Healing Circles


Healing Circles bring together small numbers of people impacted by a condition or circumstance to share experiences and harvest collective wisdom. Healing Circles is a peer-led process by which people support each other through deep listening and shared learning. When working at its best, this collaborative conversation model leads to authentic and deep connectivity and can create wisdom and healing for participants.

Prayer Flags by Kiersten Gallagher

Ongoing Healing Circles

Fertility Journey Healing Circle

Monthly on Mondays, 6:30-7:30pm, with Kara Elam

The journey from the decision to start a family to holding your little one/s in your arms is not always straightforward and could take much longer than anticipated. This healing circle is meant to provide support, fellowship, and knowledge exchange while you are traversing this road to parenthood in whatever form it may take for you to create your desired family.

Healing Circle for Moms with Cancer

Bi-Monthly on Tuesdays, 6:30-7:30pm and 8:00-9:00pm, with Niya Kight

This ongoing healing circle will focus on the unique needs of mothers, with children of any age, who are living with cancer. No matter where you find yourself on your journey you will have a chance to be with others who share in your experience. This shared experience will often lead to profound learning and healing.

Healing Circle for Metastatic Breast Cancer Thrivers 45+

Monthly on Wednesdays, 5:15-6:45pm, with Lisa Hahn 

This new healing circle is for people who are 45 and older who are living and thriving with Metastatic Breast Cancer. This peer-led circle will provide a safe place to connect, support and share with one another.

Grieving Together with Healing Circles Global

Bi-Monthly on Thursdays, 3:00-4:30pm, with Kiersten Gallagher

6 sessions
Please join us in a series Healing Circles for Grief “to discover the extent and limits of what is lost, what is left and what is possible.” – John Schneider
If you have lost a loved one, this is an opportunity to share what is on your heart and mind right now, to listen and be listened to deeply and generously. Together we create a safe space for listening to messages from our inner experience. Please see the schedule; space is limited.

Ongoing Healing Circle for Grief and Loss of a Life Partner

Bi-Monthly on Thursdays, 4:30-6:00pm, with Wendy Miller, Ph.D.

This ongoing healing circle will focus on the unique needs of those experiencing the loss, recently or not, of a spouse or partner. No matter where you find yourself in your journey with grief, a chance to be with others who have lost a spouse or partner can lead to profound learning and healing.
Come join us in our healing circle of collaborative conversations.

Healing Circle for Young Adults with Metastatic Breast Cancer

Monthly (alternating) on Thursdays, 6:00-8:00pm or Fridays, 11:00am-1:00pm, with Kimberly Parekh & Group

We are a new demand-driven and patient-led in-person and online community support group for young women and men (diagnosed between the age of 18 – 45ish) with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) in the DC, MD, and VA area. We have created this group as a means of providing both a safe community support space for people with MBC, as well as peer- led and expert-led information on living with breast cancer. This group is new and independent of any established breast cancer organization, though we are in complete gratitude to the Smith Center for hosting us this calendar year.

Healing Circle for People Living with Lymphedema

Monthly on Thursdays, 6:00-7:00pm, with Bonnie Vermillion & Maude Fish

This ongoing healing circle will focus on the unique needs that people who are living with Lymphedema face. No matter where you find yourself on your journey you will have a chance to be with others who share in your experience. This shared experience will often lead to profound learning and healing.

A Healing Circle – Support Group for Gay Men with Prostate Cancer

Monthly on Thursdays, 7:00-8:30pm, with Kenneth Johnson & Kevin Miller

We are a group of gay men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer or who are recovering from treatment that offer support to each other. In a peer-led community, we share our experiences and understanding to help one another best deal with our own personal situations.

Meet Our Peer-Led Healing Circles Facilitators

Bonnie Vermillion

About Bonnie Vermillion

I am a Cancer survivor/thriver since 1998 and have had lymphedema since 2002. I initially had so much trouble finding information on lymphedema that I went online and found an exercise program that was developed to maintain lymphedema. I became an instructor, then trainer, and finally acquired the program in 2014. I currently teach classes in central Virginia. I’m also a regional coordinator for Chronic Disease Self Management workshops, so I actively work with small groups of participants for them to self-manage their chronic conditions. I am also a volunteer Ombudsman with the local Agency on Aging and a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association as a support group facilitator and speaker.

Kara Elam

About Kara Elam

Kara Elam, PhD, MPH, MS, is a scientist and avid adventurer. I approached starting a family and conceiving our first as I did with everything else: research, data analysis, and meticulous planning. Unfortunately, this approach was not successful and the journey to our desired family became much longer than anticipated. I have embraced this unforeseen adventure in fertility for the lessons and knowledge it has brought into our life. I look forward to sharing this knowledge as well as creating a space for fellowship and support with all of you joining this healing circle. Love, trust, and baby dust.

Kiersten Gallagher – Cancer Support Programs Director

About Kiersten Gallagher

Kiersten has served as the Cancer Support Program Director for Smith Center since 2014. Before coming to Smith Center, she had the privilege to serve individuals and families living with cancer at Wellness House of Annapolis. Kiersten aims to offer programs to reduce stress and help participants to see the world we live in from different perspectives. She thoroughly enjoys teaching yoga and creativity classes at Smith Center and encourages gentle movement and creativity in the healing process. Kiersten is a certified yoga instructor through Yoga Alliance and also has her YCAT (Yoga Therapy in Cancer and Chronic Illness) Professional Certification through the Integral Yoga Academy. She has completed Patient Navigation training through Smith Center’s Institute for Integrative Oncology Navigation and has also completed the Commonweal Healing Circles: Advanced Cancer Support Training. Kiersten is also certified in CLIMB® (Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery) a program that aims to build upon the strengths of children and increase his/her ability to cope with stress associated with a parent’s illness. She believes in a holistic approach to healing, human relationships and is grateful for each and every day. In her spare time, you may find Kiersten laughing with friends, cycling, taking art classes, practicing yoga and spending time with her husband Shane, son Liam, and dogs Hooper and Pablo.

Lisa Hahn

About Lisa Hahn

Lisa Hahn was diagnosed with MBC de novo in the Fall of 2019. In addition to working full-time and attending doctor appointments, she is always looking for a new exercise class and tries to maintain a consistent yoga and pilates practice. Her background in the arts as a former ballet dancer and arts council program officer have given her a strong appreciation for the arts and she is a regular attendee at the Smith Center. She lives in Alexandria with her husband, two teenage boys and two cats and you can follow her on Instagram @dancingwithmbc

About Maude Fish

Maude Fish has performed classical music throughout the DC Metro area since she moved to Washington in 1988. Currently, she plays regularly with the Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, the Virginia Chamber Orchestra, The Arlington Philharmonic, and the Tysons-McLean Orchestra. In prior years, she has worked with orchestras as distant as Roanoke, VA, and St. Mary’s, MD. She teaches piano and bassoon privately from her home in Chevy Chase, DC. She is no stranger to Smith Center having participated in a day-long writers retreat and yoga classes when she finished active treatment for breast cancer in 2004. Additionally, her chamber group performed at Smith Center at a gallery opening for the Alchemical Vessels Exhibit. In her spare time, she enjoys walking, cooking, knitting, and writing. She is married with two adult children, her dog Otto, and Cookie the Cockatiel.

Niya Kight

About Niya Kight

Niya Kight was diagnosed with Stage II, ER/PR + Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in November 2019 on her 31st birthday, while 12 weeks pregnant. Once Niya reached the middle of her second trimester, she underwent a mastectomy and four rounds of chemotherapy before delivering her daughter in May. Niya is currently finishing the last four rounds of chemotherapy and next up on the road to recovery is radiation. When Niya embarked upon this journey, she chose to view it as her rebirth and shared that “she would rise healthier and stronger than ever after this spiritual transformation”. Niya has done just that as she focused inwardly to determine the changes she needed to make in her life, learned to accept help, and shared her vulnerability and experience with others. Niya is passionate about raising awareness about pregnancy and breast cancer because many people do not know that it is possible to have cancer while pregnant, let alone that it can actually be treated during pregnancy. Niya remembers the loneliness she felt while navigating breast cancer while pregnant and wants to help eliminate that additional stress for other women.

Kunle did not stop there. In his quest for more knowledge in the field of Arts in Medicine, he also bagged certificates in: Understanding Dementia and Arts, from University College London (UCL) and, Medicine and The Arts: Humanising Healthcare, from University of Capetown, South Africa. He was one of the selected Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health at the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Currently, he is part of a 1-year training programme on Dementia. To reduce the scale and impact of dementia, the 1-year programme brings together a powerful mix of perspectives, approaches, and skill sets from varying backgrounds and disciplines, including neurologists, social scientists, artists, and policymakers. https://kunleadewale.com/

Wendy Miller, Ph.D.

About Wendy Miller, Ph.D.

Moving here many years ago from the SF Bay Area, my relationship with Commonweal led me to Barbara Smith Coleman. I am proud to have been part of an early group of people with Shanti Norris who met with Barbara to envision the cancer retreats, a healing center, and gallery for Smith Center. Years later when my late husband Gene Cohen was facing metastatic prostate cancer, he went to Commonweal for his cancer retreat. The gift of community support, reflection, and care guided the choices we made through the many years of living with cancer in our family body. I became a widow in 2009.

Wendy Miller is an expressive arts therapist, artist, and writer living in Kensington, MD. In 2016, she published the book, Sky Above Clouds: Finding our way through creativity, aging, and illness, about her life and work with her late husband. It is a spiritual treatise on love and creativity during life’s major transitions.

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