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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Active Life=Happy Life Community Spotlight: Christine Taylor of Thrive East Wellness

I had the pleasure of meeting Christine Taylor back in August of 1996 while living next door to each other in the dorms freshman year in Binghamton University. Fast friends, being she was from Long Island herself, I was always intrigued how she often incorporated her holistic views and wellness into her daily routine even at a young age, when most of us thought diet soda was a major food group and yoga...well who had time for that "weird stuff". Fast forward many years later and Christine has incorporated her lifestyle of health and wellness to a whole new level especially after getting the devastating news that at age 32 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While that news at that age would have stopped many people in their tracks, Christine has embraced her knowledge and training into helping others, especially women battling cancer through her work with Thrive East, Urban Zen and Southampton Hospital. Here she is to talk and share her work!

Tell us a little about yourself:

My true age is 35 but, mentally, I fluctuate. I am a mom to an incredibly cool four-year-old named Jack, a dog named Phoebe and two cats, Shorty and Margo. I love my family and friends more than anything and I love living by the beach. I have a BS in Human Development from Binghamton University and an MA in Health Education from Columbia University. My former career was a school health teacher and health coordinator for a public school district in Westchester County. I love teaching very much, but I left it when I had my son so I could move closer to family and be by the beach. The last few years have provided me with many opportunities for personal and professional growth and I’m grateful for all of them. I am passionate about mind-body medicine and empowering people to take active roles in their health.

Tell me how and why you started your company Thrive East Wellness and your work with Urban Zen:

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age thirty-two. Immediately—truly, moments after my diagnosis—I began to gather my healthcare team.  I sought out the best mind-body professionals I could find and spent hours upon hours pouring over books, research studies and articles. I discovered so many wonderful resources for women with cancer. The only thing I could not seem to find was a nutritionist who specialized in women’s cancer and whose advice resonated with me. I remember once going to a nutritionist at a prominent cancer center and having her tell me to stir dried potato flakes into my food, which was disappointing on so many levels. So, even though I have a few degrees under my belt, and years of experience teaching nutrition, I went back to school to learn even more and became a certified holistic health counselor. Being a cancer patient is a full-time job.  And, integrating holistic modalities into your care takes even more effort.  I had to do so much work weeding through people and information to find the best practitioners and tools for my self-care.  Through this process, I realized that I could use what I had learned to help other people navigate this confusing and scary disruption in life called cancer.

From my experience navigating breast cancer, Thrive East Wellness was born. My goal as a practitioner is to empower people to take an active role in their health by introducing tools and skills aimed at bringing more joy and balance into their lives moving forward. Some of the services available through Thrive East are nutrition counseling, holistic health counseling, health-supportive cooking classes, corporate and school-based workshops, Reiki,and soon Urban Zen Integrative Therapy.

Tell me what your personal favorite healthy/active things you do and how that makes you incorporate the theme of moving your mind as well as your body?

Movement and exercise reduce the risk for cancer recurrence by 30%, as much as certain chemotherapy regimes.  That’s an astounding number. Yoga is my #1 love. For me, it reduces my stress levels and helps to create a feeling of balance and clarity.  I love tennis because it doesn't feel like exercise to me. It’s just fun and very gratifying to smash the ball with the racket. Recently, I've been doing Beachbody challenges with some of my friends. My favorite is the Les Mills Body Pump. Working with the barbell makes me feel strong and accomplished and the online community support makes it fun and helps me stick with it.  It is very inspiring to see how people have changes their bodies and their lives with exercise.

Who influenced you the most in the work you are doing?

Breast cancer was life-changing for me. It was miserable until the turning point, when I came across an organization called You Can Thrive! that provides integrative therapies for breast cancer patients. I can not express to you how much it meant to me to be able to go to their wellness center and receive acupuncture, Reiki, reflexology, massage and exercise in a supportive community of fellow breast cancer survivors. My experience as a client there guided my very passionate belief that everyone who suffers from a chronic illness deserves access to integrative care and holistic support at a reasonable cost in a supportive community.  I went there weekly during treatment, and this is where I first became introduced to Urban Zen Integrative Therapy, which layers different holistic modalities including yoga positioning, essential oils, Reiki, movement, breath awareness and meditation to bring more ease and balance to patients. I was very intrigued and wanted to get involved with Urban Zen.

The other turning point for me happened a year later when I became involved with the Coalition for Women’s Cancers at Southampton Hospital. I started getting involved the wellness programs they offer and quickly became an active volunteer with them. They do so much for the cancer community on the East End and there is such a supportive community, it’s truly unbelievable. In September of 2013, I was awarded a scholarship from the Coalition for Women’s Cancers at Southampton Hospital to become trained as an Urban Zen Integrative Therapist and will soon graduate. I still volunteer for both of these wonderful organizations.

What do you have planned for the future with your work?

I would love to create a place out here on the East End where patients and their caregivers, as well as all community members, could come for integrative services and educational retreats.   We have such talented practitioners and brilliant minds out here when it comes to mind-body health. It would be wonderful to have a campus where we could all gather to share our talents for the betterment of our community. Everyone benefits from making self-care a priority, and I would love to create a place where this is accessible to everyone.

Of course feel free to add anything else you want to share as well!

I would never say I’m grateful to have had cancer. I am grateful to be rid of it and I kind of wish it never happened. And, I don’t think cancer necessarily changes all people. But, for some people, like me, it helps you to realize who you are. I have never been happier “going to work” as I am now. I feel that cancer gave me a way to be uniquely useful in this world.  As humans we all go through our fair share of trauma. Nobody is exempt. It is up to all of us who have come through a painful experience to use what we have learned to make the trip a little easier for those who come after us.  Sharing your experience is one of the greatest gifts you can give to the world.

I am involved in the Long Island Two Day Walk for Breast Cancer, raising money for women with breast cancer on Long Island. Every dollar raised here stays here. Fundraisers like this bring relief to women going through treatment and fund women in survivorship, like me, change their lives for the better. Please consider making a small donation. It is because of your donations I am able to do what I do and help women who walk this path after me. Thank you!CLICK HERE TO DONATE

Christine can be reached at:

 Or on facebook @ Thrive East Wellness

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