Paths to Healing: Meet the Healing Consciousness Foundation
Three women share their stories of hope, resilience and courage
To honor breast cancer survivors this October, Amoena has partnered with the Healing Consciousness Foundation, a non-profit that seeks “to improve the quality of life for those at high risk for or diagnosed with breast cancer through holistic healing modalities, education, and lifestyle changes.” We have long admired the work of HCF’s founder/president, Dr. Beth DuPree and vice-president, Dr. William Scarlett. With support centers in both Pennsylvania and Arizona, a book by the same name, and speaking engagements around the country, the Foundation’s work is recognized nationally in the breast care community as of the highest quality, and more important, genuine, personal and empathetic.
This year, we are pleased to be able to give a portion of the sales of our Lara Satin bra to help support this incredible work; it fits with our mission of supporting confidence. We love that HCF empowers clients to enlist all body, mind, and spirit techniques in the fight against disease and while undergoing treatment. Its practitioners encourage and facilitate nutrition counseling, massage, art therapy, acupuncture, fitness classes, and life coaching, alongside the important Western-medicine treatments like chemo and radiation.
By sharing the stories of three of the HCF’s clients, we hope to inspire others to treat overall wellness as a preventive measure; to give generously to worthy causes; and to encourage and support similar services in their own communities.
Resilience - Tania Ellerbe-Turner, Philadelphia
Tania’s story could fill more than a few paragraphs, and while it is a journey that includes some heartbreak, her life is full with the surprising blessings cancer actually brought her. Because of her family history (her mother died from breast cancer at a young age), Tania always hesitated to celebrate milestone birthdays, choosing instead to wait until about the third year into her thirties and forties to mark the new decade.
So when she was 50, and her OB/GYN noticed a lump in her underarm, she felt the full force of it. She had to advocate for herself because diagnostic mammograms didn’t find anything. Finally, an ultrasound confirmed malignancy in her left breast; Tania opted for a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction due to her history.
Work/Life Balance: 27 years in a fast-paced career in marketing and pharmaceutical sales was all she knew before cancer. “I don’t think I’ve ever really known what it is to slow down. I was a hardworking kid, and never wavered in that work ethic,” she admits. After her cancer diagnosis, she sadly lost her job and soon after, her 23-year marriage to an unexpected divorce. Now, two years later, she’s taken a new job with less-demanding hours, so she can spend more time at home with her young adult daughter and teenage son.
Most Difficult Challenges: “Watching my entire life fall around me, while I was still reeling from the cancer diagnosis -- it was more than I’d ever endured. And cancer changed me -- it made me realize how I want to be treated. On top of my own emotions, my kids also experienced the effects of our upheaval, and then, both suffered unrelated physical challenges, as well. It was quite a journey for all of us, these past 2 years.”
How HCF Helped: “From the moment I was first introduced to my HCF doctors, everyone’s approach was consistent -- and not just bedside manner. That, of course, was excellent, but for me it was more than that. We were on the journey together; there was this soul-to-soul consciousness from the surgeons to the financial people to the Breast Friends support group. I could feel everyone’s positive energy and I never felt like I was in harm’s way, or alone. I really needed that. Later, I engaged with the Life Strategies coaching service, and it was life-changing; from that I learned three things: humility, resilience, and courage.”
Advice for other survivors: Tania is well aware of the healing that came with taking her power back. “It is okay to ask for -- and accept -- help. It is okay to put yourself first. It sounds surprising, but what this journey has given me and my kids, after hitting rock bottom…. It’s a gift. We are bigger, better than we were before.”
Community: Jean Green - Bucks County, PA
Jean has become one of the welcoming faces of the HCF as its administrator, but before taking the job, she was herself a client. “The 'Hallmark' version of my cancer story is that I had Stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer (the kind without a lump), chemotherapy first, bilateral mastectomy with lymph node removal, reconstruction, and proton radiation.”
One of the common side effects of lymph node removal is lymphedema, and Jean started receiving lymphatic massage services from HCF when that became part of her experience. But she had a more personal connection, as well.
Part of a Sisterhood: A younger friend was her first intro to HCF. “She moved into our neighborhood on the very day she was diagnosed,” Jean remembers, “so we all helped her through that, and she became active in the Young Breast Friends support group. Then, when I was diagnosed, it meant a lot to me that she wanted to reciprocate.” Sadly, Jean's friend lost her battle before she could join the group, but soon after, Jean made the decision to attend meetings in her friend’s memory.
What She Sees from Inside the HCF: “Most people don’t realize how comprehensive our services actually are; when they're first diagnosed, it's information overload, and they forget everything we offer. All of our services, though, are intended to help the patients, and their families and support systems, as well. We work hard to make sure they continue to know what's available. Our practitioners are very much vested in the bonds and relationships with patients. And in the support groups, well, we’re all practitioners for each other.”
Her Favorite Service/Event: “Choosing a favorite is like asking someone to choose their favorite child! I have to say, our annual Celebration of Healing event, where we honor clients’ 1-year, 5-year, 10-year, 15 and 20+ cancer-free anniversaries, is always meaningful for me. In part, it’s because she sees the commitment that goes into making it happen. “Every year, we have volunteers -- even from elementary and high schools -- raising funds and coming to the event to help. They have no idea; what they do really goes a long way for this community.”
Positivity: Melanie Korzep, Cottonwood, AZ
It’s not on anyone’s wish list to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary by starting breast cancer treatment. Melanie’s romantic ideas about a trip of a lifetime (“and BIG diamonds, lol!”) did a swift pivot to managing surgeries and healing her body when she was diagnosed at 51.
Cancer is never easy, but Melanie’s body really did not cooperate. After her mastectomy with immediate reconstruction and expanders, she struggled with excess drainage and her wounds just wouldn’t heal. Her medical team, she says, was ever-attentive and always there for her, but the journey was long. Seven months of going back and forth to the OR, to insert additional catheter drains, re-suture, and ultimately remove the expanders that her body was rejecting.
She credits someone she met from HCF with helping her figure out the winning “recipe” that finally helped her heal, and nutrition played a role. Increasing her dietary protein level significantly (and a strict practice of changing her dressings twice a day) helped her incisions close. It’s this kind of integrated approach that HCF is known for.
Gratitude for Support: “I did not expect that the celebration of our wedding vows would come disguised as breast cancer! In fact, I would have thought that nothing was less romantic. I was wrong. The romance I was dreaming of manifested in simpler ways... My husband tucked me into bed when I couldn’t use my arms, washed my hair when showers were restricted, changed my bandages when I didn’t want to look, held my hand and was present. And the love from my three kids and 2 young grandsons kept me motivated and focused on the future.”
Perspective Shift on Retreat: “I was at Dr. DuPree’s office waiting for my biopsy, and saw a poster in the exam room about a retreat for survivors being offered by the HCF. I remember saying to my husband, ‘I must be crazy. I’m scared to death that I have breast cancer, yet I kinda want to go to this retreat.’ I was diagnosed a few days later and registered myself. It took place just days after my mastectomy, so off I went with surgical drains, my chest bandaged, and unable to carry more than my water bottle. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life. Not only was it expertly organized and facilitated, but it was designed to accommodate each person where they were in the healing journey. I left after five days with an entirely different perspective, an intimate circle of sisters, and a strong desire to give back. Since that time, I have spoken to many women who find in HCF the support and holistic therapies they need to heal fully as their body mends biologically.”
Impact of HCF’s Free Services for Women: “HCF Healing Certificates provide patients with healing therapies that fit their individual needs. Patients decide which Integrative Healing Therapies they want to experience using their Healing Certificates and the providers invoice the HCF for payment. The therapies are often not covered by insurance and would otherwise be an out-of-pocket expense for a patient. HCF practitioners go through a rigorous vetting process, and are all superb. Most offer remote services as well as in-person sessions, and many are willing to accompany individuals into the operating room if requested."
Advice for Other Survivors: “Try to remember that breast cancer is a journey with many steps, and unpredictable twists and turns. Accept that it is inevitable you will be changed, so lean into that change and trust that you will emerge a stronger version of yourself. Seek joy, practice gratitude, and celebrate EVERY success no matter the size.”