Source of strength

Cancer patients and survivors find respite from treatment and build friendships with those facing similar trials in a program offered at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

Weekly dancing, yoga, knitting, jewelry-making and journaling classes along with support groups and counseling are offered through the Cancer Services program in two locations near the medical center.

All the services are free and open to everyone, even those receiving treatment from other care facilities, said Teryl MacDougall, Positive Image coordinator.

MacDougall meets with patients to assess the programs best suited for each patient or survivor, she said.

"I listen to the patients, and I look to find what they need and I find a match for them," she said. "I started with just showing them wigs, and the program grew to makeovers and yoga classes and then a whole schedule of weekly classes."

A special room in the Cancer Services building has been set aside for those in the program.

Ingeborg's Place Apart does just what the name says.

"It provides patients and survivors a place to go and relax before or after their medical treatments," MacDougall said.

Upon their first visit, patients can try on wigs in varying lengths and styles or opt for a head scarf. They are also presented with a blanket they can take home that was made by volunteers with the National Charity League, Glendale Chapter.

Funds for the programs are raised by community events, such as the educational forum "Evening of Hope" on Oct. 14. There will be three speakers — two patients talking about their journey through breast cancer and a doctor. There will be vendors selling items with a percentage of sales going to cover the cost of the event, MacDougall said.

For reservations, call (818) 409-8218.

Participants are enthusiastic when they talk about all the programs and especially enjoy the fellowship, which they said offers solace through the hard times, most importantly, when a friend passes away.

Guadalupe Mendoza, of Los Angeles, has been meeting with the Wednesday support group for two years. She was diagnosed in July 2008 with breast cancer and in 2009 had one breast removed, she said.

She originally came to MacDougall to be fitted for a wig and knit hat, but the program's offerings drew her into a more active role, she said.

"You need to see what is going on there — it's not just wigs and hats," she said. "I received emotional support from Cynthia Klinger, a marriage and family therapist. I really needed it because in the beginning it's hard."

She started taking the yoga classes even before surgery, and returned to classes when she was physically able after, she said.

Nury C. Serrano, of Glendale, was diagnosed in 2007 with breast cancer and had one breast removed, she said.

She saw an advertisement for the Cancer Services program and began taking the yoga and fitness classes, she said.

"And I started meeting my dearest friends," she said. "We have the support group, a Christmas party, reunions and lunch with our friends. I am not alone."

That fellowship has also extended to their fellow patients' family members.

Noubar Salerian lost his wife, Elise, to ovarian cancer one month ago and is attending the support group on Wednesdays.

"I came to the support group with her in the beginning and then she came alone," he said.

The Salerians often invited the group to their home to watch TV, and his wife, Elise,

was known for her bright clothing and positive outlook, friends said.

"We had gone to a fundraiser garden tour one year, and I was complaining about how far it was to walk," MacDougall said. "Then from behind me I heard Elise's walker, and she didn't have one complaint. She embraced every moment of life."

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