Homewood’s Cancer Support Center celebrating 25 years of hope, help and healing

  The Cancer Support Center hosts a picnic in June for
  those who have been beneficiaries of the many
  programs the center offers.
(Provided photos)
 
There was a time when a cancer patient and the doctor did what they could to fight through the tedious and exhausting battles of treatment and recovery. That changed 25 years ago when volunteers organized the Cancer Support Center in Homewood.
 
“The Cancer Support Center continues to be a place of hope, help and healing for anyone who may be affected by cancer. Over the last 25 years, we have seen countless participants come into the center looking for hope and we are so grateful that we can provide that for them,” said Sue Armato, executive director.

 
  Participants take part in
  a yoga session, one of
  the wellness classes
  offered at the Cancer
  Support Center in
  Homewood. This year
  the center marks its 25th
  anniversary.

 
“We are so excited to be celebrating our 25th anniversary this year and we hope to continue to provide our programs and services free of charge for another 25 years,” she said.
 
The welcoming atmosphere, the patience and understanding that staff and volunteers share and the numerous programs all help make the burdens of fighting cancer a little easier.
 
“We try and fill in all the gaps that you’re not going to hear on the medical side,” said Jim Kvedaras, president of the center’s board of directors. “We touch so many people in so many ways. As the needs have changed, we’ve changed to meet them.”
 
Research has shown that helping cancer patients develop a sense of hope and calm can have benefits to the immune system and can increase the quality of life. Over the past 25 years, the Cancer Support Center has become recognized for its special care.
 
The staff helps cancer patients and their supporters through programs that touch on spirituality, nutrition, meditation, fitness, relationships and shared experiences with other cancer survivors. 
 
Certified therapists and counselors and others trained in specialty fields offer a host of classes and support networks. At the Cancer Support Center, participants can take a yoga or exercise class, a healthy eating class, use the library, get a counseling session, participate in art therapy and much more. All programs are free.
 
“I tell everybody to bring their money here and support this,” said Shirley Mueller of Frankfort who first came to the center 17 years ago with a friend who had been diagnosed with melanoma. “Anyone that needs anything, it’s here and they don’t charge. I brought two people here and it was fantastic.”
 
The center started because a group of women whose lives had been changed by cancer decided they and others needed a support network. 
 
The Cancer Support Center was organized in 1993 by Judith Hanzelin, an oncology nurse, and Jennifer Fallick and Patricia McDonald, whose husbands died from the disease. The need for this special place was first proposed in 1992 by Joan Hopkins and Judy Svamcarek, cancer survivors. 
 
Organizers first met in rented space on Halsted Street. As their idea for a full-functioning center flourished, they were able to raise enough money to move to the red brick building at 2028 Elm Road in Homewood in 1996. Today the center operates a second location in Mokena. 
 
Because services are free, the board of directors relies on donations and several fundraisers throughout the year. The Cancer Support Center also operates The Village Door thrift shop at 2019 Ridge Road in Homewood.
 
Marilyn Kent Tapajna of Flossmoor was one of the early beneficiaries of the Cancer Support Center. 
 
“My father had a diagnosis in 1995 and I walked through these doors for information and I remember sitting on the floor with a number of books and one of the counselors came in and said ‘It’s hard when it’s your dad.’ I cried and that’s what I needed at the time.
 
“I approached something first to get the information on biliary cancer, but also that emotional side. I needed that,” she remembered. 
 
Over the years, Tapajna has given her time to the center. Most recently she served as president of the board.
 
The center is celebrating the 25th anniversary in a number of ways. 
 
On July 1, a specially designed necklace created by Rogers & Holland Jewelers will go on sale. 
 
“Chairs with a Purpose” is a special fundraiser for the center. The painted chairs will be on display in Homewood during July and ready for auction Aug. 18 at the Homewood Block Party.
 
Ravisloe Country Club will be the location for the 27th annual golf outing on Aug. 24.
 
The Walk of Hope, its major annual fundraiser, will be Oct. 7 in Homewood.
 
For information on the center’s services or programs, call 708-798-9171 or visit cancersupportcenter.org.
 

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