretty, but ordinary looking house is home to an organization that plays a very important role in the lives of many local Salt Lake residents. The Cancer Wellness House (CWH) is a non-profit organization that, according to its mission statement, strives “to support people living with cancer and their families in a homelike setting.”
The Cancer Wellness house was organized in 1997 after their first fundraiser “Survivors at the Summit,” now an annual tradition at the snowbird ski resort. This event along with the other fundraisers and volunteer efforts help maintain this system of support which provides many free services to cancer patients and their families. These services include activities like socials for cancer patients, group therapy sessions, yoga classes, meditation, wellness counseling, acupuncture, massages, and more. Terri Goldstein, former director of the CWH stated, “What’s really unique about some of these activities is that they’re scientifically proven to help people with cancer have better outcomes.”
Kendra Baum, the current executive director of the CWH, spoke of what makes the organization unique. “Creating a home-like setting is one of our favorite aspects of Cancer Wellness House. We operate out of two homes across the street from Salt Lake Regional Medical Center. Each home is decorated in a warm inviting way and creates a feeling of serenity and peace. The staff works very hard to make sure that everyone who comes to CWH feels welcome.”
In its 20 years of existence the CWH hasn’t grown immensely, but rather has kept its services very intimate and personal. In this they have been very successful. The level of trust that is built between the cancer fighters and the personnel at CWH has allowed them to plant the seed of hope and the will to fight on.
Ingrid, a previous beneficiary of the services of CWH, explained that “…when the other patients tell you as they are struggling what they are going through, you can be supportive for each other and that way you have the hope that you can do it too.”
Most of the CWH’s patrons have been referred by their doctors and clinics due to the tireless effort of the staff at CWH to spread the word about their free services to medical providers. Baum explained that most patients are from Salt Lake City, but the CWH has spread its reach to residents of Davis, Tooele, Utah and Weber counties. Currently, the CWH is also providing services to two patients from outside the state of Utah who travel to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for their treatments.
While the services offered by the CWH are specifically geared towards cancer patients, the patrons aren’t the only ones who are affected. Baum stated that “lives are changed every day by the services provided at the CWH … I have had the opportunity to work with other interns and it is incredible to see the change in them from when they start to when they finish. It would seem that those who work at CWH gain a greater respect for life and remembering to honor the simple things around them.” She continued , “It also teaches us about gratitude. We work with a lot of volunteers from the community and we also see how this changes their lives for the better. They recognized quickly that these homes are truly filled with love and compassion.”
Cancer Wellness House extends an invitation for all those who currently find themselves in the fight against cancer to come and participate in their program of healing and support, as well as for all who have the capacity to contribute to do so through either time or donations. More information can be found on their website at http://www.cancerwellness.org.