Lucinda L A Healing Bond

“I have her butterfly pin on the table next to my bed as a constant reminder to stop dwelling on what is wrong in the world and let in the light. And as I learned recently, the name Lucinda means ‘light.’”

Can a chance encounter that leads to friendship help someone battle cancer? Lucinda Longo and Linda Martin bet yes.

Longo, a Hamilton resident, was diagnosed with bladder cancer in April 2021 and chose treatment at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Hamilton. She knew the hospital’s Cancer Center provided advanced treatment options close to home.

The Cancer Center also features a Holistic Program that focuses on healing the whole person by addressing a range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences on health. As part of the Holistic Program, Martin, a Ewing resident with a background in fashion and merchandising, volunteers to create fashionable displays at the Cancer Center to help lift patients’ spirits.

The two women met in the Cancer Center lobby in November 2021 as Longo waited for a ride and Martin grappled with a mannequin. They struck up a conversation. Then Longo learned in a subsequent meeting that Martin once owned a clothing store called Flutter Boutique.

Both women, it turned out, had an affinity for butterflies. “I see butterflies as a metaphor for a woman,” Martin says. They bonded over the notion that, like a woman, a butterfly can seem delicate yet is able to break out of its cocoon and take flight. “Like the butterfly, women are much stronger than we’re given credit for,” Martin says. “I couldn’t help but think that she might see herself in that metaphor as she battles her disease.”

Finding What Soothes

“Holistic therapies empower individuals to improve health by tapping their inner healing abilities through things like relationships, art, music, environmental interaction and nature,” says Diane Grillo, Vice President, Health Promotion, RWJUH Hamilton. “The Holistic Program teaches you to know yourself in ways you might not have known before and find what soothes and heals.”

Ahead of its time when it started 20 years ago, the program engages patients not only through activities and services but also through facilities. A fireplace greets visitors as they arrive. The RWJ Fitness and Wellness Center provides a venue for programs. And the Cancer Center features a private Grounds for Healing garden space with water features and sculpture that infusion center patients can gaze at through large windows.

“The Holistic Program creates a warm, friendly environment,” Grillo says. “Anything we can do to make patients feel safer, more comfortable or more relaxed helps in the healing process.”

An Ongoing Bond

The program also makes encounters like Longo and Martin’s possible. After bonding over butterflies, Longo gave Martin a butterfly pin to thank her for her kindness and volunteer work. “I was touched by her gift,” Martin says.

The friends offer each other support and a sense of community. For Longo, whose family lives in the Midwest, this has meant added local support during a challenging time. For Martin, Longo’s positive attitude has provided perspective on difficulties like the pandemic. The two try to talk at least once a week and often get together for lunch.

“I have her butterfly pin on the table next to my bed as a constant reminder to stop dwelling on what is wrong in the world and let in the light,” Martin says. “And as I learned recently, the name Lucinda means ‘light.’”

Healing The Whole Person

The Holistic Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton’s Cancer Center offers features and programs such as these at no cost to patients and families.

Grounds for Healing®: A private garden in the Cancer Center provides natural landscaping including water features and a wisteria-covered trellis, along with sculptures to create a calming outdoor space.

Reiki and massage: Reiki, a whole-body energy healing experience, and massage both can be beneficial to health and well-being. Sessions with licensed professionals are offered in various settings, including infusion rooms.

Pet therapy: Visits with certified pet therapy animals can provide comfort and help patients and loved ones cope with cancer and other conditions.

Aromatherapy and gazing therapy: Taking in scents or visually focusing on an object or image can be soothing or meditative.

Yoga and meditation: Both help clear the mind and induce relaxation. Chair yoga and meditation sessions allow patients going through treatment to participate while seated.

Spiritual care: A chaplaincy team is available to provide emotional support and assist patients and loved ones grappling with spiritual questions and thoughts that illness can raise regardless of faith, tradition or culture.

Boutique services: Collaborations with local aestheticians and salon professionals allow patients to receive hair, wig and makeup services tailored to the unique needs of people undergoing cancer treatment.

Music and singing: Live performances, recordings and, in some cases, lessons allow patients to experience calming sounds from instruments such as cello, violin, ukulele, flute, piano and bedside harp.

Art: Facilities feature various creative displays, and live demonstrations of art forms such as painting and sculpting are offered periodically.

Other services: These may include activities such as meditative coloring, cooking demonstrations and special events such as art festivals.

Supporting Holistic Care

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton supports its Cancer Center’s Holistic Program through an annual dedicated fundraiser called We vs. C. The immersive event includes interactive guest experiences, diverse cultural performances, art creation stations, spiritual practices, live entertainment and creative culinary and beverage offerings for sponsors and guests.

To learn more about the Holistic Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton’s Cancer Center, call 609-584-2827.