What: A cancer resource organization educating, connecting and encouraging those seeking comprehensive, natural strategies to heal strong and stay strong
When: First Tuesday of the month; next meeting Aug. 2
Where: Natural Juice Cafe, 2480 Limestone Parkway, Gainesville
What: 150 vendors with alternative medicines and other products
When: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 29
Where: Riverside Military Academy, 2001 Riverside Drive, Gainesville
How much: Free but registration required
More info: www.healingstrong.org
“Cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence.”
That’s the motto of a trio of women who took matters into their own hands when they were diagnosed with the sometimes deadly disease.
Each of the Gainesville residents, Christine Holcomb, Lynn Kearns and Marsha Dickey, tackled her diagnosis with traditional and unconventional ways. And now the women are the founding members of the HealingStrong chapter in Gainesville.
The volunteer-based nonprofit is a cancer resource organization educating, connecting and encouraging those seeking comprehensive, natural strategies to heal strong and stay strong, according to the HealingStrong website. The women formed the group after attending a HealingStrong conference in Johns Creek in September 2013.
After the conference, Holcomb, Kearns and Dickey created the very first HealingStrong offshoot group in the world, which grew to 20 other “test” groups, including one in Australia. And what started off as three people turned into 25 to 30 people who meet the first Tuesday of the month at the Natural Juice Cafe in Gainesville to discuss topics related to health. Participants come from not only Northeast Georgia but as far as Alabama and South Carolina, Kearns said.
“(Holcomb) is really the heart of the group. She does all the work,” Kearns said.
The trio have a curriculum the groups follow to label themselves a HealingStrong chapter and to protect the integrity of the brand.
“You have to make sure you have the right people leading the groups,” Dickey said.
Each of the women falls into that category as each has experienced a different cancer diagnosis and treatments.
Holcomb, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, chose the surgical approach with a double mastectomy.
Dickey opted for chemotherapy and radiation treatments for her throat cancer diagnosis in 2004. The avid gardener was given a 1 percent chance to live.
“There was nothing,” Dickey said, referring to the lack of alternative treatments.
During her treatment, she was put on a feeding tube. Once she finished, she headed to Arizona’s Canyon Ranch for a 10-day detox. It was there the 72-year-old discovered an alternative healing method. Dickey learned about organic eating, acupuncture and Chinese medicines, among other practices.
“I had an alternative lifestyle before (going to the ranch),” said Dickey, a retired Coca-Cola employee.
When she got there, she was accustomed to the lifestyle and practiced what she learned when she got home to Georgia.
Dickey hoped her fight with cancer was over. But six years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Instead of going the chemo and radiation route, she stuck with what she learned at the ranch.
While she isn’t completely cancer-free now, she is applying the methods she learned in Arizona to her life now.
“I felt good (when I got back) and I haven’t felt bad since,” Dickey said. “It’s totally possible to live with cancer. From what the doctors told me, I shouldn’t even be here.”
In 2009, Kearns learned she had breast cancer and headed to Duke University in North Carolina for treatment. Doctors recommended the yoga instructor start radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
After a brief stint with radiation, the now 62-year-old knew she wanted to try a different approach, which included eating right, exercising frequently and learning more about her disease.
She is now cancer-free.
Their search for dealing with their cancer, recovery and healing united the women.
“All of us have been touched by cancer,” Kearns said, noting she and the other two wanted to do more. “And we thought, ‘There’s gotta be something we can do.’ There’s so much confusion out there.”
But the women are adamant they are not professionals.
“We are very clear that we are not doctors,” said Kearns, who has a master’s degree in science. “We are just giving them information.”
The monthly subjects aren’t just related to cancer. They can range from clean meats, essential oils and gluten-free diets to detoxing.
And when the group decides on a topic, HealingStrong will have a professional, or as close as they can get to one, come in and teach a lesson.
“All the (topics) that kept us alive,” Dickey said. “Sometimes it is controversial.”
The controversy arises from the topic choices, like whether or not to vaccinate your children and what could be in the water we drink from the tap.
“We think our bodies can heal themselves. The body has a tremendous capacity to heal itself,” Kearns said. “The face of medicine is changing.”
And keeping an open mind is helping the women heal.
“We are always learning,” Dickey said.
To help others learn, HealingStrong is hosting a conference called HearthLight from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 29 at Riverside Military Academy. The conference will gather around 150 vendors with alternative medicines and other products.
The conference is free, but registration is necessary.
For more information, visit www.healingstrong.org.