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Columnist
Cancer center tends to patient, family and friends
By Lee A. Litas | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 9/16/2008 12:03 AM

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Operating out of Northbrook, they had identified northern Lake County as an area much in need of such a service. On Sept. 10 they opened a satellite center, the Cancer Wellness Center North, in Grayslake at the Wildwood Presbyterian Church.

"It is a service that is unique in Lake County," said CWC's Clinical Director Dr. Stuart Pinkwater. "The one thing we do at our center is to help people improve the quality of their life so that they can live better while living with cancer."

According to Pinkwater, more people in the history of the diagnosis are living today with cancer, and living longer, making the disease rather more a chronic than a terminal illness.

"It wasn't until the '70s that most doctors would even say the word 'cancer.' They would talk about a tumor or they would talk about the 'Big C' but they would rarely use the word 'cancer,'" said Pinkwater.

Today cancer is a family disease. The CWC's objective is to empower people to have a higher quality of life during a very difficult time and this extends not only to the patients but to family members and even friends.

The center concentrates on wellness and education by offering free programming which includes everything from yoga classes to meditation, healing touch, knitting, writing, as well as counseling, support groups and even educational forums with physicians and other professionals.

"We believe in the mind-body connection and absolutely believe that mind does influence body. We don't know how powerful our minds actually can be, how curative they can be, but we do know that many of the wellness or mind-body practices help people feel stronger, better and more complete," said Pinkwater.

Programs at the center are run by nine licensed clinicians, social workers and psychologists and are overseen by a medical advisory board as well as a clinical oversight committee with members from major area hospitals including Northwestern Memorial, Lake Forest, Rush North Shore Medical Center, Highland Park and Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, to name just a few.

The program differs from those offered by other facilities, such as the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, in that it is a nonprofit, non-hospital environment. Such facilities provide traditional, medical cancer treatment as well as some alternative, or complimentary, treatments that would be comparable to what the CWC offers in terms of nutrition, exercise or meditation.

"We are not a medical facility. We do not advocate nor support any hospital, any doctor, any treatment. We support our participants," said Pinkwater.

The center sees more than 2,000 unique individuals on a yearly basis, a figure that translates into several hundred visitors per week. Their support groups, either for cancer patients or survivors, include a men's group that meets twice a month on Friday afternoons at 2 p.m. "Many of them leave work to come and do this," said Pinkwater emphasizing that the medical community takes care of patients' cancer while the CWC believes in the whole person.

"We take care of the mind, the body, the spirit and, in combination; it is the most powerful way for people to go through this experience. Will it extend their life? I don't know that. Will it improve the quality of their life? Without question," said Pinkwater.

On Monday, Sept. 22, the Cancer Wellness Center will be offering a free seminar on "The Role of Integrative Medicine in Quality Cancer Care." Call (847) 509-9595 or go to www.cancerwellness.org.