Integrative cancer care – free for women with low income
I’m happy to share that homeopathy is flourishing at the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic. Our clinic, which provides integrative cancer care, provides a wide range of healing modalities, including massage therapy, acupuncture and Chinese medicine, Western herbalism, guided imagery, exercise and nutrition counseling, as well as homeopathy. All services are offered free of charge to low-income women with cancer. CMC also stands out because all services are provided by over 200 volunteers.
Coincidentally, I’m writing this article 27 years to the day that CMCC opened its doors as a California free clinic: November 23, 1991. Our current medical director, Gabriella Heinsheimer, MD, a primary care physician and homeopath, was one of the original founders, along with homeopath and acupuncturist Sally Savitz, LAc, DiHom. They were the original homeopaths in the group.
The clinic was inspired by Charlotte Maxwell, a social worker with an MA in Public Health, dedicated to serving underserved communities. As the Service Director for the American Cancer Society in San Francisco, she fine-tuned her advocacy to this public health need. Later, when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, after having worked on many interdisciplinary teams, she put together her own team of holistic healers to complement her traditional treatment. This team gave her ongoing care and loving support, and when she could no longer travel, brought services to her home. This is where the inspiration for the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic was born. Charlotte and the group of women providing healing wanted women with cancer to have the same level of care that she received, regardless of whether they could afford it.
The mission of CMC is to provide integrative cancer care, as well as safety-net social services and health education, to low-income women with cancer.There isno other organization in the United States providing complementary integrative cancer care and safety net services free of charge to women with cancer.
Who do we serve? Everyone from the homeless to working poor. Almost 75% of clients are Latina, African-American, and Asian. Because many speak little or no English, CMC has volunteer translators. We’re also fortunate to have homeopath Judy Ko, who speaks Mandarin and Cantonese. We could really use a bilingual Spanish homeopath.
CMC is in Oakland, but women come from all over the SF Bay Area to receive services. The clinic currently sees over 400 clients. At present there are five homeopaths at CMC, all committed to one or two monthly shifts. More are welcome.
I joined in 2012. I see new clients, as well as follow up with women I first saw six years ago. As a woman stabilizes in her recovery process, I’ll see her less frequently. Each session is an hour. As homeopaths we have the opportunity to consult with each other, but we practice independently, following our own clients. Our records are overseen by the clinical and medical director. Each shift has a follow-up team meeting, which gives a chance to relay concerns and coordinate communication. Did I say that all homeopathic medicines are free, and donated by Hahnemann Labs?For several years I was part of a monthly homeopathic consult group led by homeopath Varda Wilensky, who drew from years of expertise working homeopathically at CMC. She continues to lead this group, even after she retired.
Women enter the clinic at all stages of their cancer treatment. As a homeopath, I aim to relieve side effects of conventional cancer treatments. Homeopathy is so effective at helping someone with incapacitating nausea, or to relieve the pain and quicken the healing from surgery. It’s gratifying to help relieve the fogginess of anesthesia, the taste of metal, or the inability to lie in a bed and get a good night’s sleep. Homeopathy has helped women with the myriad of emotional issues that come with a cancer diagnosis.
Because of the nature of our clinic, I have found that I have to be prepared for anything during any shift. Am I following up with a long time client? Do I have a new client in shock from an initial diagnosis, who just had surgery 2 weeks ago? Clients are also choosing their own paths of recovery. Many are referred by their oncologists, and appreciate having both traditional and holistic medicine. We don’t make any requirements on our clients as to what their treatment choices should be; our goal is to offer support in helping women get all of the medical services they want.
Because we follow our clients into their recovery, we can also offer constitutional support. It’s beyond the scope of this article to share personal examples of just how profound a healing modality homeopathy is. I have seen first hand how much homeopathy improves the quality of a woman’s life. I believe for some it also increases their life expectancy.
In a discouraging political time, where many don’t have access to even basic healthcare, I get to have a glimpse of the future. In this clinic, everyone has access to holistic medicine. The underserved are served. We have created a sanctuary of compassion and care, and healing happens.
Charlotte Maxwell Clinic
610 16th Street, Suite 426
Oakland, CA 94612