Friday, April 22, 2016

Cancer Survivors: Together We Are Less Alone

To read the article by Barbara Tako, the author of "Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools", click here.
Barbara is a survivor of breast cancer and melanoma.

Share your story or leave a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!

Friday, April 1, 2016


By Julia Forth

“It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.”
Rebecca Solnit
Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities


Writer, historian and activist, Rebecca Solnit’s book Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, originally published in 2004, has been reissued this year.  Although a book exploring political activism, Ms. Solnit’s articulation of what hope is and is not has a correlation to the idea of hope as experienced by people with cancer and their caregivers.  Hope is something that the Cancer Support Community (CSC) advocated for cancer patients and their families back in 1982 when it began as The Wellness Community and when cancer was mostly dread and death.  Dr. Harold Benjamin and his wife Harriet, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1970s, founded CSC with its free psychosocial services of group support, classes, social activities and education.  The Benjamins knew firsthand the despair that cancer can bring and claimed a space for hope within the arena of life-threatening illness.  The seventies and early eighties were not often times of positive outcomes for cancer patients, or for open discussion of the anxieties that cancer brings to everyone affected by it.

Rebecca Solnit, also the author of Men Explain Things to Me, brings her journalistic eye, deep intellect and activist nature to this topic when she suggests a link between hope and action.  Emily Dickenson wrote, “Hope” is the thing with feathers –  that perches in the soul”.   A true subtlety of life, often lost in the blunt upset of cancer, is that hope stays on the ground with us and lifts us, everything together.  Hope is often thought of as something that safeguards us from gritty reality but, in Rebecca Solnit’s words, it is about “broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act (emphasis added).”

In 2016, treatments have improved, people are living longer and better, and the word “cancer” need not be whispered.  But, no one would deny that cancer does, at the very least, bring anxieties and sometimes a loss of hope.  Dr. Benjamin’s Patient Active Concept, revolutionary in 1982 and still relevant today, specifically encourages cancer patients and their families to partner with their physicians, to not be passive victims during the course of their disease but to take back control—in short, to be active in their own lives, to be active in hope and to welcome the possibility of change. 
Ms. Solnit talks about hope as containing “openings.”  Hope, as providing an opening for action, is exactly what CSC encourages.  Research now shows that CSC’s services of support and outlook of hope can enhance survivorship.  As cancer patients and families look for places to connect with others and for places inside themselves where the “thing with feathers” perches, CSC remains a place of hope.  CSC was created as a vessel for possibilities; it does not promise that everything will be fine but rather that life, at the very least, will perhaps be more vibrant in choosing to live as a hope-fueled, active participant, no matter the outcome. 

Julia Forth is the Executive Director of Cancer Support Community Benjamin Center (CSC)  founded in 1982 as The Wellness Community in Los Angeles and part of an international network of affiliates that offer the highest quality social and emotional support for people with cancer and their families.  To find a CSC in your area, please visit or to learn more about CSC Benjamin Center in Los Angeles, visit or call 310-314-2555.