Northern Michigan cancer center takes holistic approach to health

Photo courtesy of Munson Health

Photo courtesy of Munson Health

The words ‘cancer center’ can leave a harsh taste in your mouth.

But the Cowell Family Cancer Center in Traverse City is trying to change that.

Beyond offering chemotherapy, infusion and radiation, it includes a meditation room, yoga classes, massages, and a full organic smoothie and sandwich bar.

It looks, and feels more like a spa than an oncology center.

“We have three different therapy rooms, where we offer our different integrative therapies, including Asian body works, shiatsu, acupuncture, Australian Bowen Therapy. We have healing touch now and also various forms of massage including oncology specific massage.”

Katie Horvath is the program director at the cancer center, which is a subset of Munson Health.

The center opened in July – and it’s goal was to help not only the body….

”Exercise, there’s evidence to show that it prevents re-occurrence, or prevent cancer to start with.”

…but the mind too.

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“Meditation helps people to focus on the present moment, and I’m a cancer survivor myself, and often in my experience and what I’ve seen with patients now that i’m here. You’re go go go with the physical, with the body with turning yourself over to your medical experts so you’re getting these lifesaving treatments and really the mind is behind that, and at some point the mind is kind of needing to catch up. So meditation is good helpful tool at allowing the mind to catch up, at allowing the spirit to heal.”

Horvath said her own experience and medical research has driven program offerings.

“Everything that we’ve included is evidence based, that was first and foremost very important for the providers and very important for the reputation of the Cowell Family Cancer Center.”

She said cancer care can’t be ‘one size fits all’.

“Really it was important to look a the patient as not a tumor site, but a whole person.”

Though patients are the number one priority at the center, Horvath said they’ve opened their arms to others as well.

“We also offer all the services for the caregivers, for the community, staff in the building. While patients are our focus, we’re really trying to benefit the whole region.”

The Grand Traverse County cancer center is changing how holistic health is approached.

That also means taking away staples in so many hospitals and waiting rooms.

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“No televisions in the building, we do that for health reasons. We encourage a more serene atmosphere in the building, we have jigsaw puzzles, we have books.”

Horvath and her team also say what you eat can affect your healing – hence no vending machines.

“We’re doing things a little differently, looking for more plant based options, organic options, we’re doing local farm to table.”

Horvath said she hopes to continue to find innovative approaches to helping patients get through cancer with a strong body, and mind.