MIDDLETOWN — Middlesex Health is welcoming the community to indulge in an Appetite for Life throughout June as a way to raise money so cancer patients can avail themselves of healing services not covered by health insurance.
“This is one of the things that makes Middlesex a very special place. We work hard because it’s important to us — to take care of the whole patient in multiple ways,” said Dr. Rachel Lovins, chairwoman of the Department of Medicine at Middlesex Hospital.
All throughout June, Cancer Survivors Month, the hospital has partnered with area dining establishments, which will donate between 10 and 20 percent of proceeds on certain days to support the Middlesex Health Cancer Center, 540 Saybrook Road, Middletown; and 250 Flat Rock Place, Westbrook.
Now in its 10th year, Appetite for Life has raised more than $175,000 for cancer patient support services at locations in Middletown and Westbrook. They include nurse navigation, social work, clinical trials and integrative medicine. Anyone can access these programs.
“The name of the event — Appetite for Life — does have resonance to it: Celebrate your life, celebrate someone maybe who you did lose,” said Sarah Moore, director of development at Middlesex Health.
Every October, the facility’s Go Pink project benefits integrative services at the cancer center.
Middletown participants include ION Restaurant, Mezzo Grille, El Pulpo, Esca Restaurant & Wine Bar, La Boca, Puerto Vallarta, The Whey (Stationary) and Lan Chi’s Vietnamese Restaurant; and for the canine crowd, Adelbrook Barkery.
Others are On the Rocks at Fox Hopyard, East Haddam; Baci Grill, Cromwell; Fromage Fine Foods & Coffees, Dairy Queen and The Back Porch, all in Old Saybrook; Savour Cafe & Bakery, Centerbrook; and The Copper Beech Inn, Ivoryton.
“They’re not offering a gift to a patron, they’re turning that into a gift for the cancer center,” Moore said of these restaurants.
The kickoff party at Herd Restaurant, 200 Main St., is from 4:30 to 7 p.m. May 29. Happy hour will feature wine, beer and food tastings, dancing to the sounds of The Inflatables rock and blues cover band and raffle prizes.
Lovins, also an oil painter, plays guitar and sings as part of the group, which includes Yale School of Medicine professors Drs. Auguste Fortin, on harmonica and vocals; and Michael Green, an HIV specialist whose talent is the guitar; movie producer, teacher of film and writer David Atkins on drums; Don Wunderlee, a guitarist and abstract painter; and Jack Golden, an electrical engineer, songwriter and bass player.
The New Haven-based band was founded in 1997, while Lovins was in med school, and includes some of her teachers at Yale. Members play clubs in New Haven, parties, med school events and graduations. Expect to hear songs by the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Lucinda Williams, Talking Heads, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty and others on kickoff night.
Lovins believes in integrating art and medicine, calling them “a natural fit.”
“They’re not separated, they’re related, and it makes people better clinicians,” Lovins said. “It makes everybody more compassionate if they can tap into both sides of their brains.”
Hospital staff truly take a holistic approach to their profession — and lives — as a way to deepen their understanding of patients and foster a sense of community, she said.
Middlesex was one of only three hospitals in the country to earn the 2019 Dewitt C. Baldwin Jr. Award for humanism in medicine.
“We’re looking at the whole person — not just the patient, but the staff,” Lovins said. That way, clinicians can treat the “whole person” by taking advantage of a mindfulness and compassion center and monthly meetings that encourage conversation and artistic elements.
“Because we’re independent, we have the opportunity to explore those things that others may not,” Lovins said.
“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it’s not just your body that’s going through it. It’s your family and your finances, your mental health, emotional health. We have a number of supports in place that help patients manage all of that chaos,” Moore said.
“When they’re done, all of the doctors they’ve been seeing and supporting them, that almost goes away, so there is still active support once treatment is over,” such as survivorship meetings, where patients can reflect on what happened and speak about issues such as fatigue and pain “to get them back on track,” Moore said.
A second party will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. June 12 at Luigi’s Restaurant, 1295 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook. Both events will feature appetizers, beer and wine tastings, music and a chance to win great prizes. Tickets are $20, and can be purchased online or at the door.
For information and a list of restaurants, visit middlesexhealth.org/appetiteforlife.