Author: Meghan W Melanson

Volunteer Spotlight: Jeanne Hall

Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I had taken yoga classes with Christy Fisher for over 20 years. (She is the owner/lead teacher at Phinney Yoga Center.) At some point in the past, I had heard her speak about teaching yoga classes for people impacted by cancer.

I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in May of 2017. A few months later, I asked Christy whether I could participate in her yoga class for people living with cancer. She told me that she offered it through Cancer Lifeline (CLL).

In August of 2017, I registered for Christy’s gentle yoga class. At that point in time, I was solely focused on registering for her class and did not explore any other program offerings. I was amazed and grateful that the class was free.

I found Christy’s gentle yoga class to be a calming, supportive experience, Unfortunately, I was unable to attend regularly due to side effects from treatment. (I began chemo and immunotherapy at the end of August.)

I found the experience of receiving a lymphoma diagnosis, being presented with very different opinions regarding my prognosis and how best to treat my disease, being barraged with unsolicited advice, coping with others’ reactions to my diagnosis, experiencing many side effects from treatment and  unexpected prolonged complications to be a series of very stressful and at times traumatic experiences. The center where I received treatment provided me with the chemo and immunotherapy treatment that I needed to achieve a complete remission. Unfortunately, they were not proactive about helping me to access support services during this very difficult time of my life.

I wish I had reached out to CLL for additional support during this time. I had no idea that CLL offered a therapy referral service. Nor did I appreciate the breadth of educational or support group offerings. During the 3-4 months in early 2018 when I was dealing with a  fungal lung infection, I would have benefited from receiving emotional support from the lifeline and it would have been a Godsend to have had someone assist me in finding a therapist with expertise in working with people living with cancer.  Instead, I sought out emotional support services on my own. It was an onerous process. Fortunately, I managed to find an amazing therapist.

When I was at my sickest in the winter of 2018, I felt increasingly isolated despite having a loving network of family and friends. I was exhausted, anxious, and extremely debilitated. My husband and I had to doggedly pursue appropriate medical interventions for what was to be eventually diagnosed as a fungal lung infection. During this time of intense illness and challenging treatments, I promised myself that if I lived through the experience, I would find a way to become involved in supporting others as they navigate the very challenging experience of living with cancer.

As I began to recover, I started to research organizations in Seattle that supported people living with cancer.  I was so impressed by the breadth and depth of the services/classes/support groups that Cancer Lifeline offered. When I read the description of the responsibilities of CLL volunteers, I knew that I wanted to be one of those people. I reached out to Blair (the volunteer coordinator) for information about the application and training process. She was a wonderful contact person—so warm and welcoming. I was able to attend the fall training in 2018 and began to volunteer on October 31, 2018–an easy date to remember!

I enjoy just about every aspect of being a volunteer. I particularly love being able to offer support to those who call the Lifeline for emotional support, assistance with class registration, and/or information about financial support. It is such a privilege to be able to compassionately receive another’s story and to offer non-judgmental, supportive listening. I love being able to help callers discover the resources that will best meet their needs. I love being able to say that we (CLL) are here to support them in any way that we can as they navigate the challenges of living with cancer.

I find the atmosphere at CLL to be positive and supportive. No matter how I am feeling when I arrive, I leave feeling that I am appreciated and that I have been of help in at least some small way. I am truly grateful that I am part of the CLL mission and team.

Volunteering at CLL and becoming more familiar with CLL programs has inspired me to participate in more CLL classes and support groups. I am so impressed by the quality of the programs we offer. I have enjoyed and learned a great deal from attending artistic expression classes, a class on nutrition, and a class on coping with cancer-related fatigue. I love participating in the Healthy Steps class at Northwest Hospital. I am finding the Thursday afternoon writing group to be a very healing and supportive endeavor. I have also attended several support groups and have found a Living with Cancer support group at NWH that I plan to attend on a regular basis. Participating in these CLL programs is a wonderfully supportive part of my ongoing healing process.

I have a form of lymphoma that is currently considered incurable but manageable. It is very comforting for me to know that I will be able to draw upon CLL resources during future recurrences and treatment cycles.

 

Read Between the Lines: The Moon She Speaks to Me

The Moon She Speaks to Me by Racheal V. King, Collage by Janet Atlas

 

At night as I emerge from shelter

My gaze moves to the sky.

 

Stars winking.

Moon glowing.

 

The Moon engages me.

The Moon She speaks to me.

 

My body sways to the cosmic rhythm

I struggle to stay on my feet

 

My upturned head pulls me backward

I cannot look or turn away.

 

The Moon She speaks to me

Of love, of quiet happiness.

 

I am satiated.

I can turn away.

 

She has spoken.

 

You can see this collage and 40+ others by members of the Northwest Collage Society in Read Between the Lines, an art show running from November 21 through January 16, 2020, at the Dorothy O’Brien Center. Collage artists selected poems by members of Cancer Lifeline’s Writing Groups. To reserve your spot at the free reception, email Brian at blem@cancerlifeline.org.

 

Read Between the Lines: Summer Afternoon

Summer Afternoon by Alison Eckels

I could stand still for an hour, invite you to stand beside me, and gaze across the lawn
next to the Mayhew Parsonage.

We may have just returned from the Town Dock and come up past the Pagoda Tree, or
we have arrived at the same place by walking downhill from my mother’s house.

We can stand on the sidewalk there on South Water Street and look out at the harbor,
hear the music of the rigging slapping the masts of many sailboats.

Right in front of us, and along our walk to this spot there are pink roses cascading over
white picket fences.

Saltwater close enough for me to inhale its smell, rigging shaping the music in my ears, taste of clear air, again I notice pink roses over a white picket fence, green grass and blue water: I clasp my hands with joy at being here.

 

Collage by Marilee Clarke.

 

You can see this collage and 40+ others by members of the Northwest Collage Society in Read Between the Lines, an art show running from November 21 through January 16, 2020, at the Dorothy O’Brien Center. Collage artists selected poems by members of Cancer Lifeline’s Writing Groups. To reserve your spot at the free reception, email Brian at blem@cancerlifeline.org.

Lasting Love by Caroline Wright

 

Lasting Love by Caroline Wright

Illustrations by Willow Heath

Random House Children’s Books, released August 2019

Reviewed by Pamela Krueger

In Lasting Love, by Caroline Wright, a child facing the loss of his mother is led through an imaginative process of finding her lasting love in the form of a strong, magical, and loving creature. This creature appears when his mother becomes sick and becomes a constant reminder of his mother’s love for him, even after she slips away. This beautifully illustrated children’s book treats the subject of anticipatory grief and loss with loving care, as the reader witnesses the many ways the mother and child are connected. The essence of the mother’s love is transferred into the magical creature, who continues to watch over her son. This book offers terminally ill parents a developmentally sensitive way to connect with their children’s imagination as a bridge to connecting to their feelings of the fear of loss of the parent.

 

“How to Talk to Kids About Death” at Town Hall on November 9, 2019 at 7:30 pm. 
When local author Caroline Wright was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, she looked for tools and advisers to help her find the words of what to say to her two young sons. Now, having surpassed her prognosis, she has written a children’s book to prepare her sons for her death. She has paired up with Safe Crossings Foundation and Town Hall Seattle to gather a panel of experts with a wide range of strategies and experience to help those families facing loss find their voice.

 

READ BETWEEN THE LINES: SEEING YOU

Collage by Elsa Bourman based on the poem “Seeing You” by Judy Sloniker

SEEING YOU by Judy Sloniker

I will see you in the spaces
between the hangers in the closet
the space around the dust under the bed
the hiding place behind the cabinet
the close full of clothes, with only a
crack of light shining in.
 
I will see you in the moonlight of the
first fallen snow,
your outline in the snow angel in the
back yard.

Save the Date – Thursday, November 21 – for the opening reception of READ BETWEEN THE LINES: Collage + Writing Art Show at Cancer Lifeline’s Dorothy O’Brien Center 6522 Fremont Ave North in Greenlake from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Sign up online for this free event. Space limited to 45 people.

READ BETWEEN THE LINES: Collage + Writing Art Show will be on display through January 16, 2020.

 

 

Save the Date – Dec. 3 – #Giving Tuesday!

Save the Date: #GivingTuesday is December 3! We’re proud to be a part of this global celebration of giving. Cancer Lifeline has been participating in Giving Tuesday since 2011.
GivingTuesday was founded as a simple idea: to bring people together for a day of giving back. It has since spread like a wave across the world, with over 160 countries in 2018. Now in its 8th year, nearly every country on earth is participating in GivingTuesday.
In an increasingly divided world, GivingTuesday represents a new global ritual based in joy and hope, proving that acts of kindness and goodwill can transcend country, race, religion and political ideas, and create connections between people.
Our ultimate goal is a more just and generous world.
More details coming soon!

Resources for Hope 2019 Raises Needed Funds for CL’s Patient Financial Assistance Fund

Over 140 guests gathered on Saturday, October 12 at the Olympic Sculpture Park for the 6th Annual Resources for Hope benefit dinner to raise funds for Cancer Lifeline’s Patient Financial Assistance Fund. The PFAF makes timely grants to low-income cancer patients so that they do not have to choose between paying the light bill and paying for their medication.

The video below captures the highlights of the evening – lots of laughter, good food, powerful personal stories. More information about the PFAF.

To make a gift to the PFAF.

 

The Open Studio Process begins this Monday, Sept. 23!

Come join us as we renew our use of the Healing Arts Room at the Dorothy S. O’Brien Center!

The Open Studio Process allows for creative exploration in parallel with others and includes three simple steps: 1) setting an intention, 2) art-making, and 3) witnessing what we create. During each Open Studio session, the first 30 minutes will be a time to settle into the space, explore the available art materials, and prepare for the pleasurable activity of art-making. It is a creative experience for everyone – no prior artistic experience of any kind is needed!

At the 30-minute mark, we will each set our own intention. Then, we will each engage with art materials of our selection and engage in the act of art-making for an extended period, to fully allow ourselves the space and time we need to create. This will usually last about 1.5-2.5 hours. Then, we will each witness our own creation, silently, in writing, allowing us to respond to the image we have created. An optional sharing of what we write will then be invited, without dialogue or comment.

Occasionally, we will be offered specific materials or an already-created-image to respond to at the beginning, before we begin art-making, varied with each session of Open Studio.

In this way, each participant can engage fully with the creative process, while feeling the energy of the collective space that comes from others also creating in sync, in time. The Healing Arts Room will offer a welcoming atmosphere of supportive non-interference – free of all comment and critique – allowing you to connect with your creativity while working alongside others.

For those who have attended Open Studio in the past at the Dorothy O’Brien Center or other places, it may feel a bit different to have a structured time. We invite you to join us and try this approach, which we believe will open up new creative pathways for each participant.

Pamela Krueger will facilitate, having received training in the Open Studio Process by one of its three original creators, Pat B. Allen. The photo is one of Pamela’s recent creations that resulted from her participation in Open Studio facilitated by Pat Allen.

 

Learn more about Open Studio dates and times!

 

Dialoguing with Alison Eckels

The first thing you notice about Alison Eckels is her mega-watt smile.  To call her energetic is a massive understatement.

Alison has been involved with Cancer Lifeline for many years, first in 2006 by attending Collage classes and Healthy Steps. She learned about the Writing for the Moment class in 2012 and sat patiently on the waiting list until a spot finally opened up.

“Our teacher Peggy Sturdivant brings in two poems every week. She turns us loose to write anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes, then we read aloud,” says Alison.  “It’s the most extraordinary experience because you know you’ve really been heard. The listening is very deep. It’s not a critique class, but rather it is as it is titled: we write for the moment. As a result, we know each other well and we create a safe space.

“Writing is a way of discovering what you think and feel, getting it all out on the page. Once that happens, you have a choice – you can dwell or let it go,” continues Alison.  “This class has been key to my own discoveries.”

Alison first learned about The Grief Dialogues project by picking up a flyer left on the table outside of the kitchen at the Dorothy S. O’Brien center where the Writing for the Moment class meets every Thursday. She met Elizabeth Coplan, the editor of The Grief Dialogues at the opening of a University of Washington School of Social Work art + writing show that addressed grief and loss where they both had contributed writing.

Over the course of one year, Elizabeth lost four of her close friends. She was so full of grief she just couldn’t speak. This led her to write a play about death and grief and loss. After her play was performed, everyone came up to her, wanting to tell their story to someone who could listen and hear.

One of the 61 pieces featured in the recently published book, The Grief Dialogues, is by Alison and it is about her father.

“My father was born in 1899 and died in 1981. He was a general practitioner who made house calls. During the time he practiced, death was very much a part of life, all part of the continuum that he experienced every day.”

The Grief Dialogues is a collection of stories on love and loss by 61 authors. Founded on the belief that death and grief are great equalizers transcending race, creed, ethnicity, gender, age, and economics, The Grief Dialogues brings people together to combat grief and begin healing conversations.

Alison, along with four other contributors to the book, will be reading at a free book signing and reception on Thursday, September 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Dorothy S. O’Brien Center, 6522 Fremont Avenue N.

The evening starts with a live performance of a short play by author Elizabeth Coplan entitled Hospice: A Love Story performed by actors Kiki Abba and Gretchen Douma. Then there will be selected readings from the book by five contributors: Donna James, Paul Boardman, Erin Harrop, Jennifer Coates, and Alison Eckels.

For more information, visit:  https://cancerlifeline.org/current-classes/grief-dialogues/