STREAMWOOD – An event next weekend will allow a Streamwood resident to give back to an organization that provided support when he lost his wife to cancer last year.
Syed Hussain’s wife, Debbie, was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2012. She died in November at age 41.
But while receiving chemotherapy at the University of Chicago Hospital, Debbie Hussain heard about Wellness Place in Palatine. The center offers counseling, information and support to people affected by cancer.
“She reached out and started visiting them herself as a cancer resource place in probably June of last year,” Hussain said. “And we found out that they had a program for the kids. So the kids started going in July.”
Hussain has three children – ages 7, 5 and 4. They began attending weekly yoga therapy classes and eventually joined the facility’s art therapy program.
“The idea is that children can express what they’re feeling by drawing it out or molding clay or whatever it is,” Hussain said. “There is a way for them to express their feelings and somebody who can understand that and can then interpret that and help them through that phase. Or they’re distracted by the art and then they kind of talk through the questions.”
Hussain said his children met regularly with Lori Mackey, an art therapist/child and adolescent specialist with Wellness Place. She met with them in a group and individually.
“They each responded in their own different ways, which was really interesting. And so having Lori, who is the therapist, kind of get to understand their personalities and also work with them is really helpful,” Hussain said. “My daughter, the middle one, is very creative, so she is very expressive through art. My oldest enjoys it; he’s very meticulous in the things that he makes. He’s kind of like a science/engineer brain kind of guy. And so he kind of withholds information and suppresses his feelings, trying to be meticulous. The youngest is real happy-go-lucky and playful, and so kind of containing him in the art and then being able to bring those feelings out is a challenge in itself. But she did a great job working with all three of them together as well as individually.”
Hussain said his children responded well to the therapy sessions. Mackey also helped Hussain understand what his children were going through.
Her insights proved valuable to Hussain as a single parent in guiding his children through the grief process. It helped him and his children move forward, he said.
Wellness Place offers support programs free of charge. It relies on donations to operate.
As a way to honor the memory of his wife and support Wellness Place, Hussain and his children will participate in the fourth annual Wellness Place Community Cancer 1-Mile Walk and 5K Run on May 19. The event will be at 9 a.m. at the Arboretum of South Barrington.
“I want to encourage support of the place, because there aren’t resources like this out there,” Hussain said. “There is a scattering of websites, and there are a couple of facilities spread out through the area. But for our area, a five- to 10-mile radius, this really is the only place that I’ve found.”
Hussain and his children, along with other family members and friends, will wear orange wristbands to show their solidarity with those fighting leukemia. They also will partner with Mackey’s team, Team Artastic, to express their appreciation for all her work with Hussain’s children.
“They’re still going to sessions; they go to yoga therapy. They were going, and it’s starting up again, the yoga classes,” Hussain said. “It’s people who give of their time who have these types of skills, and so we really appreciate it, because through the meditation and the exercises, it kind of allows the kids to focus.”