Speaker’s Bureau Spotlight: Evette McAlister
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.”
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.”