Cancer patients, in all stages, undergo many stressful doctor’s appointments and tests. Naturally, relaxation can sometimes feel impossible. However, it is important to feel empowered and hopeful. Complementary Cancer Care provides healing and support through its yoga, Tai Chi and other classes that help to empower cancer patients, survivors and their families, as well as provide peace during a difficult time.
Amy Fentress, co-founder and president of Complementary Cancer Care, has been a nurse for 27 years, and became passionate about oncology nursing 15 years ago. She is also a 200-hour certified yoga teacher. She wanted to start a nonprofit but did not have the courage to do it on her own. She met her partner, Lórien Neargarder, who was a yoga therapist and had worked extensively with cancer patients. The two started the nonprofit together a year ago and have since brought on a third partner, the former executive director of the Cancer Care of Brevard Foundation, Gwen Hertlien-Haber. The three aim to promote peace and hope through their nonprofit.
Fentress said yoga is a practice of the mind, body and spirit. “For me personally, it’s a time to honor my mind, [and it’s] a time for me to be in the present [and] be in the moment,” she continued. According to Mayo Clinic, Tai Chi is “meditation in motion” and it “promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements.” Fentress said Tai Chi helps you to use your core muscles and draw in energy and focus on breathing.
The group’s mission is to provide complementary, nonmedical services to cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. This is very broad, which is why Fentress said the nonprofit tries to offer many different classes; there is something for everyone. “Healing does not necessarily mean that you’re cured,” Fentress said. “Somehow trying to find some peace in the journey [is important] because you can heal without being cured.”
Not only does the nonprofit offer classes like yoga and Tai Chi, but it also offers educational and informational classes and support groups. Fentress says that the classes remind patients and survivors to take deep breaths, which is very healing to the body. The classes also help patients move around which can assist with fatigue. And, having a community in which all people are battling the same thing, ultimately helps all people feel more at peace and less alone.
October is breast cancer awareness month, which helps to promote and educate about checking on your needs regularly and getting tested. Fentress said it is important to encourage mammograms and reminded that there are so many organizations on the Space Coast that offer free mammograms. She also said that giving yourself a monthly self-breast exam is important as well because early detection is the key to survival.
Complementary Cancer Care does not have a physical address or building because they are relatively new. They meet across multiple locations in Brevard including places such as Downtown Melbourne and Cocoa Village. Fentress hopes to one day have a freestanding building where the nonprofit can offer services every day and add more classes. But for now, she is so thankful for all the people with whom she gets to work.
“Part of the journey with cancer is 25% finding that oncologist and finding that institution that you feel comfortable,” Fentress said. “The other 75% really becomes a journey of each individual patient, and that means getting up every day, getting dressed, putting your makeup on, and just being beautiful in where you’re at.”