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Survivor Spotlight: Dean Benjamin

Dean Benjamin and his wife Laura during a visit to Istanbul in spring, 2015

Dean Benjamin and his wife Laura during a visit to Istanbul in spring, 2015

Although cancer is a common denominator among everyone who comes to Cancer Support Community, many people have their own specific reasons for making that crucial first visit. Some people are reluctant but their spouse, children or friends have encouraged them to seek a support group. Some people come in the door for a physician workshop and end up signing up for more activities. Others start as volunteers and end up needing CSC’s services down the road.

“Desperation” is what led Dean Benjamin to contact CSC. In 2014 Dean, retired from his job as a general manager in electronics manufacturing, was diagnosed with Stage 2B cancer of the tonsil and tongue. His treatment was a combination of chemotherapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy, and his prognosis was excellent. His doctors were highly confident that the cancer would be eradicated.

Although Dean’s outlook for battling the cancer was good, the adverse side effects of his treatment threw him into what he describes as “the depths of despair.” Desperate for help, Dean went online and found out about Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara.

“I was not hesitant or scared because I was truly desperate,” recalls Dean. “I feared that if I did not seek help, my life might be over, at least figuratively speaking. When one reaches that point, hesitancy and fear are cast aside.”

Since that day when Dean sought help, he and his wife Laura have taken full advantage of the comprehensive slate of programs offered at CSC. Dean has attended several support groups, plus yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction, Reiki, and lymphedema treatment. Laura, who was Dean’s primary caregiver during treatment, has done support groups, yoga, and mindfulness-based stress reduction.

“Through interaction with others who were either going through treatment or who had previously gone through treatment, I learned that I was not alone. I also saw the positives that come with cancer, including facing and accepting the reality of one’s own mortality,” says Dean.

“Dean comforts with his words and encourages with his smile,” says CSC group facilitator Roland Rotz, PhD. “He acknowledges the yin and yang of cancer. While he is better, he understands the meaning of ‘new normal.’”

Dean’s story is a testament that even in the darkest hour, hope is possible if you reach out and ask for help.

“After a year of treatment and a horrible recovery stage, and with the help of CSC, life got much better,” says Dean. “Cancer helped me realize the treasure of each day, and that to squander one’s days is an irrecoverable loss.”

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