On a warm fall day, Sandra Viviana Murillo-Morales realized with dismay that she would not get home in time for Hope & Cope’s weekly on-line Group Reiki class. Searching for a sunny, quiet spot, she found a bench surrounded by trees, pulled out her phone and connected to the class. “Reiki keeps me grounded mentally, physically and spiritually. There was no way I was going to miss it,” she explained.
Viviana has always been a firm believer in the mind-body-spirit connection and the healing power of nature. As an architect in her native Colombia, she specialized in landscape architecture, designing parks to help improve the quality of life of cities. After moving to Canada in 2007, she undertook further studies in environmental sustainability and urban planning.
In April 2019, a month shy of her 40th birthday, Viviana was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Months of treatment, including surgery and chemotherapy, left her with debilitating side effects: crushing fatigue, severe neuropathy (nerve damage causing crippling pain in her hands and feet), and osteoporosis brought on by surgically-induced menopause. She is currently on a maintenance treatment to try to keep the cancer from spreading further.
By the time she was referred to Hope & Cope in the winter of 2020, Viviana was barely able to walk. “I was at a low point in my life. I knew I needed to empower my body, but didn’t know how to start.” After meeting with Nadia Smirnow, Physiotherapist with Hope & Cope’s Cancer Exercise and Rehabilitation Program, for the first time in months, Viviana felt a ray of hope. Nadia prescribed a physical activity program that included supervised exercises in the Wellness Centre gym and tai chi in the yoga studio.
When the pandemic hit, as someone at high risk, Viviana was confined to her apartment, unable to see anyone, including her sister. “Hope & Cope is my lifeline,” she says. In addition to tai chi, qi gong, group reiki and yoga classes, Viviana has benefited from educational webinars and workshops such as Focus on the Future.
Viviana also began drawing again, in part as therapy for the neuropathy in her hands. This past September, to honour women living with ovarian cancer and neuropathic pain, she sold the drawings to family and friends, proudly donating the proceeds to an organization that continues to make such a difference in her life. “Hope & Cope is my physical support, my spiritual support and my social life. I am beyond grateful.”
Click here to view our calendar of wellness activities, or call 514 340-3616 for more information about joining the Wellness Centre.