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News: Centegra Sage Cancer Center Cares for Mind, Body and Spirit Through Pastoral Care Services

The Centegra Sage Cancer Center offers care to the mind, body and spirit of those living with cancer through an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals. As part of the team, Marianna Wolfmeyer serves as the oncology chaplain offering spiritual and emotional care and support to patients and their families throughout their cancer experience. According to Wolfmeyer, “Spiritual care is an essential part of the oncology continuum of care because it acknowledges the need for purpose and making meaning through connection with self, others, the world and the divine during a time of significant change and loss. It provides a safe and supportive environment in which many questions of life and death can be explored. Having a chaplain brings presence and understanding to an individual’s unique experience as expressed in spiritual and religious values and beliefs.”

Marianna’s background and experience in pastoral care and oncology allows her to accompany those living with cancer from diagnosis through end of life. As part of each patient’s treatment, Marianna performs a spiritual assessment to discover what nurtures each individual’s unique spirit. After the assessment, it becomes even more clear as to what type of spiritual care is needed and Marianna can then put her care plan into action based on what each person holds spiritually meaningful.

Recently, Marianna held a ritual of remembrance and celebration in the Cheri Amore Garden of Hope, the healing garden outside the cancer center, in memory of two very special men who received radiation treatment at the Centegra Sage Cancer Center. Having met during treatment, the men and their wives often spoke of the cancer experience while attempting to ease its burden in the tranquility and comfort of the garden. In their time together they discovered that the men shared the same birthday. A plan was made for the four to meet in the garden a year after treatment to celebrate the common birthday. Sadly, less than a year later, cancer claimed the lives of the men, and one of their wives died unexpectedly. In offering continuing care and grief support to the lone survivor, Marianna made sure the importance and symbolism of the garden reunion was recognized during a memory celebration. Rituals, including poetry and prayer, as well as music, were shared by the families, friends and staff on that special summer day, as the everlasting connection of love and spirit even beyond death was affirmed.”

Managing more practical matters can also provide important spiritual benefits for those living with cancer. During treatment each person is offered the opportunity to complete advance directives, at no cost, to ensure that his/her particular wishes about medical care are understood and documented in the appropriate legal form. Various spiritual aids including Care Notes, sacred literature and faith related symbols are also used for comfort and nurture.

Marianna is a certified thanatologist specializing in death, dying and bereavement. Grief support and education is provided through individual counseling and the Living With Grief support group program. She assists people planning for end of life and offers bedside care and support for the dying. She plans and officiates various rituals including funerals and memorial events. She is available to cancer patients, families, caretakers, friends and staff for care throughout the Centegra Health System.

The Centegra Sage Cancer Center offers cancer patients quality treatment and a multidisciplinary staff of healthcare professionals. The newly renovated and expanded facility provides comprehensive, state-of-the-art cancer treatment and a full range of oncology outpatient services in one convenient location. The radiation oncology department of the center uses a new top-of-the-line linear accelerator with Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy capabilities, a new GE CTscanner to capture views for treatment plans, as well as High Dose Rate Brachytherapy treatments. The Centegra Sage Cancer Center is located on the Centegra Northern Illinois Medical Center campus in McHenry and is an approved cancer program by the Commission on Cancer.