A Light Among Us
Meet Helen, an inspirational participant at the Cancer Support Community.
After 16 years of fighting cancer, Helen Gateka-Anderson focuses only on her blessings. “Cancer is a life-changing experience,” says Helen. “It helps you grow and treasure each and every day. I feel God is so good to me and I cannot thank him enough for his countless blessings.”
Just a few years after losing her husband to lung cancer, Helen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She attended a support group at the Cancer Support Community for several years, “graduated” from the group after her recovery, and thirteen years later married her husband Richard, who had lost his wife to breast cancer.
One year after marrying Richard, Helen was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and started going to The Cancer Support Community again. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent radiation. For the past seven years she has been a source of inspiration and hope to her fellow support group members. “The Cancer Support Community has been a vibrant source of strength and encouragement. The people in my support group are all tremendous survivors. They are such a ray of hope,” says Helen.
CSCVVSB is not the only organization to benefit from Helen’s inspirational outlook. Thirty-eight years ago Helen founded Bethany Christian School in Thousand Oaks and is a past principal and preschool director. With Helen’s leadership and dedication the school grew from three preschool classes to a full elementary school with 300 students and 42 staff members. She remains a beloved part of the school community, attending Chapel Time, Back to School Nights, and other events. “I never looked at it as ‘going to work,’” says Helen. “I looked at it as being able to share Jesus’ love with the children, the teachers, and the families.”
“Helen is an exceptional, one-of-a-kind spiritual leader and friend,” says Shirley Hackleman, former principal of Bethany Christian School. “The proof of her amazing impact is seen in the hundreds of students and parents who keep in touch with her from the earliest days of the school.”
In addition to her friends at Bethany Christian School and CSCVVSB, Helen stays busy spending time with her husband Richard playing golf every Friday. Together they host a weekly Bible study. She also visits the school every Tuesday for the Families in Prayer meetings, takes yoga at CSCVVSB, loves to garden, read, visits friends at the hospital, and swims. “I take the names of my support group members and pray for them during each lap that I swim,” says Helen.
Now finishing her second round of chemotherapy, Helen is constantly encouraged by the support of her family and friends. “I have so many people praying for me, and I thank God continually for his blessings. I feel God is using me every single day.”
We recently asked the members of Helen’s CSCVVSB group to share a few words about her, and here is what they had to say:
“Helen is soft like a warm, cozy pillow. There is a gentleness and tenderness about her; with a hopeful positive outlook on life- she is an inspiration- her wisdom and genuineness give us all hope. We love her!”
“Helen made me feel welcome and loved when first meeting her. She is positive and always has something nice to say. I love her genuine nature and great attitude about life.”
“Helen is a great and lovely lady. She is a light with a heart of gold among us. Her passion and love is, to all of us, admirable.”
Helen is full of life and makes everyone else feel the hope she has. She loves the Lord with all her heart and is such a strong witness. She cares so much for everyone and has a heart for calling and visiting, which is an art. She is a wonderful role model for all.”
“Helen always is in a good mood and always follows the condition of all of us. She calls us often to find out how we feel and shows interest in how we all feel.”