The Wellness Community is a wonderful place. It gets me out of the house once or twice a week, every week, except sometimes the week after chemo. I’ve been pretty homebound since I started chemotherapy and have experienced the incredible fatigue and other side effects of the treatment, as well as the advancing cancer, so this is really important for me. I thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you about this place that has been so welcoming to me and my bald little head
The Wellness Community, a set of 24 stand-alone centers and 56 additional satellite programs, is dedicated to “help(ing) people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support, education, and hope.” They offer several progams each week of yoga, counseling, other gentle exercise, support groups for both people with cancer and their caregivers (separately, but often concurrently), and special programs for dietary, emotional, and other support.
The Wellness Community of Greater Washington opened in March of 2007 in a beautiful pastoral space in Bethesda, MD. Women come from all over the area (D.C. to Fairfax to PG and Montgomery Counties) for the thrice-weekly yoga sessions; I’ve met women in all stages of recovery, from diagnosis to hormone therapy, and we all are growing to appreciate the hour of peace, exercise, and relaxation that the yogi/nurse guides us through.
When the hour approaches for yoga, the women begin to appear, one by one, slowly or at a normal pace, taking off their shoes and leaving them at the door. Each walks into the darkened room, selects a mat and a blanket, and hesitantly or not, decides whether to remove her hat or scarf and relax into the darkness bald. When I first came to yoga, I was startled by the bald heads in the room. Now, I appreciate this place as a “safe space” and eagerly remove my buff/scarf or even leave it in the car. I will not be judged for my bald head here. I will not be judged for anything here. This is a place where I can be whatever I choose to be, and I will not be judged at all. For all who come here have cancer or are deeply affected by cancer, and that’s simply part of the magic of this place.
The space is bright and well-appointed, with everything from comfy chairs to a shiny new demonstration kitchen donated or provided to the center at cost. Hopeful literature abounds, and a bowlful of awareness bracelets spills over in the entryway. A basket of knit hats overflows with kindness and hope, provided by local knitters. (I haven’t been brave enough to take one, but the bright colors always make me smile.) Two conference rooms with comfortable chairs and tissues are provided for support group meetings, and the walls are painted a bright and happy yellow.
Even the exterior is relaxing, with picnic tables provided for relatives and friends (and little boys with loud trucks that go VROOOM!) to use while waiting for a meeting’s conclusion.
The Wellness Center is a beautiful place to meet other survivors. I love ours, and I hope that the one in your area is just as nice!
Written September 10 for posting during my recovery from Chemotherapy treatment #4. I’ll be back soon!