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Healing away from the hospital

Cancer wellness center has been open for 10 years

Published: Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Nov. 4, 2013 1:02 p.m. CDT
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/mkrabbenhoeft@saukvalley.com)
The Home of Hope cancer wellness center aims to help those dealing with cancer and treatment, and also provide support for their families.
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/mkrabbenhoeft@saukvalley.com)
Connie Thimmesch (left), the program manager at Home of Hope, and Joan Padilla, the executive director, are the only two full-time employees at the cancer wellness center in rural Dixon. Padilla started working with Home of Hope in January.
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/mkrabbenhoeft@saukvalley.com)
The Home of Hope cancer wellness center aims to provide treatment and support for cancer patients away from the hospital. "We don't do any medical treatments here," Executive Director Joan Padilla said. "We focus mostly on education, wellness services, support, and then referral services."
(Michael Krabbenhoeft/mkrabbenhoeft@saukvalley.com)
A children's area in the furnished basement of Home of Hope has a TV and plenty of toys.

DIXON – Battling cancer doesn’t happen only in a hospital during chemotherapy treatments. It’s an all-day, everyday battle.

Home of Hope, 1637 Plock Road in Dixon, is a cancer wellness center just off state Route 2 between Sterling and Dixon. In its 10th year, the center expects to treat between 500 and 600 patients, with a staff of 21/2 and about 75 volunteers.

Executive Director Joan Padilla, who started working with Home of Hope in January, said the center provides treatment and support away from a hospital.

“We don’t do any medical treatments here,” she said. “We focus mostly on education, wellness services, support, and then referral services. We work with different agencies to help the patients get the necessities that they need.”

And the services – which include networking groups, educational lunches, cooking classes, counseling and massages – go beyond treatment and therapy for the patients, Program Manager Connie Thimmesch said.

There are monthly group meetings called Care for the Caregiver and Kids Coping with Cancer, which is for children with cancer and children whose parents have cancer.

“When they walk through that door and they sit and they talk, it’s not just the individual that’s there,” Padilla said. “We hear a lot, ‘When we were diagnosed.’ And so that’s where we come in.”

Home of Hope is set up much the same way an actual home would be. It has a kitchen, which also can double as a reading room and gathering center, a living room and counseling room on the first floor and a children’s area in the furnished basement.

The difference between the counseling room for adults and the basement, which has a TV and plenty of toys, is an important and intended one to get the therapy and “sharing” from adults and children, Padilla said.

The first-floor counseling room is quiet and comfortable with its big, brown leather couches. It resembles “Grandma’s living room,” where children may feel they need to sit still and be quiet, Padilla said. In the basement, they can play and be relaxed, then, Padilla added, they’ll feel more comfortable asking a counselor, “Why is Mom losing her hair? Or, why isn’t Mom feeling good?”

Everything the center offers comes at no cost to the patients or their families.

“We don’t want to put any financial burdens on the families, so we offer our services – any programs – for free,” Padilla said.

The center has two full-time employees, Padilla and Thimmesch, and a part-time employee, Client Services Coordinator Michelle Wiederholtz.

Funding comes entirely from donations, Padilla said, adding that there are five major donors, but that the center also receives donations from individuals and smaller businesses.

“It makes the community feel like they have a part of it, an ownership in what we do,” Thimmesch said.

The center, 5 miles from downtown Dixon and 8 miles from Sterling and Rock Falls, services patients and their families from Lee, Whiteside, Ogle and Carroll counties.

“There are no boundaries,” Padilla said. “If you’re experiencing cancer, we’re going to help you out.”

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