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Help us welcome our new President & CEO

We are pleased to welcome Bridget Karl to Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara. As President and CEO, we look forward to her leadership, expertise and compassion. Bridget has abundant experience in non-profit management, fund raising and project management and has a heart for the mission of Cancer Support Community and the people we serve. Motivating people is her strength and she draws others in with the excitement she has for each endeavor she undertakes. Her experience with the Chamber in our local community brings a world of opportunities to Cancer Support Community. Please join us in welcoming Bridget.

~CSCVVSB Co-Founders,Beth Kin, RN, MS, OCN & Marty Nason, MN, RN

“As we celebrate our 25th year of serving 25,000 people affected by cancer, I am hopeful and enthusiastic about the future and keeping Hope Alive for Another 25!” ~Marty Nason
 
“Her welcoming manner and deep passion for the mission of Cancer Support Community will serve us well in years to come. Welcome, Bridget to our family!” ~Beth Kin

 

bridgetBridget brings to Cancer Support Community several years of experience in business development, fundraising, marketing, public relations and event planning. Bridget has a proven track record in building and managing public/private partnerships across diverse industries to bring about best fundraising results.

“I am extremely excited to be part of Cancer Support Community, I am passionate about the work they do, and I’ve seen first hand how it helps survivors and their families.  It’s an honor to have this opportunity working for such a wonderful organization,” says Bridget.

Welcome, Bridget!

 

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Kids Circle Kids’ Stories Set to Song!

In January 2016, the Kids and Teen Circle kids had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with Tom, a musician from the nonprofit Sing Me A Story Foundation (SMAS), to have their stories set to song. Tom travelled to Westlake Village from Nashville to help our kids tell their stories about important people, places and events in their lives. Twelve kids between the ages of 6 and 15 happily chatted away, eating snacks, sharing and just being kids as they wrote and illustrated their personal stories, using humor, poignancy, imagination and creativity. (The kids were able to choose to write about anything they wanted). One participant, Skhye, wrote about “The Time I Got Lost at Disneyland.” Josie shared memories of a visit to Disneyland as well. Gabie remembered a great family trip to Hawaii. And Sarah titled her story, “The Thanksgiving Disaster.”

After the kids wrote their stories, they were distributed to SMAS Songwriters (in genres including rap, rhythm and blues, country western and rock and roll) through their website, www.SingMeAStory.org. The songwriters then view the stories, choose one, and write a melody to go with the kids’ own words.  They then record the songs and send them back to the children by uploading them back to the website. SMAS Jukebox campaigns are then created for each song uploaded in an effort to raise money for the partnering nonprofit and SMAS.

Our Kids and Teen Circle kids thoroughly enjoyed the event. It was another way for them to just be kids in a relaxed environment with understanding peers while they cope  with cancer in their families, or the death of a parent; another way for these children to have a voice and be recognized.

Our Kids and Teen Circle program offers kids the opportunity for self-expression through music, art, talk and other creative experiences. This event offered a unique, new opportunity for our kids to share who they are.

Our Kids and Teen Circle programs meet on Tuesdays from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. in Westlake Village, and our bilingual group meets on Mondays (except the 1st Monday of each month) in Oxnard from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.

 

 

music notes

Member Spotlight: Theresa Frank’s Story (in her own words)

I was diagnosed 8 years ago at the age of 43 years old. My life will never be the same. My story began like so many — totally unexpected. I thought I had a bad flu that just wouldn’t go away. The bad flu turned out to be double pneumonia and so much more. I was hospitalized immediately and within hours my kidneys were shutting down. My right lung had collapsed and doctors could not understand what was causing my body to fail. I was placed in an induced coma to allow the doctors time to figure it out. The moment came for the diagnosis of this mysterious disease that was causing my body to fail. My family was told that I had Multiple Myeloma. I had cancer. My family researched the diagnosis and were told that it was incurable, and that the survival rate was only a few years.

Eight years later, I am alive and well. After my diagnosis, I came to Cancer Support Community looking for help in dealing with the emotional roller coaster, and acceptance of my new life living with cancer. I started attending the monthly drop-in network support group at CSC for those living with Multiple Myeloma. At the time I was one of the youngest members of the group. At the first meeting I was so afraid and only wanted to be invisible in the back of the room. Look at me today — I am now the organizer and leader of our support group! The group educates members to be patient advocates in their healthcare decisions. I bring in speakers who educate our members on the latest drugs and treatments. The community has given me a sense of support and understanding.

If you are able to get involved in the community and make a difference, then please do. Join a support group where you won’t feel alone, and you may get the emotional support that you may need. Remember, your journey may impact other people’s lives. As someone who has gone through cancer I can tell you, you don’t need to go through this alone. The CSC community is here to help. My networking support group has helped me change my story. I wish you to view me as hope living with cancer. Cancer can look like me. I am cancer. I am a miracle to those in my support group and to my family and friends.

Theresa Frank, Westlake MyelomaTheresa Frank

Speaker’s Bureau Spotlight: Evette McAlister

Evette McAlister family Cancer Support Community is fortunate to count Evette McAlister as a longtime member of its Speakers Bureau.  Evette was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008.  Three days after being diagnosed, she and her husband came to CSC (at that time known as The Wellness Community).  “A friend referred us to CSC, and I am forever grateful for it! I can’t imagine going through all we’ve been through without CSC,” Evette relates.

Evette joined a mixed men and women’s support group, which covered all types of cancer.  It was here she gained an enormous amount knowledge, support, camaraderie, and friends that she now calls family.

 

DOING HER HOMEWORK –

Before choosing her healthcare team, Evette interviewed three oncological radiologists, six medical oncologists, nine plastic surgeons and two medical nutritionists with expertise in cancer.   “Interviewing over a dozen doctors, I never let them leave the room until ‘I’ was done! If a doctor was talking to me while standing with one hand on the door, I would politely insist they take a seat while speaking with me.”  Evette found that, with the wealth of knowledge she gained at CSC, she was able to not only ask a lot of questions, but ask the “right” questions of her medical team, and they in turn were more forthcoming with a deeper level of information for her.

With her own background in physical therapy and nutrition, her new-found knowledge of the specifics in dealing with cancer, and her no-nonsense approach when speaking with doctors, Evette became known as her group’s “go to” participant. If a fellow group member was afraid to speak to, or interview, their doctors, she would accompany them to their appointments.  In one special case, Evette went to the hospital as a support to the patient undergoing surgery that day, and her husband Mark (also a Speakers Bureau member) went to support the patient’s husband.  Mark explained what the husband could do to support his wife when she came out of surgery, and how to prepare their home for her return.  “The patient’s whole family was so grateful for us being there. It was a blessing for us that we could be there to help.”

Evette’s entire family joined her at CSC.  Her husband joined a caregiver’s support group, which took place the same evening as her support group in the room right next door.  Her two children, only 6 and 8 at the time of her diagnosis, gained great support in the Kids and Teen Circle Group.  They learned to be able to communicate their feelings and have a greater awareness that theirs was not the only family going through their particular circumstances. It was there her daughter won a drawing competition, which used her artwork as a logo for the “Garden Of Hope.”Evetter McAlister daughter artwork

Evette’s father also attended sessions at CSC when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years later, after a couple of Evette’s support group members came to his home to speak to him about their experience with the same cancer, and support him.  “That’s how close my support group family has become. We’ve been here over the years to not only support one another, but to celebrate one another, as well.  Birthdays, summer barbecues, holidays, and Super Bowl Sunday have become traditions.”

 

Because Evette feels her entire family has benefited so much from the abundance of programs CSC has to offer, she felt one of the best ways to give back was to get the word out. Along with several others from her support group, she helped build the Speakers Bureau.  She has been an active member since its inception several years ago and loves it!  “It’s my honor to share with others the great work CSC is doing, right here in our very own community, as well as extending out to other communities. So many people are unaware that CSC exists.  It’s simply not necessary to have others go through dealing with all that is associated with cancer alone when there is a whole family of supporters just waiting to welcome them to benefit from this oasis of knowledge, safety, friendship, and all that CSC has to offer.”

 

One of Evette’s most enjoyable speaking engagements was speaking on campus with hundreds of graduate students at the UCLA School of Social Work.  Evette enjoys engaging her audiences by having them be part of her presentation; to not only speak to them, but with them.

 

Evette always feels honored to speak to organizations that don’t yet know what CSC has to offer. But she feels even more honored to speak to supporters of CSCVVSB, because she loves thanking them in person.

 

Most recently, Evette spoke at the Wig & Stash Gala, a fundraising event which took place March 4, 2016 at the Four Seasons, Westlake Village. There she emphasized the importance of CSC’s Kids and Teen Circle program and how it personally helped her two children, as well as her and her husband.

 

A small sample of Evette’s other speaking engagements have been: The Amgen Tour of California Bike Race, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Employees Association, Sage Publications,  schools and colleges, both private and public, throughout Ventura County and into the San Fernando Valley, and several events for the Westlake Village Junior Women’s Club.

 

Evette has even participated in CSC’s Comedy Night, whose motto is “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”

 

Evette’s latest venture is her family owned and operated business “805 Photo Booth,” (aka “operation laughter”), which she rents out for events and parties. “I feel CSC was instrumental in helping me find a new “focus” in life.  It would be an honor for me to donate my Photo Booth services to bring laughter to CSC events, as another way of giving back.”

 

 

ASK THE EXPERT: Dr. Jennifer Kujak on Diagnostic Radiology

Dr. Jennifer KujakIf you are reading this article, you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. I, too, have been personally affected by cancer.  Recently, my mother-in-law, Sally, passed from metastatic melanoma.

While being diagnosed with cancer is life-changing and frightening, there are many exciting new imaging tests and treatments available that detect cancer earlier, improve cancer prognosis, and allow people to live longer and healthier. I have witnessed many victories in cancer treatment, so have hope!  In the next few paragraphs, I will explain what a radiologist does, what cancer imaging tests are available, and what to expect.  I hope by writing this brief article, it helps you and your loved ones on your journey.

A radiologist is a doctor who specializes in interpreting imaging studies. Radiologists are “behind the scenes” detectives, who help your doctor determine whether you have cancer, how far the cancer has spread and if treatment is working.

Imaging tests are used to look inside of your body. These tests are used for cancer screening, diagnosing cancer, and treatment response.  Different tests, such as radiographs, ultrasound, CT, MRI and PET/CT are available.

Radiographs (X-rays) use x-rays to create a picture and use minimal radiation. This exam is often used to look for pneumonia, fractures, and bone lesions.  These studies are fast, cheap and can occasionally detect cancer. You do not have to prepare for the exam.

Ultrasound studies use sound waves to look inside your body with no radiation. This exam is often used for pregnancy, gallstones, certain cancers (thyroid cancer), and biopsies.  You may have to fast for 4-6 hours.

Computed tomography (CT/CAT scan) is a large “donut-hole” machine that uses radiation to create images and is quick. This test is used for cancer screening, to determine cancer spread, and treatment response.  Contrast dye is sometimes used. You may have to fast for 4-6 hours.

MRI studies use a strong magnet to create images, look at many types of cancer, and take 25-45 minutes. You lie on a flat table that slides into the tube. Contrast dye is sometimes used.  You may have to fast for 4-6 hours.

PET/CT studies use radioactive sugar to create images and take 2-3 hours. If cancer is present, the tumor may show up as a “hot spot”. This study is often used to detect cancer, determine cancer spread and treatment response.  You will have to fast for 4-6 hours.

I hope the above paragraphs have helped “demystify” cancer imaging. I wish you good health and a good life!

Jennifer Kujak, M.D., M.S.

Vice President Rolling Oaks Radiology