BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — The Victory Center has provided local cancer patients and their families with free holistic and supportive services for 25 years.
It was originally formed as part of a national coalition, but in 1996, the organization chose to break away and focus on helping the local community. In those decades of work, the center has helped thousands of people.
According to executive director Dianne Barndt, the purpose of the organization was to provide further holistic support for cancer patients and their families.
The center has held several locations over the years, including small offices off Airport Highway, Reynolds Road and Central Avenue, before moving to its newest location in Toledo on North Republic Boulevard.
“We just moved in July, it’s a brand-new location,” Barndt said. “We were finally able to buy our own place.”
The center was also approached several years ago by Mercy Health. The health care company was interested in opening a satellite office at the Mercy Health Perrysburg Hospital. That satellite office opened in November 2018.
At both locations, several classes, support groups and individual therapies are offered to cancer patients, survivors and their families.
“We have services for people from their date of diagnosis to six months post-treatment. Those are hands-on, one-on-one therapies,” Barndt said. “They’re meditative and focus on stress-reduction.”
Those services include reiki, sound therapy, reflexology, massage therapy and more.
“We also have services for survivors and family members, too,” Barndt said. “We have fitness classes and educational classes and support groups.”
General support groups, groups for specific kinds of cancer and a caregivers’ group, among others, are all listed on the website, thevictorycenter.org. Art therapy, line dancing, knitting classes and arts and crafts classes are also provided for free. The wig bank at the Perrysburg location offers one wig per person per calendar year for free.
“Everything we do is free and the reason we do it is to help people get through the journey easier,” Barndt said. “In our classes, there are often survivors sitting next to someone newly diagnosed. They can talk to each other, connect and support one another.”
In the Thursday chair yoga class at the Perrysburg location, Irmgard Lanzenberger and Robert Grames used the time to chat with friends and learn helpful yoga moves for their bodies.
“I never thought 20 years ago that I would be doing yoga,” Grames said. “The class is incredible.”
For Grames, it took nearly three years of convincing to join the class, but Lanzenberger started up as soon as she could.
“I did yoga in Maumee for quite a few years before I got sick,” Lanzenberger said. “The last day of my chemo, I was going down the elevator and this man stopped me and told me there was going to be a Victory Center here in the hospital. He gave me his card, so I waited a while after chemo. I waited about a month to six weeks, and I stopped in and I talked to the girls. I told them I did yoga before and they told me about the class, so I started coming on Tuesdays.”
When she’s not also golfing during the week, Lanzenberger ups her chair yoga to twice a week. The classes get her moving and stretching, something she enjoys.
Lanzenberger and Grames also enjoy many of the other services provided by the center.
“When you have the one-on-one treatment for a massage and you’re feeling like garbage – and you’ll have a lot of days like that – it’s nice to have something to look forward to,” Grames said.
Grames received his first diagnosis in 2005, followed by his next in 2007. While he didn’t learn about The Victory Center until his second diagnosis, he hopes others know about it before they might ever need the services.
“I’ve been coming here since 2008 and it has been a joy, an absolute joy,” Grames said. “I went through a whole year of chemo not knowing anything about this place, but ever since then, I’ve been hooked.”
The Victory Center provides people like Lanzenberger and Grames with group activities and one-on-one sessions to help them on this journey. It also provides them with both official and unofficial therapy sessions.
“We do a lot of talking in yoga, which helps, too,” Lanzenberger said. “It’s a really neat place.”
Before classes start, Grames said a lot of therapy and connecting happens. Classmates catch up with each other and celebrate the victories and mourn the setbacks together.
“In our yoga class, it’s kind of like a family. If one person has a down day, we all feel it and we’re all there supporting them,” Grames said. “If you need something, it’s here at The Victory Center. If you need it, there’s a hug. Never underestimate the healing power of a hug.”
A hug is exactly what happened when the group on Thursday realized a fellow member had returned after a long time away.
“See? Just like a family,” Grames said.
For anyone who might need the services offered by The Victory Center or to meet up with people who know what they are going through, The Victory Center is the best place to be, Grames said.
The center is there to help from the moment of diagnosis. The staff does its best to get information out in all doctors’ offices and make sure people know the center is there for them. The goal is to help people as soon as possible.
“Anybody with cancer can call us at any time. We’ll have them come in for a welcome orientation and show them around,” Barndt said. “We encourage people to come as soon as they get diagnosed. Otherwise, they miss out on a lot of support.”
Barndt said there are sometimes misconceptions about the services. Some think they should wait until they start treatment or that it’s only for certain kinds of cancers, and some are even afraid they don’t deserve the free services.
“The most important thing to know is we are here for everybody. If you can get to one of our locations, we will give you free services,” Barndt said. “Every single person going through cancer deserves hope and love.”
To get started or to ask questions, cancer patients or their family members may call the center at (419) 531-7600.
To support the organization and the people it helps, those interested can volunteer or donate. Information on how to do so is on the website, thevictorycenter.org. The center also holds several fundraisers throughout the year. The privately funded organization uses the donations to improve the lives of the people who come to it for help.
“The Victory Center is one of those places that if you’re going through the cancer journey, you’re going to hit rock bottom, and this place makes that rock bottom feel so much softer,” Grames said. “You’re never going to find a better group of people.”