More than a day job: Nancy Moran
By day: Public health nurse, Tulsa Health Department • By night: Yoga instructor, YMCA
Nancy Moran teaches yoga to cancer survivors in the LiveStrong program at the YMCA, where she has been an instructor since 1998.
Nancy Moran is passionate about gardening in the literal sense — making flowers and vegetables sprout from the soil — and as a metaphor for wellness and personal health maintenance.
Her day job focuses on one aspect of growth. Since 1997, Moran has been a nurse at the Tulsa Health Department, dealing primarily with family planning.
“It’s the cornerstone of public health,” she says. “The ability to control family size affects physical, mental and economic well-being.”
She says it’s good policy, too.
“Every $1 invested in family planning saves $7 down the road to pay for maternity costs, labor and delivery, immunizations and schooling,” she says.
Certified in integrative nurse coaching, Moran helps patients identify their strengths and develop the ability to change habits. They work on self-discovery, awareness and creating strategies for overcoming obstacles, which she calls “a discovery process of whole health.”
In a related activity, Moran has been a yoga instructor at the YMCA since 1998. She currently teaches cancer survivors in the LiveStrong program.
“Yoga takes you into the present moment and allows you to care for yourself,” she says. “Whatever feelings arise, whether it is rage, fear, despair or numbness, your yoga practice allows you to be present to it, minus any judgment or shame. It’s a good place to get out of your head.”
Back at home, her attention shifts to tending her garden, although her thumb hasn’t always been bright green. She didn’t have much success growing anything until she homeschooled her son, who needed a way to apply science and ecology principles. Gardening taught Moran that plants are as healthy as the soil in which they’re planted.
“The best fertilization is the gardener’s shadow — being out there observing, working the soil,” she says. “In healthier soil, plants can stand the stresses of nature.”
And an “aha” moment wasn’t lost on her.
When her own husband, Terry Luce, was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, she was determined to help him survive the treatments and maintain his quality of life.
Her approach was based on “the seed and the soil” theory of cancer, which compares the spread of cancer to the stages of transformation a single seed must go through before becoming a weed and taking over the garden.
The idea is to change the conditions of the body.
“We all have cancer cells in our bodies,” she says. “Yet not everyone gets cancer. Our overall health can influence our odds of developing and/or surviving the disease.”
As a result of his healthy outlook, her husband sailed through chemotherapy and managed to enjoy a vacation between treatments.
Looking ahead, Moran will get her master’s degree in integrative health and wellness from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. After that, she hopes to continue working with cancer patients, but in a new direction.
Studies show that cancer patients are motivated to make changes for the better.
“But there’s not enough emphasis on cancer survivorship,” she says.
Moran believes these patients need a rehabilitative program after treatment, “just like after a heart attack.”
“We’re creating activists and advocates,” she says.
One reason she’s so intent on promoting cancer wellness is that cancer isn’t always a death sentence.
“Cancer patients live longer and live better,” she says. “That’s why I went to school and drove myself crazy for five years.”
Today, her husband continues with chemotherapy and playing tennis. And Moran expects him to be around for a long time.
“Growing food is growing hope,” she says.