Myjenete Mengesha, director of the Cancer Health Equity Initiative of Wellness House, believes that everyone, regardless of their location or where they are receiving treatment, should have access to cancer assistance programs. “An important part of health equity is our program, our ability to deliver quality programs to everyone,” she said. Through partnerships with the University of Illinois Cancer Center and Her UI Health Mile Square Health Center, Wellness House offers dozens of programs and support services to cancer patients and their families.
Janet Carter, a two-time breast cancer survivor living in Hyde Park, learned about the Wellness House Assistance Program through her doctor, Deborah Munst. The program, offered completely free of charge, provides patients with counseling, nutrition classes, and exercise classes. Munst, an oncology generalist who provides clinical care to cancer survivors at Mile Square Health Center, has seen the program have a positive impact on patients. Under Munst’s guidance, Carter began taking nutrition classes, which helped her understand the Mediterranean diet recommended for her.
Wellness House recently received a new designation that allows its facilitators to offer online counseling sessions to cancer patients and their families in other states. “There are about 35 states participating. This is just one of many ways we are increasing access and really diversifying the way we approach people suffering from cancer,” Mengesha said.
On June 3, Wellness House will host the “Surviving and Thriving: A Cancer Survivorship Event,” which will include programs such as nutrition and exercise classes and support groups. The event is open to cancer survivors, caregivers, and anyone else who wants to participate.
Michelle Garcia, a certified yoga instructor who teaches weekly classes at Mile Square Health Center, emphasized the benefits of the exercise classes. “We have a Spanish program and an English program, so it’s really great for the public, not just for the mind, but for the body and the breath,” she said. Shavon Miller’s mother signed them up for a Wednesday class, and Miller, who is her mother’s caregiver, said the free classes gave her a moment of peace. “It feels so good, so relaxing mentally and physically, so it’s definitely worth doing,” Miller said.