Cancer Support Community

Programs and Services

This is a community where support and friendship inspire hope. It provides a home-like environment where people with cancer, their families, and friends can come to gather information, support, and learn tools that may be helpful in fighting cancer. Research has shown that people who receive social support — in addition to standard treatment— can have longer, less anxiety-laden lives than those without such a core, supportive community. All programs are free of charge.
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For dates and locations of the Programs and Services below, please go to our Program Calendar.

The First Step: Orientation Meetings

Attending an orientation meeting is a great first step for someone wanting to learn more about the Cancer Support Community. At these introductory sessions led by cancer survivors, you can learn about the various programs and services, as well as share your experiences with cancer. Meeting and learning from cancer survivors and their support persons can instill hope and help restore your sense of control. These meetings are held at various times to meet the demanding schedules of our participants. For dates and locations, please click here.

Strength in Numbers: Support Groups

Support group meetings are designed to allow the person with cancer, family, and friends to share concerns, information and support. The meetings aim to meet the needs of people dealing with specific issues such as diagnosis, individual patient needs, and the day-to-day fight for recovery. Licensed psychotherapists facilitate the meetings. A variety of support groups are offered:

    • Participant Groups (for the person with cancer)

      “It is such a comfort to be with others who truly understand my experience in a way that my loving family and friends cannot. I learn so much from my fellow group members, of both a practical and profound nature. I give and receive support.”
      — Kathy MacDonald, member of a Participant Group

      Participant groups are the mainstay of our support programs at the Cancer Support Community. At these meetings, you can build an “extended family” and explore new ways of coping with the physical and emotional aspects of cancer. Participant groups offer a safe place for people with cancer to share feelings, concerns, information and support. Through these sessions, our participants form strong bonds with other individuals fighting cancer. The groups are for the participant who wants to make a weekly commitment to the same group. One of our licensed psychotherapists, who have extensive training and experience working with people with cancer, facilitates each group. There are generally 8 to 12 members in a group. Group meetings are two hours long and are offered at a variety of days and times to accommodate our participants’ differing schedules. Attendance at an Orientation Meeting and a short interview are needed prior to joining a group. For dates and locations, please click here.

    • Family Groups (for the loved one of someone with cancer)

Having a loved one with cancer has its unique challenges. Often loved ones have as much (or more) stress and need for support services as the person with cancer does. Facilitated by a licensed psychotherapist who has extensive training and experience working with people with cancer, family groups offer a safe place to talk about the roller coaster of emotions (fear, anxiety, powerlessness, anger, sadness, etc.) and issues related to a loved one with cancer. Group participants learn practical information and skills that help make them a more effective support person while maintaining their own health. The groups are held simultaneously with our participant groups, so that both the person with cancer and their support person can benefit from our services at the same time. We find that it works well to have separate groups for the person with cancer and the significant other/support person so they may speak honestly and openly about the issues and concerns that are unique to their role.Family groups are for the person who wants to make a weekly commitment to the same group. Attendance at an Orientation Meeting and a short interview are required before joining a Family group. For dates and locations, please click here.

    • Family and Friends Drop-in Groups

These groups are similar to the Family Groups described above, except they do not require an initial interview, attendance at an Orientation Meeting, or a commitment to come every week. Groups are facilitated by a licensed psychotherapist who has extensive training and experience working with people with cancer. For dates and locations please click here.

    • Family and Participant Groups

These weekly groups are for both the person with cancer and those supporting a loved one with cancer. A licensed psychotherapist who has extensive training and experience working with people with cancer facilitates the group. See the descriptions of Participant and Family groups above. For dates and locations please click here.

Cancer-Specific Networking Groups

These groups give people with cancer an opportunity to connect with others who have the same type of cancer or are facing similar issues. Here, facilitated by licensed psychotherapists who have extensive training and experience working with people who have cancer, fellow participants exchange information and offer hope, support, and encouragement.

  • Brain Tumor Group

For people who have been diagnosed with a brain tumor, as well as for spouses/significant others. Confronting your brain tumor diagnosis can be a frightening and difficult experience. Yet, reaching out to others who are experiencing or have experienced a similar diagnosis can be extremely supportive, as well as crucial to your treatment and recovery. A licensed psychotherapist who has extensive training and experience working with people with cancer facilitates the group, which is affiliated with the National Brain Tumor Foundation, www.braintumor.org.The following are some frequently asked questions about brain treatment support groups:

What are the functions of a support group?

  • To provide practical information and resources for patients and their families about a brain tumor diagnosis and the various treatment methods.
  • To provide the opportunity to share experiences, address personal issues, and gain emotional support in a safe, relaxed atmosphere.
  • To help facilitate a smooth transition for patients and families as they move from acute treatment through follow-up and/or outpatient treatment.

What are the advantages of attending?

  • Reducing the anxiety often associated with a brain tumor diagnosis due to lack of control, fear of the unknown, altered familial roles, financial strain, etc.
  • Gaining validation and reassurance from other survivors, family members, and health professionals.
  • Gaining a better understanding of treatment methods, procedures, and side effects.
  • Keeping current on new treatments, research studies, conferences and resources.
  • Enhancing and strengthening coping skills.
  • Developing a unique social network that helps alleviate fear.

How are meetings organized?
Participants include patients, family members and friends. Typically meetings begin with brief introductions and updates followed by participants talking informally about individual issues or experiences, asking questions, and sharing resources. Our unique format allows the entire group to meet during the first hour and then we separate into two groups for the second hour: a brain tumor patients’ group and a caregivers’ group. Guest speakers may also be invited to give presentations or answer questions on relevant topics such as new treatment methods, research, coping skills, insurance, and numerous others. For dates and locations, please click here.

  • Gynecological Cancer Group

For women who have or who have had any gynecological cancer. By joining this group you will have an opportunity to share your feelings, issues and concerns in a very personal and intimate way. There is also an opportunity to exchange information with women who are knowledgeable about gynecological cancer. Occasionally there is a guest speaker. A licensed psychotherapist who has extensive training and experience working with people with cancer facilitates the group. For dates and locations, please click here.

  • Breast Cancer Group

This group explores specific issues and concerns for those who have or previously had breast cancer. Also, it provides an opportunity to talk with women who have had various treatments and can be especially helpful in making treatment choices. Occasionally, an expert on breast cancer gives a presentation on some aspect of breast cancer, i.e. reconstruction, what’s new in breast cancer treatment, dealing with treatment side effects, etc. A licensed psychotherapist who has extensive training and experience working with people with cancer facilitates the group. Registration is not required. For dates and locations, please click here.

  • Prostate Cancer Group

For men with prostate cancer; helps raise issues and concerns about sexual functioning, job conflicts, family role changes, self-image and other quality-of-life issues. Information on treatment options, new treatments, research studies, conferences and resources is shared. Occasionally, guest speakers give presentations. Spouses/significant others are welcome. A licensed psychotherapist who has extensive training and experience working with people with cancer facilitates the group. Registration is not required. For dates and locations, please click here.

Bereavement Group

This group is for those who have experienced the loss of someone from cancer. It is open to anyone who attended a Cancer Support Community group or whose loved one was a participant. A licensed psychotherapist who has extensive training and experience working with people with cancer facilitates the group. Registration is not required. For dates and locations, please click here.

Spanish-Language Programs

Cancer Support Community programs are offered in Spanish at a variety of locations throughout Ventura County. These programs have been adapted to reflect the Latino culture and special needs of Latino people with cancer. Spanish language support groups and other programs are led by licensed psychotherapists in community locations. Programs include support groups, educational workshops, social activities, peer support, hospital visitation, referrals to community resources to help with other problems and outreach regarding early detection, cancer screenings and health promotion.

For additional information about these programs click here. To receive a calendar in the mail, please call 805-379-4777.

The “Buddy” Program

Connect with someone with your type of cancer who has “been there.” Many participants find it helpful to connect one-on-one with a cancer survivor who has their diagnosis or has had the treatment that is being considered. You can share your feelings and concerns with a buddy and get answers to questions about treatments and treatment side-effects. Come to the Westlake Village location and look through our Buddy Book to find a cancer survivor with your type of cancer, who has volunteered to be a buddy.

Kid’s and Teen Circle

The following programs are available for children and teens that have a parent and grandparent with cancer:

    • Kids and Teens’ Circle

Kids and Teens’ Circle, for children between the ages of 5 and 13, is a program where your child can have fun, share and learn with other children who have a parent or grandparent with cancer. When coming to “Kids and Teens’ Circle” children realize they are not alone.  Teaching methods include play, art, discussion and music. During each Kids and Teens’ Circle, adult family members have the option of meeting informally with other parents or grandparents. Licensed psychotherapists, who are experts in helping children and families with cancer, and an elementary school art teacher, facilitate the program. A variety of family fun activities are provided throughout the year. Please click here for specifics or call the Cancer Support Community

Integrating Mind and Body

In addition to the normal stress of modern living, cancer and its treatment often cause great stress. the Cancer Support Community recognizes that stress-reduction plays a vital role in recovering from the effects of cancer and its treatment. We offer a number of different programs that you can try such as qigong, yoga, relaxation/visualization and a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course. These programs are designed to promote a sense of relaxation and well-being, increase self-awareness, increase one’s strength and flexibility, reduce stress, improve vigor and help integrate the mind and body. They also maximize treatment benefits by using the mind / body connection to reduce side effects and achieve well-being.

“I enjoy these programs because it increases my sense of control and helps me live in the present moment.” — Participant

  • Relaxation/Visualization

Visualization has been shown to be effective in reducing pain, decreasing anxiety, and boosting the immune system. The facilitator will guide you through a relaxation and guided imagery process that is tailor-made to meet the needs and requests of the members that are present at that particular session. For example, a participant may ask for help to deal with fear regarding an upcoming procedure. This practice is a way to use your imagination and thoughts to change your attitude or thoughts to something more healthful. You will also learn how to reduce the harmful effects of prolonged stress on the body. Registration is not required. For dates and locations, please click here.

  • Qigong

This centuries-old Chinese healing technique promotes health through movement and meditation. Benefits include enhanced feelings of well-being, peacefulness, relaxation and increased energy. Registration is not required. For dates and locations, please click here.

  • Beginning Yoga

Yoga, with its gentle stretching and deep breathing, can increase flexibility, relieve muscle tension, aid in relaxation and promote a feeling of serenity. Please wear comfortable clothing and bring a mat, towel, or blanket to lie on.
Registration is not required. For dates and locations, please click here.

  • Yoga for Stress Management

This course focuses on using the yoga tools of awareness, breathing, gentle movement, meditation, relaxation and imagery to reduce stress and increase feelings of relaxation and well being. Please wear comfortable clothing and bring a mat, towel, or blanket to lie on. Registration is not required. For dates and locations, please click here.

  • Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course

This eight-week comprehensive course in stress reduction is based upon Jon Kabat-Zinn’s program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and described in his book “Full Catastrophe Living.” Featured by Bill Moyers in his book and public television broadcast “Healing and the Mind,” this class usually costs $600 elsewhere, but is offered free of charge to Wellness Community participants and family members. The program promotes self-awareness and living in the moment; it is offered at various times throughout the year – please check the Program Calendar.

A Place to Learn: Educational Programs & Resources

Knowledge helps dispel your fears and anxiety and increase your sense of control, whether you are the one with cancer or the support person. Knowledge helps you make informed decisions, know what questions to ask, and makes you a more effective partner with your health care team. Knowledge enables you to be “patient active” rather than a hopeless, helpless victim. We offer a variety of learning opportunities, some of which are described here; for more information please see the Program Calendar, “Featured Programs this Month.”

  • Symposiums

Medical and other experts present state-of-the-art information on topics related to cancer, such as new treatments. The subjects of symposiums vary and often are a specific type of cancer. A recent symposium was entitled “Take Control of Treatment Side Effects Using Medicine, Mind and Body.”

  • “Ask the Doctor” Workshops

Specialists present various lectures and dialogues of interest to cancer patients and their loved ones. Popular lectures include “Ask the Doctor About Radiation Therapy,” “Creative Ways with Hair Loss,” “Integrative Medicine,” and “Managing Pain.” Learning opportunities focus on topics such as stress reduction, improving quality of life, and fighting for recovery. Means of recovery such as art, journal writing, humor, exercise, communication, overcoming anxiety, parenting, and sexuality are other examples.

Having Fun Together: Social Events & Activities

Humor and fun are good for the immune system! We know how to laugh and have fun at the Cancer Support Community. Join us for our annual Daniel’s Day of Magic, National Cancer Survivor’s Day Family Picnic, and Holiday party. Informal gatherings such as Movie Night, Knotty Knitters, and Quilting Club provide an opportunity for you, your family and friends to enjoy camaraderie and friendship in a setting where you can just be yourself with others who understand the cancer experience. Please click on the Program Calendar for specific activities.

“Look Good, Feel Better”

Look your best throughout chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Learn makeup, hair styling and grooming techniques to help cope with appearance changes that may occur. “Look Good, Feel Better” is a public service program of the American Cancer Society – Greater Conejo Valley Unit, the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association Foundation and the National Cosmetology Association. This program is scheduled quarterly; please click on the Program Calendar, Featured Programs for specific dates and times.