Patient Connections

Appears in the October 2021 issue.

As someone whose life was directly touched by cancer via her father’s diagnosis, Lisa Kolavennu has a personal connection to the disease that has made her work at Wellness House ( all the more meaningful. She knows firsthand how the isolation and stress of cancer can be almost as overwhelming for patients and their families as its physical toll. She also understands just how much having a convenient and affordable resource for information and support can help combat those feelings.

“Being at Wellness House is both professionally and personally rewarding,” says Kolavennu, who has served as executive director of the Hinsdale-based organization since 2007. “I get to work with participants who are motivated to take the best possible care of themselves.”

Wellness House serves approximately 3,500 people every year who make over 45,000 visits to its programs—including support groups, exercise classes, nutrition programs, educational workshops, and family programs—all for no charge. While most participants come from DuPage and Cook counties, the organization also served people from 32 different states during the past year.

“Because each person’s cancer experience is unique to them, we know there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to programming,” Kolavennu explains. “That’s why we provide an extensive menu of program options for individuals so that they can engage in activities and groups that are most useful to them.”

Breast cancer patients, for instance, face numerous challenges related to their physical and psychological well-being, including changes in physical activity and social support, anxiety, depression, fear of recurrence, and impaired body image. These challenges can impact not only their overall quality of life, but their risk of recurrence as well. Research has shown that a healthy lifestyle can translate to long-term health and survival, Kolavennu says.

Wellness House offers several specialized exercise and nutrition program offerings for those living with breast cancer, including the Pink Ribbon Fitness class and cooking demonstrations from oncology dietitians.

“Programs are evidence-based and professionally facilitated,” she says. “So anyone dealing with all of the effects of cancer can find strength and meaning while focusing on taking care of themselves.” 

Photo courtesy Wellness House