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Sherry Stern: Making a Difference, One Stitch at a Time

sherrystern3Over fifteen years ago, Sherry Stern’s friend asked if she’d like to volunteer as a House Manager for the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara’s biggest fundraiser of the year: the Holiday Homes Tour. “I had heard of The Wellness Community [as it was called then] but didn’t really know what I was saying yes to,” says Sherry. “Going to the organizing committee meeting, I met a group of wonderful women, with great energy and abilities to get things done.”

Sherry has been an essential part of CscVvsb’s volunteer corps since she first got involved in that Holiday Homes Tour fifteen years ago. She has served as House Manager, House Chair, Boutique Chair, Ticket Chair, and Event Chair. She was also Cashiering Chair for the Design House, another large fundraiser, in 2005. In every one of her volunteer committee positions, Sherry devotes tremendous energy and dedication, working hard to help CscVvsb serve people affected by cancer in our community.

The Knotty Knitters prepare their creations for the Holiday Homes Tour Boutique

The Knotty Knitters prepare their creations for the Holiday Homes Tour Boutique

Through her leadership positions with Holiday Homes Tour, Sherry got to know CscVvsb president Suzanne Drace and discovered that they both love to knit. Suzanne had the idea of starting a knitting circle at CscVvsb and asked Sherry to be the chair – and that’s how the Knotty Knitters came about. “It started in 2004 with me and one participant meeting twice a month and the group has now grown to eight or ten of us meeting every week,” says Sherry. “The ladies are participants, volunteers and survivors and we have had a couple of men who have joined us for awhile. Some know how to knit or crochet and some come to learn.”

As a way of giving back to CscVvsb, the Knotty Knitters sell their creations at the Holiday Homes Tour Boutique and donate the proceeds back to the organization. “Selling our knitted items and raising money for CscVvsb completes a circle for the Knotty Knitters.  Those who have received help from CscVvsb are able to give back and help others,” says Sherry.

A fellow knitter shows some of the whimsical items sold at the Boutique

A fellow knitter shows some of the whimsical items sold at the Boutique

Helping people affected by cancer is a cause close to Sherry’s heart – she lost her mother to ovarian cancer and her grandmother to leukemia. “I know my mother would have benefited from the Cancer Support Community,” says Sherry, who says the best part of volunteering is the people she has gotten to meet. “I feel I have gotten much more from my involvement with CscVvsb than I could possibly give.”

Thank you, Sherry, for taking the time to give back and make a difference! 

To learn more about how you can help CscVvsb, please click here or call 805.379.4777. 

Knotty Knitters is a free group open to cancer patients, survivors, caregivers and family members. Meetings are held Tuesdays at 1pm at CscVvsb, 530 Hampshire Road, Westlake Village. No registration or experience required. Call 805.379.4777 to learn more.


Survivor Profile: Ursula Taylor

Ursula Taylor is a brain tumor survivor and a member of the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara. Prior to her diagnosis, Ursula was a practicing physician. She lives in Thousand Oaks with her husband and three sons and enjoys dancing and music – specifically Zumba, belly dancing, and violin lessons. Thank you for inspiring us with your optimism and enthusiasm, Ursula!

Ursula celebrates her survival in Kauai three months after surgery.

Ursula celebrates her survival in Kauai three months after surgery.

Finding out that my brain tumor was highly malignant was totally terrifying. For a whole week after the surgery, the answer still wasn’t back. In my mind, I was convinced this was a slow growing benign tumor, since it was huge. So when I found out it was “high grade glioma” I panicked. I knew this was dangerous and I faced difficult medical treatments ahead, if I’d even survive. Yes, going through chemo and radiation was awful, but also exhilarating. I got a chance to show how strong I really am, how much backbone I have.

Most thrilling of all: I’ve survived and thrived. After just 3 months I was back to driving and best of all, to the gym. What a feeling!! It’s like I got a new lease on life, starting over at 55. So far I’ve been one of the lucky ones even though I still face frequent testing and follow-ups. Currently I’m almost as fit as in my twenties and spend at least six days a week at the gym. My endurance is great. So it’s a dream come true, as I love the gym, dancing and music. Going to Zumba and belly dancing classes energizes me and lifts my spirits – a total high.

Besides my own efforts I couldn’t have done this well overall without the tremendous outpouring and support of my husband, his family, the Temple, schools, amazing neighbors…we received so much help, it was an incredible experience! I must also especially credit my amazing and skilled Neuro-Surgeon, Dr. Linda Liau from UCLA – she performed highly skilled surgery, as well as the UCLA brain tumor team, who follows me in clinic.

Ursula wears the components of her NovoTTF treatment continuously, which requires her to keep her head shaved. She uses a variety of head scarves and likes to find earrings to match.

Ursula wears the components of her NovoTTF treatment continuously, which requires her to keep her head shaved. She uses a variety of head scarves and likes to find earrings to match them.

My husband and I go to the Brain Tumor Networking Group at CscVvsb once a month. We have formed close bonds with several other people there. Since I’m not working now I’ve gone to the Friday relaxation/mediation, which is very good and truly is relaxing. Knowing there is a center to go to, with warm welcoming people, is support just on its own.

I feel such gratitude towards everyone and the universe. Such an amazing experience, I feel so fortunate to sit here and write about this journey.

If you are going through the cancer experience, stay positive, relax and know you are not alone. Reach deep inside yourself and know you have the strength of the entire universe within your DNA. Researching treatment options helps too. Keep reading and looking for answers. Don’t give up, it’s never hopeless. Research is moving forward at a rapid pace, faster than ever before. Don’t focus on what you’re going through, but rather on the outcome you want and where you are going to. Live and enjoy each moment you are here. Take a deep breath and have gratitude, look up at the beautiful blue sky, the greenery, inhale deeply. Love yourself and know you are worthy of all good things in this universe, and open your heart to receive them.

Creating Your Life Through Music

“Music helps us feel what we need to feel. It helps us be who we really are, which is at the root of all healing.” ~Kalani Das, MT-BC

Special thanks to Board-Certified Music Therapist and CscVvsb Workshop Leader Kalani Das, MT-BC for sharing seven ways music can be a healing part of anyone’s life – whether your idea of music is Chopin or Chopsticks.


kalani2Shift Your Mood
Music listening is an accessible way to modify your mood or outlook, without the possible side effects of medication. You can create playlists that are designed towards various emotional or physical goals, such as relaxation, preparing for sleep, feeling energized, taking a trip down memory lane, and even getting work done. Use your personal music player of choice to bring your musical medicine cabinet wherever you go.


Reduce Pain & Anxiety
Music listening and active music making can both be used to reduce pain, anxiety and nausea. The music in this case does not act directly on the pain, but serves to reduce any attention that you place on it, thereby resulting in a perceived reduction. The net effect is that people who actively engage in a musical experience will suffer less because they are not attending to the pain. The key is being engaged in the music, ideally through active music making (singing and/or playing instruments), dancing, or both.


Better than Exercises
Music can be used to modulate and shape your physical state and increase your chances of remaining as healthy as possible throughout your life–and musical experiences are often fun. Music therapists use musical experiences to connect with and shape breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and other physical indicators while their clients are engaged in an enjoyable experience. The good news is, you can learn to create your own healthful music-based experiences that you can practice whenever you choose. Slow, deep breathing via toning (vocalizing extended vowel sounds), chanting (singing and repeating short musical phrases), or singing songs, is an example of how a musical experience equates to a healthful breathing exercise.

kalani1A Loving Practice
Musical experiences, which often include singing, moving to music, playing instruments, and discussing the meaning of lyrics, can become a meaningful and rewarding pastime or hobby. As a music therapist, I sometimes help people develop leisure skills that support their therapeutic goals. Music is portable, requires little or no equipment, is universally appreciated across all cultures, and has virtually no negative side effects. Many patients who thought of themselves as ‘non-musical’ have ended up becoming life-long amateur musicians. The word “amateur” is based in the root word “amore.” The amateur musician is someone who loves music.

A personal music practice can integrate perfectly with mindfulness and meditation. You can use simple and accessible toning, chanting, or singing experiences to complement, support, and expand any practice that is aimed at increasing your sense of presence, wellbeing, and spirituality. A mindfulness-based music practice can be personal and/or shared between friends, loved ones, or a community of peers.

Express Yourself
Musical experiences are, by definition, expressive experiences. But they express more than just music. Clients also express ideas, thoughts, emotions, goals, dreams, fears, and most importantly, they get to know one another and themselves. What begins as a song might end with uncontrollable laughter, a heartfelt discussion, a cathartic experience that opens new pathways to healing, or just a good cry. Music helps us feel what we need to feel. It helps us be who we really are, which is at the root of all healing.

Your Support Network
Music making can serve as the foundation for ongoing and rewarding social experiences. People engage in music at places of prayer and worship largely because it helps them feel connected–to their god, their practice, and to each other. Any community music experience presents opportunities for interpersonal connection, sharing, and mutual support. Music used for socializing can be formal, as in a religious setting, or casual, as in a community drum circle or ukulele club sing-along. The goal is to share music with others, which results in increased feelings of community and mutual support.


Kalani Das, MT-BC is a board-certified music therapist and educator. He provides music therapy and training in Los Angeles and abroad. See,,, and for more. Follow Kalani Das on most social media platforms at: @kalanimusic. Email: