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Crowdfund this: become a patron of science by supporting a new Fred Hutch program to improve health for ovarian cancer survivors

May 24, 2013

By Galen Motin Goff, Fred Hutch science writer

Take five. Sit comfortably, feet flat on the ground, hands on thighs, shoulders released away from your ears, head in line with the spine. With closed eyes, just be with your breath as it flows in, as it flows out. When thoughts arise on why you’re being told to relax by a science blog, bring your awareness back to your breath. Then, keep reading.

Dr. Bonnie McGregor, a Fred Hutch researcher and a licensed clinical psychologist, understands the importance of meditation in reducing stress. It is known to improve health among those who practice it, and she believes it’s a fantastic tool to help cancer survivors.

Dr. Bonnie McGregor

Dr. Bonnie McGregor

This is why she wants you to help support her work by crowdfunding the development of an interactive Web workbook to accompany a wellness program for ovarian cancer survivors.

Crowdfunding is a relatively new platform that uses email and social media to reach large networks of individuals and ask for relatively small donations to fund a project. At Fred Hutch, McGregor is the first to give it a try, and she hopes you’ll become a patron of science.

“Perks for contributors include the workbook and relaxation CDs used in our research,” McGregor said.

I participated in a five-week course McGregor offered last spring to Fred Hutch employees. It was based on her Health SMART (Stress Management And Relaxation Training) program, and it made me a believer that stress management practices have great potential to heal.

McGregor is an expert on how psychological stress affects the body physically, and how cognitive behavioral stress management can improve psychological and physical health.

Her research with breast cancer survivors, mixed groups of cancer survivors and women at risk for breast and ovarian cancer has shown that techniques from Health SMART—which included guided relaxation and mindfulness meditation exercises—reduce stress and stress-related hormones, boost the immune system and enhance emotional growth.

Her new crowdfunding project merges these mindfulness-based stress-reduction practices with a successful cognitive behavioral stress-management program from the University of Miami to form an eight-week Mindfulness Enhanced Cognitive Stress Management program. McGregor and her partners in this project hope to help women cope with fatigue and other side effects of ovarian cancer treatment that can lead to chronic stress.

McGregor and her partners—Dr. Janine Gauthier, a Chicago-based licensed clinical psychologist, and University of Iowa’s Dr. Susan Lutgendorf, a researcher in the field of psychoneuroimmunology—have found that chronic stress can even support the progression of ovarian and other types of cancers.

If McGregor exceeds her goal, the team will be able to test the new program with more groups of ovarian cancer survivors and collect more data to strengthen their eventual application for federal funding for a larger study.

I still use my Health SMART workbook and CDs. And the lessons from her classes remain. I always left her sessions feeling relaxed, more productive—fortified by the experience of stopping long enough to notice my breath. I even mused over the thought of a gong that could ring across campus and remind people to take five—and simply be.

It’s good to know all anyone has to do to experience the fruits of McGregor’s research while supporting ovarian cancer survivors is to join her “crowd.”

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