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Phoenix Forward magazine

Cancer survivor’s foundation eases others’ pain

Sandra Wing

When Sandra Wing was battling ovarian and uterine cancer, she found that she dreaded chemotherapy more than the disease.

“I felt defeated and immobile, unable to perform the simplest of tasks” as a result of chemo, says Wing, who earned her MBA degree in 1995 from the University of Phoenix School of Business, and was an instructor for the school for more than 10 years.

When Wing’s doctors offered her the chance to try a series of “complementary and alternative therapies” — including acupuncture, acupressure and massage — she decided to give them a shot, hoping they’d ease her pain and stress.

“I pretty much tried all of the therapies on my cancer journey,” Wing notes. “What I found was that these gave me great help, relief and allowed me to stay positive to keep going back to chemo.”

So after doctors declared her cancer-free in 2007, Wing decided to focus on making these therapies available at no cost to as many cancer patients as possible. Most people, Wing points out, usually pay for alternative treatments themselves, even if they have health insurance because it usually doesn’t cover the costs.

[Alternative therapies] gave me great help, relief and allowed me to stay positive to keep going back to chemo.

In 2008, Wing founded the Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation, a nonprofit, volunteer organization in Pleasanton, California. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments are referred by physicians at Bay Area oncology centers and may apply for up to three $500 grants for therapy.

“There are a lot of people who can’t afford this type of therapy,” Wing says. “People don’t really talk about all the financial hits [of battling cancer], from co-pays to parking fees at hospitals. Everything adds up. This allows us to help someone going through a tough time in life while also giving them some relief.”

The foundation focuses on five therapies that worked for Wing during her cancer treatment — deep breathing meditation and guided/visual imagery, in addition to acupuncture, acupressure and massage — to help patients better manage their neuropathy, anxiety, fatigue, nausea and pain.

“Guided imagery is something that takes you to a different place, where you’re listening to a person who will take you to a beach or someplace relaxing,” Wing says. “I was mostly afraid of surgery, and when I went for mine, it was delayed seven hours. But I remained calm, which I found amazing. I know myself, and that wouldn’t have happened without these therapies.”

Since opening, the foundation has helped almost 350 people, she says. The costs of running the nonprofit are paid through donations and fundraising events, such as auctions and 5K races.

“We’ve received a lot of thank-you letters and stories about how much the treatments have helped,” Wing notes. “We get enough comments to know that it’s worthwhile and that we should continue.”

Wing says her experience both as a University graduate and faculty member helped shape how she runs the foundation. “[Classes and teaching] help build your confidence as a business person,” she says.

And even though Wing has been cancer-free for more than six years, she still turns to the methods she feels played a major role in her recovery to help in her everyday life.

“I believe it works for everyone,” she says. “It’s a benefit whether you have cancer or not.”

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