Debra Weisenburger Lipetz is a cancer survivor who believes an ancient Chinese form of martial art helped her to heal.

Debra Weisenburger Lipetz is a cancer survivor who believes an ancient Chinese form of martial art helped her to heal.

The Berwick resident said she was diagnosed "sometime in the mid-1980s."

"Everybody asks me dates, and that's not a date near and dear to my heart," Lipetz said.

These days, she teaches a weekly qigong class at the Cancer Support Community Central Ohio on Old Henderson Road.

Qigong is an ancient Chinese system of movement and breathing exercises. It's a form of martial art to which Lipetz turned after her own diagnosis, and she firmly believes in the power of qigong to help with healing.

It is an "ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused attention," according to the website of the National Qigong Association,

Qigong is a "harmonizing practice which strengthens the body, focuses the mind and increases your overall wellbeing," according to an announcement of a recent class from the Cancer Support Community Central Ohio.

The class Lipetz leads there most Thursday mornings is for people with cancer, survivors like the instructor herself and others whose lives have been touched by the disease.

Lipetz grew up near Alliance. She moved to Columbus in 1976 to complete her bachelor of fine arts degree in art history after initially attending Bowling Green State University.

At the time of her cancer diagnosis, Lipetz had been practicing and teaching t'ai chi, another Chinese martial art that incorporates a sequence of controlled movements.

"I realized I needed to do something to help myself do something to heal," she said. "All of the t'ai chi books said use chi or energy to heal."

One of her instructors told her she would truly master the form, including its own healing aspects, in about three decades.

"I said, 'I don't know if I've got 30 years,'" Lipetz recalled.

Through her involvement in the central Ohio t'ai chi scene, Lipetz met a practitioner of qigong as she was battling cancer.

"I no longer break blocks, I break disease," he told her.

"That sounds like what I need," Lipetz replied.

In 1993, she began studying qigong, even spending time in China to learn the Zhineng form of the discipline.

"It completely changed my life," she said. "I made a pact with the universe that if I can heal and continue to live and thrive as a healthy human being, I would be of service to other people with cancer and people in need."

Qigong is simple to learn, Lipetz said, and can be adapted to an individual's physical abilities, including being performed in a wheelchair or a hospital bed.

"If you cannot stand, you imagine yourself standing," she said.

Lipetz admitted her own brush with cancer probably lends her a certain credence with her Cancer Support Community students, but added that the discipline itself and a willingness to embrace its healing aspects are just as significant.

"I think because I've experienced the fear of being diagnosed with a terminal disease, I can help relate in that regard, but everybody has choices, and I think for most people, it's not, per se, a specific class that opens them up," Lipetz said.

"At the Cancer Support Community, you're so comfortable there. You're not in a clinical setting. You're treated as a normal person, not someone who is ill.

"There's a camaraderie that develops in the class periods."

Among her current students, she said, are some who have been taking the class for eight years, long after becoming cancer-free.

More information about classes and other programs at Cancer Support Community Central Ohio is available by calling 614-884-4673.