Mary Pat Wright of Geneva was enjoying a particularly happy time in the life of a parent.
It was summer 2009 and her daughter had just graduated from high school and was out of the country, enjoying those first tastes of adulthood before making the journey off to college. Mary Pat's oldest son had just accepted a job in Taiwan, and her youngest son was happily ensconced in college life at Northern Illinois University.
Everything changed in July, though, when Mary Pat was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer.
Her children were, understandably, devastated—especially her daughter, who was abroad at the time.
“She felt out of the loop with my treatment and experience,” Mary Pat said. “By the time she made it home, I’d already had the surgery, and she wanted to be involved in my treatment and recovery.”
Her daughter asked around among her friends whose family members had been treated for cancer, and soon came up with a place to bring her mother for support.
Mary Pat first walked through the doors of less than two weeks after her surgery, which she’d undergone at Advocate Lutheran General in Park Ridge. She didn’t want to go.
“I said, ‘I can’t do this,’ ” she recalled. Her daughter insisted, “Yes, you can.” She led her into the Center by the hand, and into the Look Good … Feel Better support group.
Mary Pat and Greg moved their daughter into her dorm room in Elmhurst and, the next day, Mary Pat started chemotherapy. Her daughter had planned to go to college farther away from home but, before Mary Pat’s diagnosis, she had had a sudden change of mind, which worked out so that could be around her mother while she was going through her treatment and recuperation.
At LivingWell, Mary Pat made use of multiple support groups. She took advantage of the FORCE Networking Group, for participants who are BRCA positive. She went to the Gynecological Cancer Networking Group, and her husband accessed the Men & Cancer Breakfast and the Caregiver’s Support Group programs.
For Mary Pat, the FACT Group was the ultimate support group. They would meet and just laugh. The group met on their own, branching out beyond the center and their regular time-slot, supporting each other on a constant basis.
Through LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, Mary Pat got to experience non-traditional therapies: massage, reflexology, Reiki, Healing Touch. She said that she appreciated the extra meetings they offered, too: nutrition, a spa day for anybody who’s had cancer to socialize and get facials and hand massages and acupuncture—a day of pampering for those going through a life changing ordeal.
For Mary Pat Wright, the 2010 Bridge Walk was her first appearance without a wig or a scarf—it was a safe environment for her.
“To be able to just go like I am naturally was very uplifting, very freeing,” she said.
“I love LivingWell,” Mary Pat said. “That would be the first place I would tell people to go. It’s someplace you could go and just feel OK—to not talk, just listen. It’s a calming place. It feels like coming home. From the minute you see Laura at the front desk in the evening, and she asks about what you’ve been up to since she last saw you, you feel like you’ve come home.”
To join Mary Pat on May 14 when she participates in the sixth annual Bridge Walk 5K event in in Geneva for LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, please visit http://bridgewalk.kintera.org to register for the walk. Participants can register with a sponsored team, multiple, family, or as an individual.
For additional information on LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, contact Susan Mielke at LivingWell, 630-262-1111.