Typically, visits to the doctor usually include sterile white rooms, uncomfortable office chairs and long waits, while visits to a wellness center, such as a spa or health club, are best known for feelings of relaxation, complete with soothing music and cucumber eye masks. Why are these places —dedicated to addressing health and wellness needs o drastically contrasted in our minds?
“I went from a very high stress, high-octane daily life, which I think overtime took its toll,” Leone says, referencing his previous career before founding BIÂN. “The stress to a certain extent, but I think there was [also] an inherent amount of buildup that I put on my body internally and externally.” Leone had had enough, so he got together with Fisher and Boehm to focus on a project that would fuel their bodies and minds.
“BIÂN was born out of what my partners and I felt was a gap in the overall hospitality experience in health and wellness,” Leone says. “We felt that there was nowhere that brought everything under one roof.” Nestled in the River North neighborhood of Chicago, the wellness club provides myriad ways to put one’s health first, be it physical or mental, with fitness studios, saunas, nap rooms, a restaurant and even a full concierge medical practice within the club.
Leone’s goal is to bring together healing powers from the east and west to create a holistic and integrative approach to restoring health. “We started with that [concept], and from there, kept growing it to say, ‘OK, let’s bring a doctor of Chinese Medicine; a primary care physician; a doctor of chiropractic [services]; a doctor of Ayurveda; a doctor of mental health,” Leone says. BIÂN also provides an on-site lab with a doctor, nurse practitioner and medical assistant.
“The power of bringing all of these healers under one roof has had a significant impact on my personal health and our members’ health,” says Leone. It was through his annual executive physical at BIÂN that Leone was found to have an elevated white blood cell count, which led to his diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia.
“I probably would not have gotten the extent of that blood panel done if it wasn’t for [our] concierge medical practice,” says Leone. “My doctor said, ‘Hey, I’d like you to get some more tests,’ and I initially didn’t take the time to do it, and she followed up and said, ‘Hey, I’d really like you to do this,’ and I said, ‘OK, fine, I will.’”
As soon as Leone received his diagnosis, he sought advice and comfort from his friend, BIÂN CEO Fisher, who had been diagnosed with kidney cancer in July 2021. Fisher is now cancer-free and has been a source of strength for Leone during his cancer journey.
After Leone met with an oncologist, who confirmed the leukemia diagnosis, he began a treatment plan which involved taking a daily chemotherapy pill. “[The pill] is very effective at doing a targeted treatment and trying to eliminate all the bad cells,” explains Leone. “But it also wipes out a lot of the good cells, so the initial effects of that treatment were significant fatigue, headaches and tinnitus. It started to also change my platelet levels significantly.”
Leone decided to incorporate holistic healing methods for his mind and body, including exercise, acupuncture, and energy healing through BIÂN. “I met with a nutritionist and changed my diet; I meditated every day, I strived to exercise daily, do lots of yoga and importantly just tried to stay positive and not feel like I’m just going to be paralyzed and not live a normal life,” says Leone. “I think it took a little bit of time to kind of process [my diagnosis] and say, ‘OK, let’s beat this thing,’ and that’s kind of the attitude that I adopted.”
Six weeks after his diagnosis, Leone went on a week-long retreat in the mountains of Colorado, where he adopted a plant-based diet, hiked and meditated. And while he was concerned that he might not have enough energy or the ability to withstand the higher altitude, he found that his diet and mindfulness practices gave him a renewed sense of strength and energy. “I felt stronger,” says Leone. “I felt like [cancer] was not going to totally [make me] abandon my normal existence that I’d been living for 53 years.”
Three and a half months after Leone began receiving treatment, his molecular test showed that the cancer levels in his blood had reduced to less than one percent from as high as 62 percent. He was also able to reduce his chemotherapy medication from 100 milligrams to 50 milligrams.
Currently, Leone’s health goals include eventually getting off his daily chemo pill, but he knows this might not happen for a while. “Stay as positive as possible,” he advises. “I think it all starts with the overall attitude, and it can be challenging at times, for sure. I’ve certainly had many breakdowns, but I know that I’m doing everything I can to beat it, and I don’t dwell on it. I don’t think about the cancer all the time.”
By growing BIÂN, Leone also wants to help others and build a stronger sense of community. “I think people need to feel support from their community on their own personal journeys, so I’m going to continue to build the community and the members we have at BIÂN and take this concept around the nation and around the world.”
Of course, the support of his family and friends and his team at BIÂN has encouraged Leone in more ways than one. “I got an encouraging note from all my trainers,” he says. “I never realized the impact of some of these notes. You do need to know that there’s a community that is thinking about you and sending their positive vibes and thoughts and prayers.”
“I know lots of people are in a tougher situation, so I’m sensitive to that,” says Leone. “I just want to [give] words of encouragement to people out there that the power of having the right mindset [and] the power of taking every approach possible helped my journey.” And while things with Leone’s cancer journey are thankfully looking up, so is BIÂN’s future.
Professionally, Leone hopes to continue to grow BIÂN’s community in Chicago. Eventually, he wants to take BIÂN’s concept global. “I want to advocate for the benefits of preventative health screening and how to have reactive health plans for cancer survivors, and support that community in every way possible, too,” says Leone. “I’m sure anyone that has any kind of diagnosis that’s scary like this, you’re going to have these dark moments, and it’s important not to feel alone but supported.”
Visit livebian.com for more information about BIÂN.