The Monday oasis for Long Islanders undergoing cancer treatment continues to expand its footprint here on the South Shore and beyond.
The Mondays at Racine Foundation, jumpstarted by the 2012 HBO documentary “Mondays at Racine,” has hooked up with Bay Shore’s Drew Patrick Spa to offer free weekly yoga classes exclusively for those battling cancer — all while Drew Patrick is otherwise closed to the public.
The new Mondays at Drew Patrick program was celebrated Monday night with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception at the downtown spa.
Richard Byrnes, a radiation oncologist and the medical director at Drew Patrick, said the specialized yoga classes perfectly suits the spa’s mission for wellness.
“We provide services that have a scientific, sound basis to them, that are not hocus-pocus,” he said. “With Mondays, it’s an integration with what’s going on with our fitness program, because we’ve had yoga here at Drew Patrick since day 1.
“And as an oncologist, I’ve known for the past 20 years that people who have cancer that practice yoga have a better quality of life and a higher cure rate, yet people are very self conscious of their appearance, no hair, wigs and things like that. So to have a program dedicated to cancer patients is really unique and spectacular.”
As part of the reception Monday night, a ribbon-cutting was held outside of Drew Patrick at 128 West Main Street, followed by a screening of the HBO documentary, which was nominated for a 2013 Academy Award.
The founders of the Mondays at Racine Cancer Care Foundation, Cynthia Sansone and Rachel DeMolfetto, were also on hand to answer questions.
The sisters had been inviting women who were undergoing cancer treatment to their Islip salon for a decade on Mondays — when the salon is closed.
And then HBO came knocking. (See trailer below.)
“When they came up with this idea, it was such a blessing to the community, and they did it very quietly without any fanfare,” said county Legislator Tom Cilmi. “But when ‘Mondays’ exploded with the documentary and the Academy Award nomination, Rachel and Cynthia sort of seized that moment and took the opportunity to expand on their success so they could help more people.”
“Two kinder, more benevolent souls you could not find.”
So far, according to map of Long Island displayed Monday night at Drew Patrick, nine hair salons, spas and wellness centers in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester have partnered with the Mondays program to offer salon care for cancer patients on Monday nights.
To do so, the owners and staffers of those locations undergo extensive training to not only better understand and serve these (mostly) women, but mimic that same experience that made Monday nights at Racine Salon & Spa in Islip so special and beneficial
The yoga instructor at Drew Patrick, Maryellen Winter, went through 100 hours of training for her yoga for cancer certification, in addition to her extensive training as a yoga instructor for non-cancer patients.
“A lot of people have a misconception; they think the word yoga means turning yourself into a pretzel and they don’t realize the benefits of a yoga for cancer program,” Winter said. “We teach them breathing techniques for relaxation, for insomnia. We do movement to increase flexibility in their body, which helps them to build their immune systems back up.
“There’s so many side effects that they get while they’re going through chemo/radiation. So a lot of things that we do will relieve those side effects.”
And each week a patient might come in during a different state in their fight, so their particular needs shift and change.
“One week they can come in and they’re feeling great and they’re full of energy, and the next week they can be crying in a ball on the floor,” Winter said.
On a psychological level, she said the yoga classes also serve to help people take an active role in their “healing journey.”
“It gives them a feeling of empowerment,” she said.
Mondays at Racine co-founder Rachel DeMolfetto said it’s been an inspiration for her to see salons and spas close in proximity working together for a greater good.
“And here, tonight, we have two places in one town that are working together to bring forth beauty and wellness to all people going through treatment for cancer,” she said. “This industry is chock-full with competitiveness, so this is unusual.
“I give so much credit to Drew and Richard for opening their hearts and their home here at Drew Patrick to the Mondays program.”
For more information about the Mondays at Drew Patrick program please contact Maryellen Winter at (631) 806-6225. The classes are offered twice a week.
Photo: Cynthia Sansone, Rachel DeMolfetto, Tom Cilmi, Drew Patrick Allt, Richard Byrnes and Maryellen Winter cut the ribbon at ‘Mondays at Drew Patrick.’