Survivors Find Hope on Journey to Wellness

Cedars-Sinai's Journey to Wellness program helped lift a burden from the shoulders of breast cancer patient Fay Matini (center). Talking with Matini is Alison Bonk, NP.

Fay Matini, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at Cedars-Sinai last year, took the news calmly and kept her emotions at bay as she went through chemotherapy and radiation treatments and dealt with worried family and anxious friends. 

Donna Sweikow also faced a breast cancer diagnosis at the medical center in 2013, and it shook her to the core, introducing fear and doubt into her normally sunny outlook on life.

For Matini and Sweikow, discovering Cedars-Sinai Journey to Wellness Program during their treatment at the Saul and Joyce Brandman Breast Center — A Project of Women's Guild at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute brought tremendous relief. The program, designed to help bring optimism back into patients' lives, offers a team of clinicians who address physical, emotional and psychological concerns that result from diagnosis and treatment.

In the program's stress-reduction class, Matini discovered her true feelings buried deep beneath the strong and stable surface she had maintained for many months. "I went into the room, and there were a bunch of us, all women who had just gone through the same thing, and it was like a burden was lifted from my shoulders," she recalled. As she went through a series of relaxation exercises with the group, Matini wept for the first time in almost a year. "Suddenly I was crying, just letting go in that room as I had never let myself do since my diagnosis. It felt so good to cry like that, to realize that for the first time I didn't have to keep up any kind of a front, didn't have to be strong for anyone, that I could just be me."

For Sweikow, the program provided a path back to her naturally hopeful disposition. "I was somewhat drowning after my diagnosis with questions, fear and doubt," she explained. "This program helped me change my perspective on living with breast cancer. I am so fortunate that my medical team was receptive to my needs and directed me to so many resources that have since given me direction and new hope."

No one is more pleased to hear how Journey to Wellness makes a difference for cancer survivors than Sherry Goldman, NP. The nurse practitioner helped found the multidisciplinary program, whose participants meet each Tuesday afternoon at the Brandman Breast Center. "Often at the end of cancer treatment you're exhausted, and it can take a long time to get back your strength," Goldman said. "You think, ‘Now what?' And that's what we're addressing in Journey to Wellness. We give our patients a place to hang their hat, to come in and express themselves."

The program also offers access to alternatives such as acupuncture and guided meditation. "With Journey to Wellness, we're looking at the whole person," Goldman said. "We want to capture every area that has been affected by not just the cancer, but also the treatment."

For more information about the Journey to Wellness program, call the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at 310-423-8030