Many years ago I met a woman, Julie, in front of Whole Foods in Denver, Colorado. She had amazing curly dark hair that bounced about in unison with her spunky energy. She spoke so fast I barely caught a word. I was mesmerized and terrified at the same time. I had just finished chemotherapy and radiation. I remember clearly thinking I wish I had her hair. I was obsessed with hair and boobs back then. Those were the fantasy months where I believed I could literally pick out any set of boobs I wanted. Reality would set in about two years later.
Julie had vision. And at that time it was Spa 4 the Pink. In a fundraising event, I modeled lingerie. Later, Spa 4 the Pink would host Spa Days at hospitals. These were amazing events where we literally transformed cancer center conference rooms into mini-spas. Services included facials, meditation, yoga, make-up, massage and wig washing and styling. I met amazing women at these events - strong and beautiful.
I remember one woman in particular who had overcome ovarian cancer just before the fashion show and a year later at Spa 4 the Pink's first Spa Day, her ovarian cancer returned. She attended the Spa Day as a volunteer. This beautiful woman did my hair for the fashion show and then styled wigs at the first Spa Day. I remember giving her a big hug and when I reach back into my memory I can still feel her infectious energy.
Fast forward nearly five years. Spa 4 the Pink made a huge difference to a lot of people, but there needed to be more. So with a simple mission, Wellness for Cancer was born. Julie's mission: no one will be turned away from receiving spa services because of a cancer diagnosis. My phone rang and I was happy to help. Somehow with Julie at the helm it would work.
With huge efforts, a great team and partnership with SpaFinder, Julie brought to fruition a Cancer-Aware Spa Training program. The program is offered in many formats, including webinars and online training as well as hands-on training. There is a strong business section showing spas how to incorporate oncology services into their menus and marketing. The goal remains simple - don't turn away those who happen to have cancer.
Two international spas have been accredited the Cancer Aware qualification: LIfehouse Spa in the UK and the Kurotel in Brazil.
I'm currently in England teaching a Train-the-Trainer program so that hands-on training can become commonplace in the UK. When I return to the states, I will be doing a hands-on training at Radiance Spa in Pennsylvania followed by our first promotional event raising awareness of oncology spa training to be held at Radiance Spa.
I would never have imagined all those years ago in front of Whole Foods I would be sitting on double bed in Leighton Buzzard, England reviewing power point presentations, creating decision trees, modifying protocols and, most importantly, teaching someone else how to take the reins to teach the next set of trainees in the UK.
I have often said we don't have leaders like Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln anymore. But I was wrong. If you look hard enough or pay attention long enough, those people are out there and making a difference.