Author: Meghan W Melanson

Get to know volunteer Cheryl Capriola

For many years, I volunteered for the King County Crisis Clinic. During that time, Cancer Lifeline’s after-hours calls were forwarded to the KCCC phone line and that’s when I first became aware of the work Cancer Lifeline was doing.

I found some similarities with the Crisis Clinic training when I decided to undergo Cancer Lifeline’s Active Listening and Volunteer training in that it’s important to make sure people feel heard and have a safe place to vocally run through their fears. However, the training for Cancer Lifeline felt more intimate and personal.

Cancer Lifeline encourages volunteers to research and offer resources and class suggestions for those impacted by cancer.  It feels good to learn about the many types, treatments, recovery, and resources available to those impacted by cancer. And by helping the Cancer Lifeline staff, we allow more time for them to focus on classes, therapeutic, financial, and fundraising events.

My hope is that Cancer Lifeline can continue to educate and bring people together before they get or know someone with cancer.

Cancer Lifeline positions itself as offering our clients Strength, Dignity, and Hope. Of those three words, until I personally underwent cancer treatment, I would have said Strength and Dignity resonate the most for me. Now I feel the word Hope best describes my feeling about the future.  I want to give people the feeling of Hope through education and support during the many phases of cancer.

Meet Our Breakfast Chair Susan Baumgaertel, MD

Susan Baumgaertel, MD is in Internal Medicine at the Polyclinic. She has served on the Cancer Lifeline board since 2018 and has chaired our annual signature fundraiser Breakfast with Friends for the past two years.

Below is an excerpt from her official bio with the Polyclinic.

“I believe in empowering people to make healthy changes. I strive to offer support and accountability for strengthening health and wellness goals along the way. My patients receive personalized continuity of care with respectful collaboration, and a sharing of information to improve both physical and mental health.”

Dr. Baumgaertel was honored as an Ontario Scholar in 1984 by the Minister of Education for the Ministry of Colleges & Universities in Ontario, Canada. She then completed her Bachelor of Arts in 1989 at the University of Washington College of Architecture & Urban Planning. She went on to receive her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1993 and completed her residency at UW Department of Medicine, including a rotation as Chief Resident at Swedish Medical Center.

Dr. Baumgaertel has been in full-time practice at The Polyclinic since 1996. Her practice encompasses all areas of internal medicine, including preventive medicine, women’s health, cancer care, menopausal concerns, weight management and managing chronic disease, all in the spirit of compassion and caring. She collaborates as needed with holistic support in her office suite, including acupuncture and naturopathic medicine. She served as medical director of Menu for Change, an innovative weight management & wellness program, and continues to incorporate this program’s philosophy into her medical practice.

“Over the years, I became very moved by the many stories of people struggling to lose weight. While each story was unique, there were also so many similarities that my interest in providing weight loss services intensified. I networked with researchers and specialists around the country and in other countries and got excited to see other ways to approach weight loss treatment. These relationships inspired me to develop the Menu for Change program, which ultimately developed into a rich tapestry of offerings.”

Professional Awards & Accomplishments

  • Top Doctor
  • The Best Doctors in America
  • America’s Top Physicians
  • Seattle Met Top Doctors
  • Seattle Magazine Top Doctors (Cont’d.)
  • American Diabetes Association and National Committee for Quality Assurance for delivery of quality diabetes care
  • American Heart Association /American Stroke Association and National Committee for Quality Assurance for delivery of quality stroke and cardiovascular care
  • Primary Care Section Chief at The Polyclinic
  • Chair of The Polyclinic Quality Management Committee
  • Medical Informatics Physician Champion for Electronic Health Record rollout at The Polyclinic, and Chair of the Technology Committee
  • Chair of The Polyclinic Integrative Medicine Committee


Teaching & Volunteer Activities

  • Internal Medicine Teaching Panel at Swedish Medical Center Department of Medical Education (1996-2000)
  • Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at UW Department of Medicine (1997-2016)
  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement (national audio conference)
  • Menu for Change lecture series (2012-2019)
  • YMCA Wellness leadership conference for Washington and Oregon (2014)
  • Board of Directors, Cancer Lifeline (2018 to present)


Personal Interests

A Seattle native, Dr. Baumgaertel lived in Ontario, Canada during her childhood, returning to Seattle as an adult. Prior to medical school she followed her interests in architecture and completed a degree in Architecture and Urban Planning. Married since 1991, she and her husband Glenn try to get spare time with their daughter Jennifer who is in college. Family interests include many outdoor activities, restaurant patronage, movies, music, reading, and travel.

Important Information re: Coronavirus & Cancer Lifeline

With regards to the Coronavirus/COVID-19, Cancer Lifeline is currently following the lead of the Public Health department and the local community hospitals and how they impose limits upon their community education programs, under which Cancer Lifeline classes and support groups fall.

To date, most of our hospital partners have recommended canceling their community education programs, with the exception of Virginia Mason Cancer Institute (in both Seattle and Federal Way).

We will continue to offer our programs as scheduled.

Individuals are encouraged to stay home if they are not feeling well, or feel feverish, or have cold or flu symptoms.

We want to encourage the use of our telephone Lifeline (206-297-2500 or 1-800-255-5505) and internet chat (M-F 9am – 5 pm via  features for emotional support for those we serve who have compromised immune systems or just feel too much anxiety about the public health risks.




2020 Breakfast with Friends Speakers

We are pleased to announce that there will be two speakers at this year’s Breakfast with Friends to be held on Thursday, April 23 at Bell Harbor International Conference Center.
“It’s important to speak to both the head and the heart when it comes to Cancer Lifeline’s work,” said Executive Director Joseph Yurgevich. “These two speakers bring a wealth of information and experience to these two important aspects of anyone’s cancer journey.”
Bonnie McGregor, Ph.D will focus her remarks on the impact of emotional support programs on cancer outcomes and improving the quality of life. Dr. McGregor is a psychologist and former researcher for Fred Hutch, and is the principal of Orion Center for Integrative Medicine.
“It’s an act of strength to ask for help,” said Dr. McGregor. “Today, our healthcare system treats the disease of cancer, instead of working to heal the whole person before, during, and after treatment. Once cancer patients realize they need to treat the whole body and connect on numerous levels – through better nutrition, gentle exercise, support groups, therapy – the quality of their lives improves.”
Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, Ph.D., practices Family Medicine with UW Medicine and is an Assistant Professor with the AIMS Center, University of Washington, Psychiatry & Behaviorial Sciences. A Stage 4 lung cancer survivor, he is also the author Roads to Meaning & Resilience with Cancer. Learn more about Dr. Achkar in this recent KUOW FM interview.
“Patients with cancer need support in finding meaning while living life and dealing with mundane day-to-day concerns,” said Dr. Al Achkar. “They deserve space to support them as they redefine who they are continue to author their narratives.”
Breakfast with Friends, Cancer Lifeline’s signature event, raises needed funds for our Patient & Family Support Fund, thus assuring that ALL our programs remain free and accessible for all people living with cancer. Please   join us! Tickets are $70 per person. For more information.

New Family Workshop Series for Families with Children / Adolescents / Young Adults (ages 6-18)

Cancer Lifeline introduces a series of workshops for families this Winter at the Dorothy O’Brien Center near Green Lake. From sand play to family songs to dramatic play to storytelling to structure building, we’ll experiment with a variety of forms of creative expression to support family connection, cohesion, and rituals around topics that are sometimes difficult to engage in through oral expression alone.
Topics will include:
  • the ways individual family members experience living with cancer in the family
  • ways to strengthen and support families through the adjustment of existing or the development of new rituals
  • examining the whole family and whole self within the family and placing cancer within a context of family strengths, abilities and dreams
  • enhancing family bonds by reflecting each member’s unique qualities and contributions to the family whole.
Mainly, the workshop will allow families to engage playfully with the challenges they face in a supportive environment, providing some relief and offering some new insights to strengthen internal family resources.
Workshops will be held on Saturdays, Feb. 8, Mar. 14, and Apr. 11 from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon at the Dorothy O’Brien Center – 6522 Fremont Ave N.

For full details, please feel free to email Pamela Krueger at with any questions you may have. 


From the Executive Director

Dear Friends of Cancer Lifeline,
“No one should go through cancer alone.” This is the theme of our current campaign. It’s the core reason why Cancer Lifeline was founded in 1973 and it has everything to do with why we continue to work to expand our footprint throughout the Puget Sound and online.
People are living longer with cancer which is an enormous source of hope. And that makes our programs more important than ever. While medical advances are resulting in increasingly longer lives for cancer survivors, especially notable for patients with metastasized cancers, this further underscores the importance of quality of life issues for survivors. The transition from treatment to continuing care, fear of recurrence and new cancers, management of pain and other effects of cancer and its treatment, changes in relationships, caregiving, financial hardships, and the emotional toll – all of these issues that cancer survivors face affect the quality of their lives and health outcomes. This makes it even more important that Cancer Lifeline meets our clients where they are and continue to offer free and accessible programs to all.
2019 has been a very busy year with many highlights:

  • Our annual Metastatic Cancer Retreat at the Rainbow Lodge in July with our partners at EvergreenHealth was at capacity with a waiting list. This program served over 45 metastatic cancer patients and their caregivers at a free overnight retreat, with folks coming from all over the Pacific Northwest for this unique and invaluable opportunity.
  • We expanded our web presence with the new Lifeline Chat, an instant messaging platform available through our website. Clients can connect in real-time to our network of trained Active Listeners. We are pleased this service offers translation services for 140 languages.
  • We broadened our area of support for in-person programs to include patients and caregivers in Burien, First Hill and Federal Way with new partnerships at Highline Cancer Center and Virginia Mason Medical Center, respectively.
  • We reaffirmed partnerships with Valley Medical Center in Renton, and Overlake Hospital in Bellevue and provided new programs ranging from workshops for metastatic patients and their caregivers to introductions in Equine Therapy.
  • We were able to realize these highlights and so much more thanks to two generous donations at the end of 2018 which made it possible for Cancer Lifeline to remain headquartered here at the Dorothy O’Brien Center.
  • Thanks to the vision and generosity of Monica Adams and the late Patricia Giuliani, we have been able to make critical improvements to our Green Lake home, including an upgraded HVAC system. With the addition of our new upstairs neighbors, The Orion Center for Integrative Medicine, the building is alive with activity. Several classes and support groups have returned to hold regular sessions and we’ve added two new support groups to our roster – the Young Adult Caregivers Support Group and the Ovarian Cancer Support Group.

The Dorothy O’Brien Center is also home to new programming: Expressive Art Therapy, led by therapist in training Pamela Krueger. Expressive art therapy is a therapeutic process that is guided by an exploration of creative arts according to a client’s needs and preferences. We are also pleased to bring back Open Studio.

As 2019 comes to close, I’d like to acknowledge the steadfast work of our board members under the leadership of President Ben Hicks, and our Advisory Board, under the leadership of Chair, Lynn Behar. These teams have actively supported our fundraising and friend-raising efforts, bringing new friends and donors into our circle, and helping us surpass our goals.

Thank you to all of our extraordinary volunteers for sharing countless hours of their time, energy and ideas.

Finally, thank YOU for all your support in 2019 and for ensuring that all of Cancer Lifeline’s programs remain free and accessible to all and ensuring that no one goes through cancer alone.
In gratitude,
Joseph Yurgevich, Executive Director

New Offering: Expressive Arts Therapy for Teens!

This Winter Quarter, we are expanding our expressive arts therapy programming to offer two Teen (ages 13-17, generally) Therapy Groups, one for teens with a cancer diagnosis and one for teens living with a loved one with a cancer diagnosis. They will run on Tuesdays (Teens with Cancer in the Family) and Wednesdays (Teens with Cancer) from 3:30 pm – 5 pm at our Dorothy O’Brien Center in the Healing Arts Room. Although these are not closed groups, advance registration is required so that our expressive arts therapist trainee Pamela Krueger can assess the teen’s readiness for the group therapy process.


The group will utilize a range of arts-based methods to offer the opportunity for teens to process their emotions, engage with other teens in similar circumstances, and obtain therapeutic support for their experiences. Artistic experience is not a prerequisite for joining the group; the group time that focuses on art-making emphasizes the creative process rather than any tangible art product. Using arts mediums can allow teens to engage their natural creativity and curiosity, something that can sometimes reveal ways to deal with challenges that talk alone cannot always accomplish. Each week, the art-based experience that is offered will relate to a group topic for that week, allowing teens to explore it in a variety of ways.


If you have a teen in your family affected by cancer, consider registering them for one of these groups. Please contact us before January 15 if you’d like your teen to be able to start for the first group meeting the week of Feb. 3. After that, please check with us to see if there are any spots remaining open. The groups will run for seven weeks, ending the week of March 15.

Maren’s Story

I was diagnosed several years ago with late-stage Melanoma. Around the same time, my mother started to feel unwell. I really thought her symptoms might just be the result of stress from helping me cope with my own cancer diagnosis. But the day before my surgery, Mom was hospitalized for tests and observation. The tests revealed she had a Glioblastoma Multiforme – a type of fast-growing brain tumor.


My mom and I had always been close, but I would never have believed that cancer was something that we
would one day share. Within weeks I was receiving immunotherapy and she was getting radiation and chemo
treatments. Now we were sharing nausea, overwhelming fatigue, and fear of what was to come.
Soon I realized that I couldn’t do this on my own. Supporting Mom through her illness was my priority, but I
didn’t really know how to help her and myself at the same time.
It was at this time when I felt I needed more emotional support that I decided to call Cancer Lifeline. I talked to the most amazing woman who helped me understand that my feelings were normal, that I wasn’t alone, and that there was help and resources available to me.
Soon I started attending Cancer Lifeline’s Young Adult Support Group. To my surprise, I discovered a room full of people my age who were experiencing different types of cancer with all its anger and uncertainty and fear. I immediately realized that this is where I belonged.
The YA group has been great. It’s been a place where I can explain what is going on with my treatment and I
don’t have to translate into easy to understand lingo like I do sometimes with family and friends. They are really supportive when I’m dealing with treatment uncertainty, the dreaded “SCAN -ANXIETY,” side effects, cancer pain, or in my case, last year the grieving of my Mom when she passed away eventually from her Glioblastoma.
While my experience with cancer continues at times to overwhelm me, I know that I am not unique.
Thousands of young adults in the Northwest are diagnosed with cancer every year. Every year, Cancer Lifeline provides over 800 support groups and educational classes free of charge.


Learn more about Cancer Lifeline’s Young Adult Cancer Support Group.

Client Spotlight: Janice Rowe

Shortly after starting treatment, cancer patient Janice Rowe realized that she would have to give up her vocation as a pastor in Seattle’s United Methodist Church in order to focus on her health.

Fairly quickly Janice experienced the harsh financial impact that many clients face. Fortunately, through working with her social worker she learned about Cancer Lifeline’s Patient Financial Assistance Fund and received a timely grant.
Now Janice has also enrolled in several of Cancer Lifeline’s classes and presentations, including Creative Expression and Financial Planning for Cancer.

“It’s almost unbelievable that complete strangers are having a part in my recovery…I would
like to meet every one of them … and express my gratitude.”


Learn more about Cancer Lifeline’s Financial Assistance Programs.

Staff Spotlight: Blair LaFavor

We caught up with Blair LaFavor, Cancer lifeline’s Program & Volunteer Coordinator, who just celebrated four years as a staff member. In addition to organizing the intensive Active Listening Training for our volunteers, Blair schedules all of our volunteers and oversees their work on the Lifeline and Lifeline Chat.  She also puts together our class catalog and makes sure our online registration goes smoothly.  Blair is a key player at many of our check-in desks for our events and at times even pinch-hits as a bartender! A former baker, Blair loves all things culinary and she volunteers with FareStart once a week.  

1 – How long have you been with Cancer Lifeline? How did you first get involved?

I’ve been with Cancer Lifeline for just over four years now. I came across Cancer Lifeline while looking for a new direction in my career.  Cancer has impacted my family in many ways, and when I saw an opportunity to get involved with an organization whose mission is to optimize the quality of life for people living with cancer, I knew I had found something special and something that would be a fulfilling career.

2 – What’s the favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is definitely getting to know our Lifeline volunteers.  We have an amazing team of volunteers and getting to know each of their stories, what brought them to Cancer Lifeline, and more about them is such a special part of my job.

3 – What are you most excited about for 2020?

I am excited about the always growing programing and support groups at Cancer Lifeline. Whenever we have the opportunity to serve more people, it makes my heart happy.  In my personal life, my husband and I are looking forward to welcoming a new member to our family in 2020. I am excited too for my brother-in-law’s wedding in July.  Not only do we get to attend a beautiful celebration of love, but I also get to visit and check off the last US state on my list: Alaska!  It’s been a goal of mine to visit every state since I was young and I am going to complete that in 2020!


To learn more about volunteering with Cancer Lifeline, contact Blair .