On Oct. 24, 2021, the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan (MMJCCM) Center for Health and Wellness held its “Shirley Kohn Spa Day for Individuals Living with Breast or Ovarian Cancer.” This year marked the MMJCCM’s second virtual edition of the event, and 15th overall. The program was offered at no cost to provide health and wellness updates and guidance for those living with cancer.
Throughout the day, some 60 participants from around the country tuned in live to enjoy a variety of sessions designed to educate, inspire and nourish the mind and body. The event drew a total of over 100 registrants, who will receive recordings to watch on-demand. The various activities were carefully selected and tailored to be mindful of wherever someone might be in their cancer journey—whether in active treatment or navigating survivorship.
Caroline Kohles, the senior director of the MMJCCM’s Center for Health and Wellness, started off the day’s festivities by welcoming participants and leading a brief mindful breathing practice. She then introduced the keynote speaker, positive psychologist Maria Sirois, Ph.D.
During her keynote, Sirois shared her thoughts on recognizing the range of emotions that can arise as someone experiences cancer. She encouraged attendees to allow space for difficulties such as pain, suffering and loss but to also pivot attention to even the simplest moments that bring joy.
Sirois also included positive psychology-themed interludes between the day’s sessions. The common thread of resilience provided a meaningful connection to the other Spa Day activities.
The day continued with a Moving for Life exercise session led by instructor Ana Leon Bella. Attendees were provided with adaptations to suit various physical restrictions and range of motion considerations.
Over the noon hour, health and wellness consultant Teri Mosey, Ph.D. shared tips on practicing mindfulness through nutrition. Mosey encouraged attendees to relax and adopt a playful attitude about their food choices, striving for colorful, primarily plant-based meals.
The Spa Day afternoon sessions were fully focused on relaxation and stress relief through a variety of formats. Kathy Shapiro introduced participants to the world of Zentangle, a mindful art form creating beautiful and calming patterns in pencil and pen. Attendees were invited to share their resulting artwork on the screen.
Massage therapist Ericka Clinton then guided a self-massage session that participants were encouraged to follow live in addition to repeating on their own in the future to help relieve everyday stress. Next, reiki master Pamela Miles shared the benefits of reiki practice, emphasizing the importance of self-care as part of an individual’s overall health plan.
Whitney Chapman, RYT and harpist Amy Camie then guided a mudras yoga practice accompanied by healing harp music. Spa Day then finished on an upbeat note with Broadway’s Best, a musical performance by actresses Mandy Gonzalez and Krista Rodriguez, and closing words from Kohles.
In her closing remarks, Kohles encouraged anyone impacted by cancer to attend one of the MMJCCM’s many free programs, reminding participants that they’re not alone. “In community, we’re stronger,” Kohles said.
The MMJCCM provides a wide range of cancer-specific programming throughout the year through its Cancer Care program. These programs include massage, nutrition, meditation, yoga, cooking, sound healing, art classes and special events. The vast majority of activities are free to those experiencing cancer. “Cancer is expensive, so our intent is to remove the barrier of expense so anyone impacted by cancer can participate,” Kohles explained.
Kohles emphasized that Cancer Care programs aim to shift the paradigm of cancer awareness and break stigmas around cancer. It’s important to make people experiencing cancer feel empowered to make the best choices for their individual situation. “Personal choice is important,” Kohles added.
With many programs now shifting to virtual, Kohles believes that the MMJCCM was able to reach participants and constituents that may not have been able to join their programs in the past. In this light, she said, the MMJCCM hopes to provide hybrid offerings to further expand their reach even as in-person activities resume.
For more information on MMJCCM Center for Health and Wellness, visit mmjccm.org.