Geneva Alderman Ralph Dantino didn't know where to turn for answers when he was diagnosed with appendix cancer in March 2009.
But a friend who had lung cancer told him to go to the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva for a meeting of cancer patients. Dantino, who didn't know what LivingWell was, figured he might as well give it a try.
That group has become an important part of his life. It's worth the pain he feels when a group member dies. The people in the group understand his apprehension and anticipation of medical tests and treatments, what he's going through with chemotherapy side effects and more.
"Most importantly, LivingWell gives me hope for a new day," he said Friday at the ribbon-cutting reception for LivingWell's new, larger facility.
The new building, at Williamsburg Avenue and State Street, comes a little after the 28th anniversary of founder Joanne Hansen's diagnosis with cancer. Friday, she recalled how there wasn't any such place back then for her, her husband or her teenage children to get support. LivingWell started in 2005, with two employees and a handful of programs. It has used rented space until now.
The center now has the equivalent of 7½ full-time employees, 150 volunteers and offers 55 programs and services. It offers individual and family counseling, cooking classes, massage, exercise, financial advice workshops, support groups and more. The new 15,000-square-foot space includes massage suites, serenity gardens, an oncology library, a demonstration kitchen and an art therapy studio. All are free; the facility is supported by private donations, and it's owned and overseen by Cadence Health System.
Unfortunately, the need has grown faster than organizers anticipated. Hansen said the center receives 180 new clients a week. Besides Geneva, it offers classes in Joliet, DeKalb, Aurora, Warrenville, Winfield, St. Charles and Elgin.