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Posts from the ‘Participant’s Story’ Category

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT- Grace Marchand Baskin

Coffee with Yolie: A mother-in-law’s perspective on her daughter-in-law, Yolanda (Yolie) Baskin, who made her recent journey….to Heaven.
by Grace Marchand BaskinYolie

I didn’t know what I could do for her to make her well, again….there was nothing that I could have done that would have made any difference…..nothing, and I’m sad over that. I couldn’t save her one little smidgen.

I even told her parents I would if I could, even if it meant losing my own life, as I’ve lived a good one, and as old as I now am (just turned 70 years young) why oh why could I not have been able to transfer some of those years over to her? She needed them more than I did, and it would be wonderful to be able to help her do the same, as all she wanted was to see her children grow,  but …..all I could do were some things, I think I do best: have a great cup of coffee, and write, so I did.  Each morning began with me making a pot of coffee to perk, and when ready, I’d call her wherever she was, home or hospital, and say, “Okay, I’m having coffee now”, and she’d reply, “I am, too, mom, with a biscotti.” (She loved biscotti so much I dubbed her Yolie Biscotti)……and then,

I started writing her letters after her brain surgery, and each time she had to go back to UCLA, and then in the care center, then at home…..etc., sketching colorful pictures on the envelopes, and stationary, filling lines with sweet or funny phrases and memories……telling her how much I have always appreciated her taking such great care of my son…….how she always made his dreams, hers, how good her parents were to him – he has great in-laws…..just some of the stuff that I wanted her to know while she was alive and well, and for that matter, I’ve told her these things many times over the years they were married, just so nothing ever, was left unsaid.  We had a comfortable relationship, and again, the fact that she was so “there” for my son, all of the time, no matter what – I knew that if things were reversed she would be in his court front and center: there’s nothing more I can say, except – he will never find another like her. I fill my cup of coffee in the morning, look over at the Sacred Heart of Jesus picture that mom gave me, then at Yolie’s picture, and say, “Here’s to you”, and I’m going to keep saying it because there it is….coffee with Yolie, now, and always. Love, Mom B. xo

 

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Member Spotlight- Sherri Rosenthal

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I first walked into Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara (CSCVVSB) in November as a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient. I was given the name of a “Buddy” who I spoke to as I began my journey.

2013 was one of the hardest and most life-changing years of my life. I was dealing with the loss of my mom, when my then 28-year-old older daughter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. On November 8, 2013, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Cancer, stage I. The cancer was not visible on my mammogram because I had dense breast tissue. I had a follow-up ultrasound that clearly showed the cancer. From the moment I was diagnosed, I knew that a bilateral mastectomy (BMX) was the right surgery for me. My decision was reinforced when my genetic test results showed that I have the BRCA2 gene mutation. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to always listen to your gut. I was very fortunate that my cancer was found very early and that I did not need chemo or radiation. I had my BMX in December 2013 with the first stage of reconstruction. I had several surgeries to complete my breast reconstruction, finally finishing in November 2014. My experiences helped my younger daughter when, again at the age of 28, she underwent a preventative bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction because she, as well, has the BRCA2 gene mutation and had already had a very large breast lump removed that was fortunately benign.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I always knew that I would be okay. I took it one day at a time and have gotten through this journey easily especially because I kept a positive attitude. There is always a silver lining in everything that happens! I am a stronger woman since my breast cancer journey and truly value each day. I spread the word that further testing beyond mammogram is very important for women with dense breast tissue.

I found an online support group called MyBCTeam.com after I was diagnosed. I met women from around the country and Canada, many of whom were also newly diagnosed while some were veterans of the BC journey. While enduring 5 surgeries in 11 months, these were the women I spoke to daily. They truly understood what I was going through. Before long, I became one of the seasoned ones offering advice and encouragement, especially to the young women. I had been fortunate to meet of few of these women in person. A coffee date usually lasted 2-3 hours.

After a while the contact we had with one another, although often daily, wasn’t enough. A large group of us became a private Facebook group, where we could send private messages and it gave us a better view into the everyday lives of these “friends”. We are there to support each other through the many medical issues that follow initial treatment for breast cancer and we have been able to celebrate wonderful occasions such as the birth of babies after cancer, weddings, anniversaries.

Soon the private Facebook group wasn’t enough either, so we started to plan a weekend getaway. A year in the planning, 28 of us breast cancer survivors, aged 35 to 65, (with a few children and husbands) met in Estes Park, Colorado on August 3, 2016. It’s hard to describe how incredible it was to finally be able to hug each woman and tell her how she had made the journey much easier. We had shared our darkest fears and our dreams for the future with each other and we discovered we had deep friendships far more valuable than those around us daily who “just don’t get it”!  Goodbyes were very difficult at the end of the long weekend, but we know we’ll see each other again. These are lifelong relationships founded in adversity but proof of the silver lining of getting and surviving breast cancer!

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I believe that I got breast cancer so that I can help others. I am active in several other online support groups, lending an ear and encouraging newly diagnosed women or women suffering from the side effects of treatments, metastasis or just trying to get used to their “new normal”. I started to volunteer at the CSC twice a month at the front desk in October 2014. I love giving back and enjoy the opportunity to talk to patients and survivors. I participated in Cups for Courage in 2014, decorating my bra to represent the silver lining that is always there!

rosenthal3I decided to take on a larger volunteer job for Let’s Bake a Difference this year. I was the Baker Coordinator, communicating with the professional and amateur bakers, organizing the baked goods and making sure everything was set up for the judging of the goodies. I enjoyed working alongside the other volunteers and the amazing staff at CSC.

I now make the most of each day and consider myself more of a Thriver than a Survivor. However, I was constantly reminded of what I had been through and what I had lost every time I looked in the mirror and saw all the scars. I saw a national news report on a wonderful organization called P.ink (Personal Ink) that helps breast cancer survivors transform their mastectomy scars with tattoos. I realized that this was the answer for me. After multiple sessions with 2 different tattoo artists, I now have beautiful, colorful floral tattoos and a butterfly hiding my scars. I have been given back that which was taken from me! The bra I decorated for Cups for Courage 2016 is a representation of the tattoos I love! I am the local leader for P.ink Day Los Angeles this month where two very deserving survivors will get their tattoos. We are only one of 14 cities in the US and Canada where other women will have this empowering experience.

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My days are busy volunteering for various organizations and spreading the word about dense breast tissue through AreYouDense.org, about transformative mastectomy tattoos through P-ink.org and about support for breast cancer patients through MyBCTeam.com and the Cancer Support Community. I feel so fortunate to live in Westlake Village with my husband, a community of wonderful people with the incredible resources of the Cancer Support Community.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT – Linda Tommela

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How did you hear about Cancer Support Community?

In 1991 I moved to Thousand Oaks and the very next day I was diagnosed with retinal melanoma.  I was 8 months pregnant and didn’t know a soul other than my Ob/Gyn.  He referred me to CSC.  I am probably the only one who has walked into CSC very pregnant and sobbing.  It was truly a lifeline for me.  I had my baby and when she was two weeks old, I began attending weekly support meetings.  The compassion and caring I experienced carried me through treatment and the critical early stages of motherhood.

How long have you been coming here?

I first came to CSC in 1991 to join a support group, and over the years participated in a variety events including being a team member for the Big Sur Marathon fundraiser, and volunteer for the Holiday Homes Tour.

I came back to the CSC in 2015 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

How has cancer impacted your family?

Because the melanoma in 1991 caused blindness in one eye, my family, especially my kids always knew I had experienced something very serious.  I always told them the truth and we had so much fun with the fact that I only saw out of one eye.  I had to wear a eye patch for awhile, so I played pirates with my 4-year old and his friends!  And when my daughter was about six, she thought it would be the coolest thing if I could lose sight in the other eye too so we could get a seeing-eye dog!

My experience with CSC came full circle when my daughter who I was pregnant with when I walked into CSC for the first time, chose to volunteer at CSC for her high school community service project.  CSC gave so much to our family and she was honored to have the opportunity to give back.

Why did you participate in the Cups of Courage event?

In 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through chemo and radiation.  Again, in the spirit making the most of a scary situation, I immediately knew I wanted to do my small part to raise awareness, and have a great time doing it!  The camaraderie of the other survivors was so inspiring.  How often do you get to sit in the middle of a mall with a pile of bras, decorations, and glue guns, laughing and sharing stories for such an amazing cause?

Tells us about the bra you decorated and why you decorated it that way.

I chose a sweet theme using the colors for breast cancer awareness… I decorated my bra with Good & Plenty candy!  My life is Good, and I have Plenty to be thankful for.

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MEMBER SPOTLIGHT-Jilla Redman

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Jilla Redman is a breast cancer survivor, and has been a part of the Cancer Support Community since 2008. In addition to attending a weekly support group Jilla enjoys participating in yoga and guided imaginary classes. Jilla comes to CSC because of the ongoing support she receives.She is a strong believer of paying it forward. “I learn from the ladies in my group, we share our experiences and concerns. We are hope for each other. You don’t feel alone. For me it’s a second home. Cancer Support Community has really helped me”.

Friendly and engaging Jilla enjoys welcoming new participants to CSC. You will always find Jilla and her husband, Chuck laughing hysterically at Comedy Night. Jilla’s passion for gardening was demonstrated at a recent “Cups of Courage” event, where she decorated a bra with a floral theme. Her bra was featured in our Paint the Town Paint event at The Oaks. It’s not unusual to find Jilla with a watering can tending to the flowers and succulents around our building. She says this is her “small way” of giving back but here at CSC we want to acknowledge Jilla, and thank her in a “big way” for her spirit and generosity. She is truly an inspiration to all.

Survivor Story: Marilyn May

MarilynMayJapan2Marilyn May was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 after seeing two different radiologists and surgeons to find the care and treatment that felt right for her. Seventeen years and two additional cancer diagnoses later, Marilyn simply refuses to let metastatic breast cancer keep her from living a full life. Whether traveling across the globe or sharing her passion for art with her students, Marilyn fights her battle by squeezing the most joy out of every single day.

“I’ve already gone through two or three bucket lists,” says Marilyn, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Ventura and also teaches English as a Second Language. Art is her first love, and she currently teaches seniors in Ventura and elementary schoolchildren in the Rio School District. “No matter how tired I am it energizes me,” she says. Marilyn has also explored the world, traveling to Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, India and more.

MarilynMayJapanNow age 72, Marilyn has packed so much into her life since her first diagnosis 17 years ago. After monitoring a shadow on her mammogram, and through a difficult process of finding the right healthcare team, Marilyn underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. Nine years later, she had severe pain in her leg for nine months before an MRI showed cancer in her hip and femur, requiring an 11-day hospital stay and 25 days of radiation.

Throughout her cancer journey, Marilyn and her husband have found solace in several local groups. Marilyn attends and now volunteers for American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program, which has a Simi Valley-based group for women with metastatic breast cancer. The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Comedy Night series offered by the Cancer Support Community have also helped Marilyn and her husband.

Artwork by Marilyn's students, on permanent display at the SCAN Offices in Ventura.

Artwork by Marilyn’s students is on permanent display at the SCAN Offices in Ventura.

For almost nine years Marilyn has also attended a support group offered by the Cancer Support Community and St. John’s Hospital in Oxnard. Marilyn and her husband both attended Cancer Support Community groups in Camarillo as well.

“The groups help so much,” says Marilyn. “My husband found out in his group that everyone’s going through the same experience as him and he felt free to say everything he needed to say, and not be afraid that he would hurt or offend me. And I was able to talk about all the different areas that I didn’t want to discuss with him.”

One of Marilyn's paintings.

One of Marilyn’s paintings.

Last year Marilyn underwent a bilateral mastectomy after her doctor discovered a different type of breast cancer. “I never again wanted to go through the anxiety of waiting for tests and appointments and results, so I opted for the mastectomy,” says Marilyn. Although the cancer has spread to her liver and shoulders, Marilyn is still as active as ever, and holding out hope for a medication that she was approved for in September through a program that allows compassionate use of certain drugs not yet on the market.

“Even though I feel a little closer to the end I rejoice in every day and I am very grateful for my friends and family who get me to my treatments and send me funny jokes,” says Marilyn. “Every day is a joyous day.”