Year of Telling Our Story – A Mother & Daughter’s Journey Through Cancer

February 15th, 2015

Alique in the hospitalWhen Alique Topalian was 4 years old, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a rare cancer in children that is very aggressive. At four year’s old, a child doesn’t really understand how serious this situation is but for a parent the news is devastating.  Alique’s mom, Michele Seyranian, remembers feeling so many emotions including fear and desperation. Her overriding thought at the time was finding a way to save her child’s life.

Alique spent 9 months in the hospital with periodic breaks where she could come home for a weekend. The first six weeks of Alique’s hospital stay, Michele rarely left her side. “But I knew I needed to talk to someone to help me cope with what was going on”, Michele says. “I also needed to find resources to help my daughter. I wanted to find the top physician in the country for treating AML.” Michele recounts that a friend told her about The Gathering Place (TGP) which had just opened its doors. She met with TGP’s medical librarian who helped her find the top AML physician who was working in Seattle Washington at Fred Hutchinson. Michele remembers boarding a plane and flying out to meet with the doctor who agreed to consult with Alique’s physicians at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

Michele also utilized TGP to help her cope with the unbearable guilt that she remembers feeling at the time. “TGP helped me and other parents realize that our children’s cancer wasn’t our fault. They also helped me realize that whatever I felt or did, it was ok,” says Michele. “I encouraged other parents to start utilizing TGP and we formed a group that began to meet there on a regular basis to provide support to each other.”

Michele felt very grateful for the support TGP provided and decided it was important to give back and help ensure that others would be able to have the type of help she and Alique received. She joined the Board of Directors at TGP and is currently serving her second term. Michele has chaired the development committee for a number of years and served as the co-chair for TGP’s most successful fund raising event that was held in October 2013 and raised over $450,000. Alique and Michele love participating in Race for the Place, the 5k and 1 mile walk and run held annually on National Cancer Survivors Day to support TGP.  Alique says it’s her favorite TGP event.  They both laugh as they share a story about wearing their Race for the Place t-shirts while traveling through Thailand a couple of years ago. Alique says, “I remember when the race was so small. This past summer I turned around and saw all those purple shirts; later that day when we were out we saw the t-shirts everywhere. It’s great to see how the race has grown.”

Alique & MicheleEven though Alique doesn’t remember a lot from the nine months in the hospital she has a vivid memory of what it was like to be a child in school dealing with the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis. She remembers her Mom bringing her to TGP. “I felt like I wasn’t a kid anymore. Talking with a counselor helped me learn that what I was feeling was normal.” When you look at Alique now, a vibrant, smiling 21 year old young woman, it’s hard to imagine what she went through as a child. It wasn’t just the cancer that had an impact, there were challenging treatment side effects as well. Alique lost her right eye and now wears an artificial one. She had to deal with cognitive disabilities that made learning and school work challenging. “At my high school graduation I looked around at all the people graduating with honors and thought I wish I could do that.” Alique has worked hard to overcome those challenges and will graduate cum laude from Ohio University in May.

Alique has many connections to TGP. In 2006, her portrait was taken for a special photography exhibit at TGP titled Cancer Speaks. She also spent time volunteering at TGP for her high school senior project. This past summer she worked on a research project studying the impact of TGP’s programs on helping children cope with a family member’s cancer. This is great preparation for the work she wants to do as a clinical psychologist in the field of oncology. “I believe I would connect to my patients on a very different level,” says Alique. She notes that TGP also supported her when important people in her life were diagnosed with cancer. “When my uncle was diagnosed, the staff helped me understand I couldn’t fix it but that I would be ok. Eileen Coan, the librarian, helped me research information for my uncle and the registered dietitian Beth Bennett helped us figure out what foods he could eat. I encouraged my aunt and cousins to come in so they could get help too. A year later, when my best friend died from cancer, I turned here for help again.”

Michele shares how proud she is of TGP. “I’ve seen TGP expand programs, move into three new facilities, incorporate outdoor programming and greatly enhance the nutrition and exercise programs. We’ve done more outreach in other communities so that we are addressing the unique needs of people of other ethnicity. It’s been pretty amazing.”

Michele’s eyes mist over and there is a small catch in her voice. She shares, “I’ll be sad when my board term ends. It’s going to be emotional and painful to step away. TGP has changed the community. It’s a resource you can’t find anyplace else. It has also given me tools to help understand the psyche of what people need. This is helping in my work at Hospice of The Western Reserve. I am grateful!”


Year of Telling Our Story – Celebrating 15 Years of The Gathering Place

January 15th, 2015

Saturday, January 3, 2015, marked our 15th anniversary.  Sometimes it’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since we opened our doors. So much has happened in this short amount of time. We’ve touched many lives; almost 30,000 people have walked through our doors. Of course these very same people have touched our lives; as have our volunteers and donors who help make it possible for us to do our work and the countless number of people in the community who are our champions.

We’ve decided to celebrate this 15th year by telling our story through the voices of our caring community – board members, participants, volunteers, donors and community members. Please journey with us on our website, Facebook and Twitter as we take a look at 15 years in the life of The Gathering Place. We will post a new story on the 15th of every month.

We thought it only fitting that the first voice you hear is that of our founder and CEO, Eileen Saffran.

Holiday & School Vacation Tips for Families Touched by Cancer

December 17th, 2014

Holiday Gathering East 2013 090Make a Plan – the holidays will be challenging.  Take charge and together with your family – plan for this challenge.  It is always easier to be proactive rather than reactive.  Whatever you choose to plan – stick to it.

Have a Plan for Changes in Routine – Winter breaks from school can be difficult to manage if you don’t have a plan.  Letting young children know what their days will look like will lessen their anxiety and can provide peace of mind.   Whatever you choose to plan – stick to it.

Allow your feelings to be fluid – whether you feel like crying or laughing – give yourself (and family members) permission to feel what you are feeling.  Know it is perfectly healthy to have fun and enjoy a good laugh!

Be Kind to Yourself – It’s completely normal to feel tired and/or not share in the holiday spirit around you.  Remember that good food and light exercise can be extremely helpful in boosting physical health as well as your mood.  Make sure to get enough sleep and carve out time for activities that bring you a sense of peace and calm.

Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out for Help – If the emotions this time of year brings add to feelings that are overwhelming for you or a loved one, don’t suffer in silence.  Reaching out for support can lessen the burden and make this time of year more manageable.   If you begin to feel overwhelmed, pick up the phone and call a friend or family member – or The Gathering Place.  We are here to support you.

It is Ok to Say NO – People may have the best of intentions but if what you want/need is quiet and privacy, remember it is OK to advocate for you and your family by letting others know what is helpful and what isn’t.

Build New Traditions – If the change cancer has brought to your family makes continuing old traditions too difficult, think about building new ones.  The most important thing is to have open communication with each other regarding what things are most important to everyone and how as a family unit you can make the holidays special and sacred for each other.

Parenting help with movies – As you may remember, Disney films and other leading companies often weave in the theme of death (Bambi, Cinderella, Snow White and even Frozen).  The latest box office hit, Big Hero 6, is no different with it’s big loveable character Baymax.  It is oftentimes helpful to have a clue what to expect from a movie, rather than being hit by a curve ball.  A great website dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media & technology is  This may also give you suggestions to not only movies but books, apps, games and more.

Holidays Can Bring Pleasant Distractions – Enjoy and capitalize on the things you do enjoy about this time of year, allowing you and your family to share what you are feeling thankful for what brings you joy!


Casey Durkin Head Shot

 Casey Durkin, LISW-S, is the Director of Children’s Programming at The Gathering Place. She has over 30 years of clinical social work experience.  Most recently, Casey was director of a school based mental health program in a local public school system. To contact Casey email her at or call 216-455-1523.


Thanking Our Caring Community

November 6th, 2014

A Special Thank You to

Our Caring Community

 We are grateful to the groups, individuals and businesses that put on events to support the free programs and services provided to individuals and families touched by cancer at The Gathering Place. Click the link below to see a listing of some of the generous supporters of The Gathering Place.

Some of Our Generous Supporters, September-December 2014

AOK! Fitness Dec 2014BellaCapelliHolidayOpenHouse.2014
Lisa Zacharias from Luna Team Shops in BereaParker Gill- raised $600 for TGP. Bar Mitzvah Project

Symposium for Those with Brain Cancer

October 24th, 2014

waterfall at sacred mount 2 Join us on Saturday, November 1st for updates on the latest treatments for brain cancer, strategies for stress reduction and coping, and how to manage mood and cognitive challenges. Support and discussion groups will be offered to those diagnosed with primary brain cancer and members of their support network. The symposium is being held at our East location at 23300 Commerce Park in Beachwood from 9:00am-2:30pm.


Glen Stevens, DO, PhD
Andrew Sloan, MD, FAANS, FACS
Isabel Schuermeyer, MD
Michael Parsons, PhD

Click here to register

Offered in collaboration with staff from University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic.

Continental breakfast and lunch provided.

Making Quinoa Confetti Salad on Fox 8

October 24th, 2014

Beth Bennett & Wayne Dawson.Fox8.Oct.2014

This morning our registered dietitian Beth Bennett was on Fox 8 with Wayne Dawson making  a Quinoa Confetti Salad. In our hands-on cooking classes at The Gathering Place, Beth introduces participants to different recipes that include cancer fighting foods.  This recipe that Beth shared on Fox 8 can be made with different types of vegetables. This morning Beth included kale and broccoli which are loaded with lots of great cancer fighting nutrients.  In case you  missed our segment on Fox 8  here’s the great recipe that Beth and Wayne prepared on air. Click here to see the video.


Quinoa Confetti SaladConfettiQuinoaSalad.2014

1 cup dried quinoa (any color you like – white, red, black, purple – or mix it!)

An array of seasonal vegetables – be creative!
-rainbow carrots
-string beans
-cherry tomatoes
-spring onion

A lovely legume – for a complete protein meal!
-chick peas
-navy beans
-black beans
-lima beans
-kidney beans

A selection of fresh herbs – don’t be scared!
-flat-leaf parsley

Sunshine Dressing:
2-4 Tbsp. Cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 un-waxed organic lemon
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp. Honey
pinch of sea salt

Place ingredients in a jar and shake. If you have extra, you can use this dressing, for up to 4 days, stored in the fridge (but the sooner, the better). You can drizzle this on just about anything – green salad, steamed vegetables, cold rice, or pour it into the center of half an avocado and scoop it out with a spoon – my favorite snack!

1. Rinse quinoa very well 2-3 times in the pot you are cooking it in, draining it with a strainer. Add 2 cups fresh water, and about a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until cooked.
2. While the quinoa is simmering, make the dressing by zesting and juicing the lemon, mincing the garlic and combining all ingredients in a jar and shaking. Set aside to allow flavors to blend.
3. Chop the vegetables and herbs you are using. Place in a large bowl. Pour dressing over. (I like to add the dressing before the quinoa, because quinoa will continue to absorb liquid and you risk it becoming a little soggy.)
4. Once the quinoa is cooked you can add it directly to the dressed vegetables. The quinoa will cool down quite quickly as you mix it in.
5. Devour.

Copyright 2012 My New Roots at

Give Support, Get Paladar

September 8th, 2014

Paladar.2014 It’s back!! Paladar’s 4th annual Give Support, Get Paladar. Once again Paladar is supporting 4 local non-profits by asking you to make a $25 donation to one or all of  the non-profits. When you donate $25 to a non-profit, Paladar will mail you a $25 Paladar voucher. The Gathering Place is grateful to once again be a non-profit partner.

You can make your donation to The Gathering Place through our donation page – be sure to note in the special instructions section of the donation page  ‘For Paladar’. This program goes through 10/05/14. The voucher is good through 12/21/14. Thank you for your support and enjoy your Paladar.

For more information on Give Support, Get Paladar visit

The Gathering Place Warehouse Sale – Saturday, November 1st

August 5th, 2014

We’re overflowing with gorgeous new inventory at The Gathering Place Warehouse. Select items 20% off. Join us at our next home furnishings warehouse sale Saturday, November 1st from 9:00am-1:00pm. The warehouse is located at 4911 Commerce Parkway, Warrensville Heights, 44128. Cash or credit card only.


The Gathering Place Warehouse accepts furniture, crystal, china, lighting, rugs, art and other home accessories. If you have items to donate contact Cheryl Apisdorf at or call 216-595-9546. Items will be previewed and those selected will be packed up and picked up at no charge. Donations are tax deductible.

The Stories Behind Race for the Place 2014

July 3rd, 2014

We are so grateful to the sponsors, participants, team captains, donors and volunteers that made Race for the Place 2014 such a big success. Over 4,600 runners and walkers joined us at Beachwood Place this year and helped to raise over $332,000 to support our free programs and services for individuals and families touched by cancer.

We’d like to share some of the wonderful stories behind Race for the Place. People who are running a 5K for the  first time. Runners who thought they wouldn’t be able to run again after the cancer diagnosis and learning they could; companies who start a couch to 5K program and get people up and moving.

Couchto5Kgroup at Medical Mutual.2014

Leah Shea, left, supports and encourages this group participating in the couch to 5K program at Medical Mutual. Leah is the Program Manger of WellFit, the company that manages the wellness program at Medical Mutual.

I Run Therefore I am a Runner

We met Leah Shea at Medical Mutual when we learned about the ‘Couch to 5K’ program  she created for employees. Leah is the program manager for MedFit, the company that manages the wellness center for Medical Mutual. Leah has facilitated a running club at Medical Mutual for the last six years but wanted to do something different to reach a wider audience. She decided to launch a ‘couch to 5K’ program for beginners and those that have never run before. Since Medical Mutual was one of the lead sponsors for this year’s Race for the Place she decided to use it as the 5K goal to work towards.

The group started training in March and ran three times a week in good and bad weather. On the day we went to visit back in May, just as the ladies were starting out for their run, the skies opened up and the rain came down. They headed out anyway and came back 30 minutes later looking invigorated. Some of the women who participated in this program were lapsed runners while others had never run before. They all expressed receiving a great physical benefit from the program but the added benefit they noted was being able to build relationships among colleagues. A favorite quote of the group is ‘No matter how slow you run, you’ve already lapped everyone on the couch’. What’s next for these ladies? Leah is encouraging them to move on to become ‘Road Warriors’, an advanced running club for employees at Medical Mutual.


Alycia Thomas, on the right (in teal) holds up the sign to represent those who have been surviving cancer for 20 years or more.

Learning more about the ‘couch to 5K’ at Medical Mutual led us to meet Alycia Thomas, second to last on the right in the photo above, who is a twenty year cancer survivor. Alycia was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in her early 20s.  Race for the Place was her first time participating in any type of race. We thought it only fitting that she should be a part of our cancer survivor ceremony and hold up the sign representing survivors of twenty years and more.


She Did It!!


Linda Sabovik, center, raises her hand in victory as she crosses the finish line for her first ever 5K and after losing 200 pounds.

We first met Linda Sabovik when she came to The Gathering Place in Beachwood four years ago to drop off monetary donations she had collected through her salon Snip, Clip and Polish in Chesterland. When we met Linda in 2010, she was 200 pounds heavier than she is today. Linda walked the 5K at Race for the Place with much difficulty in 2010. Even though Linda trained, she struggled to finish the walk. She started Weight Watchers and participated in Race for the Place each year and the walking got easier.

On January 2, 2014, Linda hit her goal of losing 200 pounds. Linda had been toying with the idea of running the 5K and asked her doctor, who is also a runner, if he thought it would be okay. He said, “Oh yes, you lost 200 pounds by changing your lifestyle, you can run a 5K.” Linda says she trained a little, she didn’t think enough, and got out there and did her best. She ran with two buddies Terry Joyce and Rena Balla who kept pace with her and provided encouragement. She notes that as she came into the home stretch she was beginning to feel tired but a little boy started running beside her. He was talking to Linda’s friend Terry and they learned that he was running because his mother died of breast cancer. “I pushed myself to keep running to the finish line. I finished for his mother. Don’t know his name or his mother’s name but I finished running for them,” says Linda.


See Jane Run

Tara Jane Neiman was an avid runner, but after her diagnosis of stage 3 melanoma 18 months ago See Jane Run Teamher view of running changed. The melanoma moved into the lymph nodes in her legs and caused her to lose feeling there so she became afraid to run. Tara met with our physical therapist Beth Roth who helped Tara realize that she really could run. Tara became convinced and decided to form a team for Race for the Place. Using her middle name Jane she dubbed her team ‘See Jane Run’. Her goal was to have 15 team members and raise $750. Instead Tara’s team had 47 members and raised $3,000. Sometimes when you think you can’t, you really can!!


Powerfully Symbolic

Three Cancer Survivors Completing the 5K

Diane Moser is pictured on the left in the pink hat.

When we sent out our last email about Race for the Place we shared a photo of three cancer survivors making their way towards the finish line. One of those survivors, Diane Moser, reached out to ask for a copy after seeing herself in the photo . She notes, “Being well and able to run that race meant the world to me and my husband. While we were running, my 16 year old son helped my 74 year old mother on the one mile by walking with her and carrying her chair in case she needed to stop and rest a little. It was a powerfully symbolic day for us.” Diane was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and received a kidney transplant in 2012. Powerful indeed!

Fit In A Minute

April 20th, 2014

At The Gathering Place we recognize the important role that exercise can play in helping to address the side effects from cancer treatment like fatigue, muscle loss, loss of balance, strength and flexibility. We offer a number of exercise programs at our Richman Family Wellness Center in Beachwood and at our location in Westlake. If you are interested in learning more about our exercise program email our physical therapist Beth Roth.  Click here to see a listing of our exercise programs.

Follow our weekly segments Fit in A Minute, with our certified fitness trainer Stephen Cerne, for information, tips and videos that demonstrate effective exercises that you can do at home. Check out this latest segment on resistance training.

For more information on the importance of exercise and cancer treatment click here.

For more information on exercise and cancer survivorship click here