Janell Gilmore, Recipient of the Dorothy S. O’Brien Volunteer Award

The 2020 Dorothy S. O’Brien Award is awarded to Cancer Lifeline Volunteer Janell Gilmore.  This award was established in 1990 by an anonymous donor as a tribute to Dorothy and her belief in the importance of self-determination and empowerment.

Janell comes into the Center, week after week, with a smile on her face and a determination to touch the lives of those affected by cancer. She meets every client with patience, compassion, and understanding and that is so valuable to those calling our lifeline, whether they are simply registering for a class or calling for support.

And she’s a snappy dresser!

Janell joined the ranks of Lifeline volunteers after completing the training in September 2018. In no time at all, she signed up for a regular shift on the phones and is now a weekly Lifeline volunteer.

“I found out about Cancer Lifeline through a catalog in the oncology department at EvergreenHealth. There was a presentation at Northwest Hospital that I was interested in, so I attended.  I was very impressed by Basha Brownstein, Community Program Manager for Cancer Lifeline, who facilitated that presentation,” says Janell.

“I was looking for a volunteer opportunity.  One day, I took a field trip over to Cancer Lifeline and rang the doorbell.  Basha answered, and gave me a tour.  I wanted to be like her—making a difference.   As one whose life has been changed by cancer in ways that I never wanted, I wanted to be able to help others whose lives have also been altered.

“The best part about making and answering calls for me is that it’s an indirect way for me to fight back against cancer, by touching the lives of others who have been affected by it.”

Learn more about volunteering opportunities at Cancer Lifeline.

Jeanne Hall, Recipient of the Dorothy S. O’Brien Volunteer Award

This year the Dorothy S. O’Brien Award is awarded to Cancer Lifeline Volunteer Jeanne Hall. This award was established in 1990 by an anonymous donor as a tribute to Dorothy and her belief in the importance of self-determination and empowerment.

Jeanne has embraced her role as a Lifeline volunteer deeply and has soared beyond the expectations set. Her personal experience has made her an important advocate for others facing cancer – she has had the great challenge of having to put her opinions and beliefs to the side as she attends to others’ experiences and helps them come to their own decision on what is best. She has participated in many programs through Cancer Lifeline and that has enriched her experience as a volunteer. She truly gets both the volunteer and clients perspective and uses those perspectives to offer suggestions to enhance our training and our programs. Jeanne is an attentive listener and is always sharing important feedback from clients about how to improve our programs. Jeanne is a highly valued member of the Cancer Lifeline volunteer team and clients are truly honored when she picks up the call.

Several months ago, we talked with Jeanne about her cancer experience. Here, in her own words, is why she volunteers for Cancer Lifeline.


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 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.

Learn more about volunteering opportunities with Cancer Lifeline.

Pamela Krueger, Recipient of The Shirley Utevsky Volunteer of the Year Award

Cancer Lifeline’s 2020 Shirley Utevsky Volunteer of the Year Award goes to Pamela Krueger. This award was established in 1989 in memory of Shirley, a direct service volunteer, who gave generously whenever there was a need.

“Pamela is such an inspirational volunteer at Cancer Lifeline.  Her self-determination and creativity have opened so many doors for Cancer Lifeline clients,” said Meghan Wilkins Melanson, Cancer Lifeline’s Director of Programming. “When talking about the programs she helped launch in the past few months, one can’t help but beam with such happiness and be inspired by all of the work she’s done.  I am so proud of what she has accomplished here and I am inspired by her drive and tenacity to keep pushing forward. And I am beyond thrilled to have her on the team as our new Clinical Program Administrator.

Pamela Krueger has always loved creative writing, starting with neighborhood marionette playwriting in childhood and, as she grew, often venturing into poetic interludes for solace and the insights the process of writing delivered. When her eldest son was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood leukemia, she turned to poetry and journaling to process her experiences and seek meaning. Her own experiences during his three and one-half years of chemotherapy led her to deeply understand the power of the creative process, leading her down her current path. Before she became an emerging therapist, she counseled clients about protecting the environment, facilitating many groups through the process of resolving conflicts during her fifteen-year legal career. She lives in Issaquah, Washington, with her husband Scott and her two young adult children, Ethan (22) and Oliver (18), and their beloved corgi, Buddha. She recently received her Master of Fine Arts in Creating Writing from Oregon State University and her Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, Expressive Arts Therapy, from the California Institute of Integral Studies after completing a nine-month residency as Cancer Lifeline’s expressive arts therapist in training.

“I’ve never known a volunteer to give so fully of themselves in their passion and for so much time each week!  Pamela’s dedication allowed us to jump-start the programming at our Center and add a layer of depth to our programming, said newly retired Mary Ellen Shands, former Clinical Program Manager for Cancer Lifeline.  “Her expressive arts therapy pilot program also allowed us to begin serving previously under-served individuals such as children.  Absolutely amazing!”

Contact information for Pamela Krueger: (206) 832-1271 or pkrueger@cancerlifeline.org.

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 cancerlifeline.org)  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  pkrueger@cancerlifeline.org 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.