It would have been difficult for Cindy Benson to leave Waterford Place Cancer Resource Center when she moved to New Mexico last year. Fortunately, she didn’t have to. With the resource center’s programming going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she is still able to benefit from Waterford programs — even though she now lives more than a thousand miles away.
Waterford Place offers services, support and programming, free of charge, to anyone affected by a cancer diagnosis. Its programs include educational lectures and workshops; support groups; wellness programs like cooking demonstrations and yoga classes; mind, body and spirit programs designed to reduce stress; and salon and spa services that focus on skin and hair care. These are all now provided virtually.
Cindy takes full advantage of the virtual programming, participating in at least five Waterford programs every week, including yoga and exercise classes. She also makes time for nutrition classes. Her job allows her three hours of wellness time per week and she uses it to do meditation with Waterford during her morning break.
Getting involved with Waterford Place
Cindy originally went to Waterford Place for in-person salon services when she was diagnosed with two kinds of cancer three years ago. After surgery at Rush Copley Medical Center, she underwent a year of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, she suffered with multiple side effects from her treatments which made her very sick. She had only a small support group — until a nurse told her about Waterford Place.
Her first visit to Waterford Place was to be fitted for a wig, a service which is now offered virtually with contactless delivery of wigs. Although Cindy was nervous and scared before her visit, Jenny Burns, a licensed cosmetologist and medical hair loss expert, helped her. Cindy had long red hair and Burns understood how heartbreaking it was for her to lose it.
“I can’t say enough about Jenny,” Cindy says. “She was kind, considerate and caring.”
Classes, services and more
While there for the wig fitting, Cindy spoke to the receptionist who encouraged her to come back again to try some of the programs. Cindy did and has good things to say about them all.
“I had never painted before, but the art program was awesome,” she remembers. She loved all the food classes and shared recipes with friends and family. The writing classes energized her.
She took exercise and yoga classes as well as mind, body and spirit programs. She also took advantage of salon and spa services which, at that time, were available in person. The massages and reflexology were “a godsend,” relieving her pain for 20 minutes when pain medications could not.
“I don’t know where I’d be without all of that,” she says.
Reiki, an alternative form of medicine that promotes healing, is now offered as a virtual one-on-one service. Hand massage techniques are taught virtually, as well.
Education and shared experiences
Lectures from doctors about treatments and different kinds of reconstruction helped her know she had options. And although she did not participate in a support group, she found the support she needed in a small group of women “of all ages and all types of cancer who are there for each other any time of day or night.”
Cindy made friends at Waterford who talked about the issues they were facing and shared their experiences facing cancer. Knowing that others experienced similar challenges allowed her to stop being so hard on herself. “I stopped beating myself up,” she says.
Thanks to the Waterford staff and other participants, Cindy says she felt surrounded by love and support. “I really think Waterford saved my life,” she says. When she didn’t know if she would survive, Waterford helped her feel she could survive.
“I remember being upset, anxious and so sick — and just feeling the love,” she says. “It’s such an amazing, wonderful, soothing, nurturing place to be. Waterford let me dream and make new friends. I love Waterford.”
With classes, services and support now virtual, that love and support extend beyond the building — allowing anyone anywhere who has been affected by cancer to benefit from Waterford programming. And Cindy, now a cancer survivor, wholeheartedly recommends it to anyone in any stage of cancer.
“Go to Waterford,” she advises other cancer patients. “Get peace and strength.”