A Volunteer of Distinction

 

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Catherine Bicknell, CSCP Photography Teacher

Fifteen years ago, Catherine Bicknell was drawn to a building adorned with Pink and Silver balloons, and felt compelled to walk inside. Catherine had recently moved to Pasadena from Washington and was looking for a local oncologist to monitor her health following her history with cancer. Little did Catherine know that stepping into CSCP’s office would lead to years of volunteerism with us, and a reputation in which she is known as the “gem” of CSCP, according to one participant.

Catherine, who hails from England and had a long career as an architect and professor, was in disbelief when she was first diagnosed with cancer. She felt as though cancer hit the “wrong person at the wrong time,” and her grueling treatment left her feeling well only 5 days out of every 5 weeks by the time that she recuperated from her chemo infusions. Catherine remembers undergoing treatment as a true “endurance test.” During those coveted 5 day periods of wellness, Catherine, a professional photographer, was hired to shoot a documentary book in Butte, Montana. She loaded her car with her dog and photography equipment and drove across Idaho and into Montana. While in Butte, she found herself immersed in creative work, living simply and solely out of her car. On her drive back to Washington, the lingering impact of her time in Butte occupied her mind, and it was only when she got home that she realized that she did not hold a single thought about cancer while away. At this point, Catherine consciously chose to “identify as a photographer, not a cancer patient.”

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Fast forward a few years, and Catherine found herself stepping into CSCP after being intrigued by the balloons, and once she learned about our organization, wanted to find out how she could volunteer her time. After a period of serving as a front desk volunteer (a job that Catherine felt she could never master due to the inarguably complicated phone system), Catherine began to teach photography classes to CSCP participants. The class was incredibly well-received, with 26 participants attending the first session, and Catherine has continued to teach 2 weekly photography classes at CSCP for the past 14 years. In addition to teaching her classes, Catherine has become a sort of resident photographer at CSCP, creating beautiful canvases that adorn our walls, contributing images for our annual reports, and shooting staff when needed. Catherine has given immensely to CSCP, and yet when speaking to her she communicates a deep gratitude for CSCP and the people that she encounters while here. While Catherine strives to foster her students’ photography skills in her classes, her class is also much more than developing photographic techniques. Catherine shared that her class often “starts with visual stuff, but quickly leads to how [the students] are doing, and how they’re feeling.” All those years ago when shooting the documentary in Butte, Catherine realized that the “visual experience becomes a whole world,” and she endeavors to create a space in her classes where individuals diagnosed with cancer can temporarily leave behind their current reality and enter a new world through photography. Creativity calls for an openness and vulnerability, and Catherine has the gift of establishing a space where participants feel uninhibited in expressing themselves, both through art and through narrating their experiences. Catherine feels that, following her experiences with cancer, the “biggest gift in life [she’s] been given is a second life,” and Catherine uses that gift by giving back to the community at large in remarkable ways. Catherine’s students offered testimony about their experiences with her at CSCP:

“I appreciate Catherine’s help with he technology of saving, moving, editing, enhancing, and printing the photos I took on my iPhone.  I learned a lot in her class! “

“I have been attending Photography classes at the Cancer Support Center for close to a year.  Catherine is always a warm, engaging woman who delights in encouraging the students in the class. Whether the students have more, or less ability, she always directs her comments to point out the positive aspects of the work. She often explains how, with a little manipulation, or altered perspective, the way to improve the photo’s presentation.   She is always positive, even in her criticism! And that is a gift that too few people have to share.”

“Catherine Bicknell’s photographic workshops, Focus on Fun, has guided and enhanced my photography skills by playing with camera images. Her knowledge has helped bring out my creative juices through group sharing of weekly images. It is just a wonderful fun experience seeing other individual’s shared photos through their eyes. It does not matter what type of camera you own. It is what I see through the viewfinder that really promotes my enthusiastic interest. With sincere appreciate to Catherine!”

CSCP is incredibly grateful to Catherine for her years of service and dedication to our organization. We recognized her volunteerism with CSCP at our Anniversary Party on August 26th, where she donated a beautiful new canvas to CSCP, pictured below.

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Pictured from left: Rachel Koonse, Program Coordinator; Melissa Alcorn, Board and Guild Member; Catherine Bicknell, Laura Wending, Program Director

 

 

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Nonprofit Day, CSCP’s Anniversary, and the Annual Report!

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CSCP’s original “Wellness Community” sign circa 1990

Perhaps it is serendipitous that today, August 17th, is National Nonprofit Day, because there is much to celebrate at CSC Pasadena! CSCP is proud to be part of a group of 1.5 million nonprofits across the US that serve our communities in so many meaningful ways. We are also proud to be capable of offering all of our services free of charge to the community, and we are forever indebted to the generous foundations, donors, board and guild members, volunteers, and participants who have tirelessly supported us to continue to do what we do.

There are a few more reasons that CSCP is celebrating. First, we are celebrating our 27th year of operation in Pasadena at our annual anniversary party next week. CSCP (originally known as the Wellness Community) opened its doors 27 years ago in Pasadena. Over the years CSCP has grown and evolved in tremendous ways, all the while staying true to our mission and core values. And we hope that our 27th year brings with it all of the progress, connection, and meaning that defined our 26th year.

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Anniversary Party Flier

 

The final reason that CSCP is celebrating is because our Annual Report is hot off the press and ready for consumption! Our Annual Report is a yearly publication that communicates the current state of affairs at CSCP to the community. It includes information about services rendered, donor support, major event summaries, letters from our executive director and board president, and spotlights on participants, board members, facilitators, volunteers, and staff members. So much work and talent went into bringing the Annual Report to fruition, including support from photography teacher Catherine Bicknell and graphic design by Thomas Rossman by Thomas Rossman|Design. And we certainly must acknowledge the impeccable printing done by Ben Taylor of Image Mover Inc. A PDF version of our Annual Report can be seen below, but make sure to drop by CSCP to pick up a hard copy of your own!

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What’s Next for Healthcare Reform?

congress-321420_960_720Cancer Support Community’s services are provided under the framework of a Patient Active concept, developed by our founder, Harold Benjamin. The Patient Active model places individuals at the center of their care, encouraging them to make the best informed healthcare decisions for themselves. To that end, CSC provides a place where people can be empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. Additionally, CSC’s Research and Training Institute empirically validates the programs that we offer, and continually seeks feedback from individuals with cancer to refine and improve upon our patient-centered care. CSC advocates on a national level to promote these ideals to ensure that all individuals with cancer can access quality healthcare that includes psychosocial support. Our Cancer Policy Institute takes the following three stances: “access to care for all patients, quality as a central theme, [and] research as a critical priority.”[1] As of late, healthcare reform has been a primary focus for CSC’s Cancer Policy Institute. This post delves into the status of healthcare reform and how to get involved with advocating for cancer patients and their loved ones at a national level.

To start, let’s take a look back in time a few weeks ago to see where healthcare reform stood, and then we will explore where healthcare reform is now and how it may play out in the next few months:

At the end of July, there were several major senate votes that all but ended the polarized status of the healthcare reform crusade. On July 26th, a repeal and replace bill aimed at terminating Obamacare with no replacement plan was defeated in the senate. This bill fell six votes short of being passed. After the failure of this bill, senate majority leader Mitch McConnell proposed a “skinny repeal” amendment. The “skinny repeal” would essentially preserve Obamacare but modified a few key elements, including the elimination of Obamacare’s “individual mandate,” which taxes uninsured individuals, and disposing of penalties for some businesses that do not offer coverage to their employees. Under this plan, 16 million Americans would lose their insurance, and many more would face significant increases on their premiums. On July 28th, the senate voted against the skinny repeal, which many felt would be the last effort to pursue health care reform in such drastic terms. The senate is now approaching their August recess.

Though the failure of the repeal and replace bill as well as the skinny amendment is a major victory for healthcare advocates, there are still potential issues on the horizon. When the senate reconvenes in the Fall, a bipartisan hearing is planned in preparation for September 27th, the day that insurance companies and the federal government sign contracts outlining what will be sold on Obamacare exchanges. The hope is that this bipartisan hearing will drive down premiums as well as provide billions to insurance companies to subsidize individuals on an Obamacare plan. However, at this juncture, the future of healthcare reform is still murky. It is possible for the administration to take away federal subsidies, neglect to enforce the individual mandate, and cut funding for organizations that assist low income individuals with healthcare enrollment. Notably, the CHIP program, which provides coverage to children of low income individuals who are not eligible for Obamacare but also cannot obtain private insurance, is set to run out of funding in September. These funds may very well not be reinstated. Further, an analysis was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation that found that insurance agencies are going to be increasing premiums significantly in the next year due to the uncertain tide of healthcare reform.  The analysis also found that insurer participation in the Obamacare market will be at an all-time low.

So where are we now? Perhaps cautiously optimistic. There have been major victories in recent weeks that indicate that access to affordable care is a value shared by many Americans. However, we must stay vigilant in our pursuit to maintain the availability of quality healthcare for all. To get involved with CSC’s Cancer Policy Institute, you can join our advocacy movement. Once a part of the movement, you will have the opportunity to voice your opinions, participate in research, and receive information about policy initiatives. We believe that no one should face cancer alone, and part of that endeavor involves fighting to continually ensure equal access to affordable healthcare.

[1] Cancer Policy Institute Aims and Positions. (n.d.) Retrieved August 10, 2017, from https://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/cancer-policy-institute-aims-and-positions

A Roadmap to CSCP’s Services

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Poetry and Journaling Class

CSCP’s calendar is constantly a work in progress as we are continually adding classes, bringing in new workshops, and shuffling schedules around to accommodate our instructors’ and participants’ needs. Quarter to quarter, our calendar can look quite different. CSCP strives to provide evidence-based services, as informed by our research and training institute, all the while remaining creative and open-minded in introducing new and cutting-edge programs. CSCP offers multiple forms of support, meaning that everyone who walks into our doors can find a niche for themselves- be it a support group, a yoga class, attending an educational workshop, or a mix of a little bit of everything. And since all of our services are free of charge, CSCP participants are able to sample a variety of our programs without feeling inhibited due to financial barriers. This post is dedicated to highlighting different areas of support that we offer at CSCP.

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Weekly Support Group

Support Groups

                Known as the cornerstone of CSCP’s programs and services, support groups provide a safe forum for people to express themselves fully and be held by others who “get it.” CSCP offers 11 weekly support groups, which consist of the following: patient groups (for individuals who have a cancer diagnosis), family and friends groups (for those who have a loved one with cancer), a children’s group (for children aged 5-17 who have a loved one with cancer), a survivorship group (for those who have no evidence of disease and have completed active treatment), a breast cancer group (for individuals with early stage breast cancer), a bereavement group, a Spanish language group, and a Mandarin speaking group. Our groups are led by licensed mental health professionals, but are truly built and sustained by the participants that make up the groups. In group, participants are able to connect with other people in similar circumstances, allowing them to broach topics that are often off the table with people who do not share their experiences. The ultimate purpose of our groups at CSCP is to provide a place where people feel as though they have more hope, build connections with others, and find a sense of control in an otherwise out of control situation.

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Watercolor Class

Healthy Lifestyle Classes

                CSCP offers a variety of weekly mind body classes that include yoga, pilates, walking, Zumba, meditation, Feldenkrais, dynamic strength training, photography, journaling, watercolor, qi gong, and TRE®. Our certified instructors generously donate their time to providing classes that serve as a place to connect with others, build physical strength, explore art, and to try something new. Similar to our support groups, the classes often serve as an outlet for our participants to find camaraderie and express themselves creatively.

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Qi Gong

Educational Opportunities

                The most variable aspect of our calendar is our educational opportunities, as many of our offerings change throughout the calendar year. Educational opportunities run the gamut, all the way from workshops on managing the cost of care to beadweaving. They can be purely informational in nature, or more of a social event. The best way to explore our educational opportunities is to browse our calendar or give us a call.

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Beyond the three areas of support described above, CSCP offers additional resources such as individual counseling, a program called Open to Options, and special events. Further, CSC has a helpline available to individuals who cannot physically access a CSC affiliate or need assistance in the way of referrals. CSCP will continually strive to build upon our programs and provide support that individuals impacted by cancer truly need and deserve.

 

Come on in for a tour!

19396684_1578595358840954_1559627505109233118_nThe Wellness Community, now known as Cancer Support Community, has been in the Pasadena area for almost 27 years. Just over a year ago, CSCP found itself a new home, just a few short blocks away from our old location. After 25 years at our old site, it was time for CSCP to find a refreshed, modern space that could better accommodate our ever-growing community.It was quite serendipitous that the Pasadena Humane Society was looking for a tenant to inhabit its beautiful new building. The space that they offered to CSCP was an empty shell, meaning that we could customize the interior to fit our needs. We have come a long way in the last few years, and we are proud of the space that our community has created. Below are a couple of photos early on in the construction process, which began in January 2016 and ended in March 2016.
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Early construction
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Drywall and paint up!

Once the interior was inhabitable, we were charged with the daunting task of moving the entirety of CSCP, complete with heavy furniture, files spanning a number of years, and fragile materials. We are indebted to our amazing volunteer base, who tirelessly spent hours and days moving us into our new home. Over the past year, we have been settling in to the new space, adding several finishing touches along the way.

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CSCP’s Living Room
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Group Room 1
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Group Room 2
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Group Room 3

All Cancer Support Community affiliates aim to create spaces that are homey, relaxing, and inherently different from the often sterile, industrial feel of hospitals. More than anything, we love our space because it is defined by the people and items that inhabit it. By the beautiful scenic photos of the San Gabriel Valley, taken by CSCP’s photography teacher. By the items that were funded or generously donated by foundations and individuals who support our cause. By our amazing teachers and lecturers who selflessly donate their time to provide our programs free of charge to the community. By the delicious baked goods that the National Charity League provides to us each week. And most importantly, by the individuals and families that come in to contribute to, and be a part of, our community.

Welcome to our blog

Welcome to Cancer Support Community Pasadena’s blog. CSCP is one of 42 national affiliates of Cancer Support Community. We provide free support services to individuals and families impacted by cancer including support groups, mind body classes, educational workshops, and special events; among many other programs. Here are a few highlights of our programs: 11 weekly support groups (including support groups in languages other than English), 4 weekly yoga classes, frequent comedy nights, short term counseling, art classes, mindfulness/ meditation, Zumba…the list goes on. Take a peek at the our calendar and see the wide breadth and array of programs we offer.

Behind CSCP’s program offerings is our mission to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. At CSCP, we firmly believe that no one should face cancer alone. That, truly, is the heart of who we are and what we stand for.

Check back on this page for posts about our programs, reports on information coming from our research and training institute, and profiles on some of our staff, members, or amazing volunteers. Thank you for stopping by!