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Volunteer Spotlight: Yuko Hagopian

Yuko HagopianWe are thrilled to welcome Yuko Hagopian to our Cancer Support Community volunteer family. Yuko is our qigong instructor, leading cancer patients and their loved ones through physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused intention to help cope with stress and treatment side effects.

Yuko began studying qigong 25 years ago in Japan, when her friend, a qigong instructor, invited her to attend a class. As soon as her qigong master confirmed that Yuko was ready to teach her own classes, she was eager to find a cancer support center to serve. “My father passed away ten years ago from cancer,” says Yuko. “Since then I have wanted to be of service to the cancer community.”

Yuko teaches “internal qigong” using a guided mediation CD created specifically for people affected by cancer. “It was created by my qigong master, Chunyi Lin, one of the most eminent masters in the United States,” says Yuko.

The qigong mediation helps increase strength and a sense of control over one’s life force through “self-healing energy.” Yuko’s experience has been that this practice helps people transform their mental state from pessimism and depression to optimism and peace. “There are so many benefits to this practice,” she says.

“Most people don’t have a moment to enjoy the peace and beauty of silence, which helps people understand their body and mind, so I ask them to try to feel their own energy within them during class,” says Yuko.

Through her experience as a qigong instructor, Yuko has gained a much deeper understanding of the power of healing energy. “That is the best part of being a qigong instructor,” she says.

People affected by cancer, both patients and family members, are invited to try a free qigong class provided by the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara. Please call ahead to confirm class times.

  • Mondays, 7-8:30pm, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 8520 Winnetka Avenue, Winnetka, CA 91306, 818.407.1695
  • Mondays, 1pm, Wednesdays, 10am, Fridays, 1:30pm, 530 Hampshire Road, Westlake Village, CA 91361, 805.379.4777
  • Saturdays, 9am (Led by Jerry Durr) 530 Hampshire Road, Westlake Village, CA 91361, 805.379.4777

Participant Profile: Cheryl Dunlap

“When cancer stares you down, living and loving each moment is a powerful way to fight back.” 

Cheryl Dunlap Family

Cheryl Dunlap (top, right) with her family

Since her husband Todd’s melanoma diagnosis, Cheryl Dunlap and her family have been living life to the fullest – their best way to fight against the disease that appeared in 2001 and recurred seven years later.

Treatment has been grueling – chemotherapy, a pulmonectomy, craniotomy, radiation, open-heart surgery, and a clinical trial. Todd has also faced life-threatening blood clots. But if you ask Cheryl about her journey through cancer with Todd, she makes sure she includes the good things that have happened in the past 13 years: watching both of their sons graduate from college, celebrating a marriage and their first grandson, traveling, gardening, hiking, and wine-tasting.

“We have done our research and tried our best to fight back against cancer,” says Cheryl. “When cancer stares you down, living and loving each moment is a powerful way to fight back.”

Cheryl's husband, Todd, with their grandson

Cheryl’s husband, Todd, with their grandson

Finding a support group at the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara has been another important part of Cheryl’s journey. After reading Gilda Radner’s memoir It’s Always Something, Cheryl started looking for a place like Gilda’s Club and found the Cancer Support Community.

Cheryl is a middle school teacher – proof that she does not shy away from a challenge. But it took a lot for her to go to CSCVVSB for the first time. “Todd drove me to the orientation because I kept chickening out,” recalls Cheryl. “I was nervous the first night of my support group and could barely speak for all my crying.  The group members warmly accepted me and made sure I understood that my feelings were safe with them.”

Cheryl encourages anyone dealing with cancer, both patients and family members alike, to give the Cancer Support Community a try. “Sometimes you’ll want to talk.  Sometimes you won’t.  Either way, your group will be there for you. They understand your journey in a way others can’t.”

“Of course there is fear, but try not to close yourself off from hope. You don’t have to do this alone. The Cancer Support Community is here to stand by you.”

Got Stress?

Life is stressful! We asked CSCVVSB Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction instructor Catherine Baum for some easy ways to relax and let go. She gave us this wonderful list of simple things that can really help you deal with stress. Now, go relax!relax sand

  1. Take a nap or soothing bath with soft fragrance such as lavender
  2. Find a quiet corner and curl up with a good book
  3. Watch a funny movie
  4. Make a paper airplane and sail it across the room
  5. Get a massage
  6. Enjoy an occasional glass of wine
  7. Start a small garden or grow a beautiful plant indoors
  8. Watch a favorite TV program. relaxing hammock kitty
  9. Go for a walk.  The Navajo say to “walk in beauty.” Pay attention to the sights, sounds, the actual feeling of the body moving, touching the ground.  Breathe deeply.

10.Start a collection

11.Listen to your favorite music

12.Play with a pet

relaxing pupper13.Look at water (ocean waves, lake or fountain)

14.Watch clouds in the sky

15.Put your head down on your desk and close your eyes for 5 minutes

16.Rub your hands together until they are warm and put them over your eyes

17.Vigorously shake your hands and arms for ten seconds

18.Call or check in with a friend or family member

19.Go to a vacation spot in your mind

20.Crumble paper into a ball; use a wastebasket as a hoop

relaxing bear21.Look (really LOOK) out the window for 5 minutes

22.Write a letter (that doesn’t have to be sent) or journal

23.Turn off the TV or radio.  Let yourself enjoy the quiet.

24.Change your clothes, wear a color you really like.

If one thing doesn’t work for you, try something else.  Search until you find something you like.

The Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara offers free programs to help people affected by cancer manage stress. Call 805.379.4777 or visit for more information.

Catherine BaumCatherine Baum has been teaching MBSR continuously since training in Rhinebeck, New York in 1993.  Her extensive teaching experience includes teaching for private medical groups, the County of Ventura, United Way, El Camino College, Boy Scouts of America, The Cancer Resource Center of Ventura County (affliated with the UCLA Jonsson Cancer Center), and for over twenty years teaching at the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara and The Cancer Resource Center at Community Memorial Hospital. Catherine is a founding member of Teachers Association of Southern California for MBSR (MBSR-TASC)