Cancer support offers hope, lifts spirits

When Joyce Bergamo’s longtime boyfriend died of cancer last year, a friend told her about a club at Holy Name Medical Center.

“It just looked like a way to communicate with people that were going through the same thing that I was going through,” she said.

Bergamo found a long list of support programs, including one where she crocheted a multi-pattern baby blanket.

“And then another class that I love is the iPhone photography class. The woman that gives the class is wonderful. Everybody, all the hosts that give the class, the teachers, instructors, they’re wonderful. They make you feel really comfortable. The people in the classes are great,” Bergamo added.

Bergamo has become a regular. Some days staying all day and taking several courses, including learning how to play the drums.

“It made me feel more connected to people, I’m not alone. You get this feeling of warmth when you leave,” she said.

Other courses through Holy Name’s partnership with the nonprofit Cancer Support Community includes cooking, soap making, tango with an instructor from ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” and physical strengthening through Pilates with instructor Liz Millner.

Millner volunteers once a month. She gives homework and modifies instruction to meet students where they are physically and emotionally.

“Very often after illness your balance may be off, your strength may be gone. So to give people their strength back, to give them that sense of being strong, is a sense of empowerment. So, that’s what I personally do here, and I think all of the other instructors in their own modalities do that,” Millner said.

Holy Name Medical Center launched its Cancer Support Community in 2016 with the goal of attracting more than just cancer survivors.

“Honestly, support groups are a vital way for people to get support during their journey, and we do offer support groups, here but we but want to offer others ways that people can connect in a nontraditional group setting and in like in a more social way,” said Courtney Lozano, program director of Cancer Support Community at Holy Name Medical Center. “And what’s really unique about this program is that it’s completely open to anyone who’s been impacted by cancer. So even if you don’t get cancer treatment here at Holy Name — you get treatment in the city or you get treatment in another New Jersey hospital – you’re still welcome to come here for support.”

Support that’s made all the difference for Bergamo, helping paint a different outcome in her life.

“It’s wonderful. You’re like meditating, you’re just thinking about the painting. You’re not thinking about problems or stress. It’s just so, you know, it’s just nice,” Bergamo said.