New breast cancer survivor program offers opportunity to heal mind and spirit

As promised in my last column, I am featuring another new program in Howard County here.

"Thriving Beyond Breast Cancer" is a pilot program made possible by a senior center operating fund grant from the Maryland Department of Aging. The Howard County Office on Aging launched this new health and wellness program for breast cancer survivors on April 3. Designed for breast cancer survivors of all ages, class sessions are held Tuesday and Thursdays from 2 to 4 p.m. for eight weeks at the North Laurel Community Center, 9411 Whiskey Bottom Road. The fee for all eight weeks is $80. There are limited scholarships available.

The program's publicity flier states "Thriving Beyond Breast Cancer recognizes that complete recovery from treatment isn't just about healing your body, it's also about healing your mind and spirit. Throughout this innovative eight-week program, participants explore stress management techniques and seminars that focus on the power of healing." To this end, stress management techniques include yoga and acupuncture, while other classes focus on fitness, nutrition andmental well-being, all with the goal of facilitating the healing process.

There is a broad range of topics covered in the "Thriving" sessions.

The first week started off with a yoga session, titled "Pose for Pink." Participants learned to integrate the body and mind through physical postures, deep breathing and meditation.

"Jumpstart Your Health" is a workshop, in which participants reflect on their journey of survival and devise their own plan for life beyond breast cancer.

Participants experience stress relief through the use of auricular (ear) techniques in a group acupuncture session and can also "cultivate their inner observer" by creating an awareness of how their intentions, words, thoughts and actions impact their health and well-being.

A registered dietitian discusses "the healing power of food," and making smart food choices that may boost the immune system and improve overall health.

In my opinion, looking good goes a long way toward making an individual feel better. In the "Create Your Outer Glow" workshop, the emphasis is on experimenting with cosmetics that provide the skin with a natural look. Participants can bring makeup from home to the workshop.

"Stillness Within" offers the opportunity to learn do-it-yourself techniques to design a personal space of tranquillity, while Stress Busters 101 teaches and guides participants through various techniques that may be helpful in responding to stress.

FITT for Pink is an exercise program utilizing the FITT principle, designed to complement a yoga practice and to improve cardiovascular health. In researching the FITT principle, I found that FITT is an acronym for Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. All these factors vary according to the exercise.

The first session of the eighth and last week brings "An Attitude of Gratitude" workshop, in which the participants learn the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal to discover and share self-validating successes and insights.

Courtney Barkley, Evidence Base Facilitator for the Howard County Office on Aging, provided me with some participants' thoughts about the program so far. Participants' ages are 40 years old and older.

After a Thriving Beyond Breast Cancer educational session, Maxine said, "I am so calm, nothing is bothering me now." She also stated, "These types of programs get me back to feeling normal...and I haven't felt normal for a while."

Naomi responded, "It is helpful in making me realize what I need to do."

Barbara Goodridge said, "It is a good transition from healing to complete wellness." Barbara also related, in regard to her own story with breast cancer, "I want people to know so that I can be a valuable resource."

Debby responded, "Everyone involved in the program has been professional, warm, caring and knowledgeable. The information is powerful. I am thoroughly enjoying myself." Debby also stated, in regard to the yoga class, "I thought it may be something that I couldn't do but it's something that I can do."

Bob Duggan, M.Ac., co-founder and president emeritus of the Tai Sophia Institute, is one of the program's education seminar leaders. When asked why he is involved in the Thriving Beyond Breast Cancer program, he said, "There are overwhelming reports that indicate when appropriate medical care and appropriate wellness care are offered simultaneously, people in recovery receive greater outcomes."

Courtney Barkley told me that the Howard County Office on Aging will review the feedback from "Thriving" class participants after the class has been completed, and that they hope the current breast cancer survivor offering will be the start of many more "Thriving" sessions, including taking the program to survivors of other types of cancer.

If you would like to participate in a future offering of "Thriving Beyond Breast Cancer," or would like further information, call 410-313-0380 or go to

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