Ronni Gordon is  a cancer survivor and long-time journalist who has written about her journey, about health and fitness, and about how she and others have prevailed in difficult situations. She brings to her writing a mix of personal experience with knowledge about the health-care system and how cancer patients can navigate it. A graduate of Vassar College with a master's degree in journalism from Boston University, she is a freelance writer who worked in daily newspapers for more than 30 years. She has been published in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dana FarberCancer Institute magazine, and Cancer Today magazine. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her dog, Maddie, short for Madison (Avenue) in honor of her hometown, New York, and is mother of three grown children, Ben, Joe, and Katie

Ronni Gordon

Making 'Cancer Connections' Key for Survivors

Tuesday, 22 Oct 2013 10:19 AM

By Ronni Gordon

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If you do a Google search for "Cancer Connection," you will find locations in Boise, Idaho; Bethesda, Md.; Austin, Texas; Toldeo, Ohio; Juneau, Alaska; and Northampton, Mass.
 
I know this because I was looking for the phone number for my local Cancer Connection in Northampton. Nationwide, there are undoubtedly more than these six organizations offering free support, educational programs, and complementary therapies to cancer survivors and those in treatment and their families. For example, just in Western Massachusetts, the Cancer House of Hope offers similar programs. You could find them if you just Googled something close, such as "cancer support services."
 
Free programs or just an inviting place to visit might be right in your own back yard, offering a chance to relieve the isolation that some cancer survivors feel. Loving friends and family might surround them, but still, there is nothing like being around people who really "get" what you are going through or have gone through. Priority at some locations is generally given to those in treatment and their families, but there is plenty of help to go around for survivors after treatment ends.
 
Cancer Connection Northampton calls itself "at heart a living room, a place to find kindness, understanding, energy, laughter and respite." Staff members offer help sorting out priorities, medical questions, family, work, or legal issues, according to the website. They offer programs, support groups, workshops and such complementary therapies as Reiki, reflexology, acupuncture, and massage therapy.
 
All of these organizations around the country have some of the same basic programs as well as some designed for each place.
 
In Idaho, a Cancer Connection just opened Sept. 1, providing educational programs and support groups with an emphasis on holistic, individualized approaches to health and healing.
 
Cancer Connection Alaska sponsors education programs and awareness events with the intent of prevention and early detection of cancer. Offerings also include gentle yoga for women with breast cancer and Team Survivor activities for women with all kinds of cancer.
 
The center also has a "Let’s Talk" program created to match cancer patients with others who have been there.
 
Hope Connections for Cancer Support in Bethesda, Md., offers a young adult program, mind-body classes, community programs, and education programs.
 
As a reporter, I had written about the Northampton Cancer Connection, but in the past 10 years of being a patient and survivor, it never occurred to me to take advantage of its services myself. I had mentioned to a friend that I was thinking of finding someone to do reflexology on me, and she said, "Why don’t you go to the Cancer Connection?"
 
I did go, and was warmly welcomed. First I went to a "Group Reiki Night" where I lay on a bed with others in a room as two practitioners worked on me. Another day I did reflexology — administration of pressure to points on the feet, which worked to relax my tight shoulders.
 
I have already made another appointment.

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