A&E

Staying Healthy: Danville woman receives cancer support nonprofit's 1,000th grant

Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation celebrates milestone

When Danville resident Minay Bowers received the call to come back to the doctor's office for additional testing after a suspicious-looking mammogram result, she thought she could skip it. Ignorance is bliss, after all.

But eventually she decided to face reality, and, right before Christmas, she received daunting news: She was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Bowers underwent surgery on Jan. 13, and a few weeks later, her chemotherapy treatment began.

While undergoing radiation treatment at the Epic Care Center in Dublin, a staff member there told her about the Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation, an organization that gives grants to Tri-Valley cancer patients for complementary healing services to help them manage side effects associated with cancer treatment.

Bowers contacted the foundation via email, and, after applying for a grant in March, her request was approved a month later.

Little did she know that she'd represent a milestone for the Pleasanton-based nonprofit, becoming the recipient of the 1,000th grant distributed by the foundation.

The nonprofit was founded in 2008 by Pleasanton resident and cancer survivor Sandra Wing. She had been diagnosed with ovarian and uterine cancer in 2006, and the chemotherapy treatment would leave her feeling "battered and bruised" -- she lost her appetite, was fatigued and developed some neuropathy, a disease or malfunction of the nerves.

Wing decided to experiment with outside healing therapies like therapeutic massage and acupuncture to help her cope with the exhaustive chemo. "They were really important for me," Wing said. "They helped me stay positive. They helped me with those side effects."

And the therapy sessions can help the family and spouses of a cancer patient, she said, who also are heavily affected by their loved one's disease.

"When I had an hour of treatment, or went to a session that gave my spouse an hour of not having to take care of me," Wing laughed. "So it also helps the family and the caregiver, because they get a break, even if it's just the opportunity to do the laundry or the dishes or running their own errands, or anything else, right?"

But cancer treatment is expensive, and she was aware that not every patient could afford the services that had helped her so much, especially since they are not often covered by insurance companies. So in 2008, Wing and her wife Gracie Santos founded the Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation, to offer others the same services she'd benefited from.

"Our ideal long-term goal is insurance does coverage and it gets embraced in the medical community and we go out of business," Wing said with a chuckle. At the moment, though, she's only aware of Kaiser covering acupuncture. So for now her foundation is still in operation.

During their first year of operation, the foundation gave out 24 grants to cancer patients in the Tri-Valley region, to be used for some of the same complementary healing services that had helped Wing: therapeutic massage, acupuncture, acupressure, guided/visual imagery and deep breathing meditation. All grants are in the amount of $500.

As the foundation became more well-known, more and more cancer patients applied for and received grants, until finally, in April of this year, they hit the 1,000th grant mark with Bowers.

Bowers, who finished up her radiation treatment about a month and half ago, has been using the grant mostly for massages. She didn't have time to use the grant while she was undergoing treatment, but now she's able to enjoy the massages, which are especially helpful, she said, since she's now in the process of moving.

"They're just so wonderful," Bowers said of the therapy she receives thanks to the foundation's grant. "It's just something for me to take a little time out for myself, even if it's an hour, to go there and relax and feel like I'm getting areas worked on, that really bothered me."

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