Jennifer Raymo, a Wichita State student earning her graduate degree in social work, recently became the Wichita Chapter director of The Healing Chair. For Jennifer, the organization is personal.
The Healing Chair is a Kansas City based, non-profit organization aimed at helping breast cancer and mastectomy survivors find comfort, hope and healing. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2017, Jennifer underwent chemo, radiation and had a bilateral mastectomy. The days after her surgery, she received her healing chair.
The chair is designed to help relieve discomfort and pain during the healing process. After undergoing a double mastectomy, the upper body muscles are compromised. The chair operates on a lift and recline system. It helps patients sleep, stand, move around and gives freedom during recovery.
“My first interaction with The Healing Chair was when the previous recipient delivered it to me. In the end, she became my cancer mentor,” Jennifer said. “She didn’t have to do anything, but she did, she took care of me, and I want to pay that forward.”
After her time using the chair, she stayed in touch with the Kansas City board members. In March 2019, she began working with the board to bring the chair to Wichita.
“At first, I was hesitant. It’s my final year of grad school and my practicum year,” Jennifer said. “I wanted to make sure The Healing Chair received my undivided attention without having to worry about life or school.”
Each chair comes with a blanket and journal to provide support during the recovery process.
When she realized The Healing Chair could be used for her practicum, she decided to pursue the opportunity. She felt her journey had “led her to this moment.” Since launching the organization, Jennifer works with a local surgeon to screen clients. She also provides resources, assesses needs, gives support and helps find recipients to utilize the chair.
Jennifer is appreciative of all the support her instructors have provided since coming to WSU. Being a cancer patient and going through school hasn’t been an easy task. But, through classes, her practicum and life, the instructors have cheered her on through every journey.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better department. They empower their students and encourage them to make the practicum their own and believe in you,” Jennifer said.
So far, in Wichita, The Healing Chair has serviced over 40 women.
For one, a former WSU employee, The Healing Chair, provided emotional and physical support after her surgery. When Joey Fonkert was diagnosed, she had moments of anger and frustration. She questioned “why me?” and with two young kids at home, felt she didn’t have time to be a cancer patient. After having a double mastectomy in September 2018, The Healing Chair was delivered to her house. With every chair comes a traveling journal from previous patients. The recipients are encouraged to log their journeys and struggles for the next person to read. For most, it turns into friendships and connections.
“Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t know anyone that had been through this,” Joey said. “The Healing Chair connected me with other survivors who understand the impact of the disease, and it made me feel less alone in my journey.”
The chair is more than just a chair. To some, it’s just a recliner. But to cancer survivors, it’s a warm embrace with the power to heal.
Through every cancer patient’s journey, they find their tribe. Everyone is supportive, accepting, and willing to lend the shoulder to lean on during the difficult times.
For Jennifer, walking through cancer and becoming a survivor paved the way for her future. After graduation, Jennifer plans to focus all her efforts on The Healing Chair and dedicate herself to breast cancer patients.
“I enjoy what I’m doing. It has empowered me to tell my story and help others along the way.”