We hope you’ll join us on Thursday, May 7th to learn about important financial and employment issues facing young adults with cancer. Click here for more information.
As Mrs. Ohio International, I intend to spend my year supporting cancer patients and their families through The Gathering Place. Since its establishment in 2000, this organization has been open to anyone and everyone whose life has been affected by cancer—patients, survivors, spouses, children, and friends are all welcome, making it truly unique. The Gathering Place offers dozens of programs and services, including art and cooking classes, therapeutic massage, yoga, educational resources, social activities, counseling services, and various support groups, all completely free. For many, The Gathering Place is like a second home, a warm and caring environment where cancer patients and their loved ones can come together and share hope and support.
I first learned of The Gathering Place when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2014. Suddenly, cancer became a constant reality, a living nightmare, as anyone who has witnessed the suffering of a loved one knows. My mother underwent three surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. Throughout this extremely difficult time, The Gathering Place offered our family a life-line of support. My mother enjoyed (and continues to attend) art classes, cooking classes, support groups, and tai chi classes. When she lost her hair, we went to The Gathering Place and spent the afternoon trying on wigs at their HairPeace Salon until she found the perfect one. My husband and I also felt very welcomed there; it felt like everyone knew what we were feeling and had been through it themselves in one way or another.
Throughout my mother’s treatment, The Gathering Place offered all of us comfort, hope, understanding, and peace of mind—priceless gifts that helped us cope with everything we were enduring. Although my mother’s “year of cancer” was the hardest time in our lives, it taught us that there are angels all around us; they come in the form of family, friends, doctors, nurses, neighbors, and even strangers.
As Mrs. Ohio International, I would be honored to support The Gathering Place and all those whose lives have been changed forever by cancer. Through my own experiences and those of my mother, I know that the emotional pain of cancer is as difficult as the physical challenges. The Gathering Place was there for us when we needed it most, as it is for countless others who suddenly find themselves battling this devastating disease. Together, we can share hope, knowledge, and support—powerful weapons in the fight against cancer.
Rarely does one realize a dream alone. It takes the belief, passion, support and leap of faith of others to take a vision and make it into a reality. This is certainly true with The Gathering Place. Our founder and CEO, Eileen Saffran went from an initial meeting with 4 people around her kitchen table to an auditorium filled with hundreds of people.
As we celebrate 15 years of service, this month’s ‘Year of Telling Our Story’ focuses on some of the founding board members that helped Eileen to open the doors of The Gathering Place. They provided their expertise, countless hours of time, leadership and passion to see us through our first few years of operation. While these individuals no longer serve as members of the board of directors, they still provide their support to us in one way or another. We would not be where we are today without them.
Thanks to each and every one of our founding board members who took a leap of faith on Eileen and her dream of The Gathering Place. To find our more about the free programs and services we provide to individuals and families touched by cancer visit
Fighting Cancer & Boosting Brain Power through Food
Whether it is the Third Grade Guarantee, Ohio Achievement Test, OGT’s or the new PARCC exams, test anxiety has been on the rise since practice testing began in October.
Keys to help students achieve success include getting a good night’s sleep and making sure the student has a nourishing breakfast. Easier said than done, right? Especially when a family is managing the cancer journey! This month’s theme for KidShop & TeenShop is aimed at helping students take responsibility for the important pieces they can be in control of.
KidShop & TeenShop participants learn about mindfulness. By better understanding what we can be in charge of, allows us to “let go” of unnecessary worries. Discussions focusing on the research behind getting a good night’s sleep & having a good breakfast helps students learn how this may help in more areas than testing.
Many children & teens who have a loved one battling cancer struggle with big emotions and especially big worries. We’ve taken time to learn & practice distressing techniques that kids of all ages (including adults!) can use before beginning their tests, difficult chats with parents or teachers, job interviews and college entrance exams. Participant’s comments include: I need to practice this breathing exercise every day – this makes me feel good! and can the breathing help me fall asleep? Children & teens are encouraged to teach other family members so they can all practice together.
Making their own trail mix, participants learned about Omega 3’s, antioxidants, fiber, protein & more. Omega-3 fatty acids help protect your heart. Studies show they help maintain brain function. It’s important to get these nutrients from food and not supplements.
When making their snack size bags of trail mix, children & teens practiced mindfulness by only using one teaspoon of each ingredient they wanted to include. We also talked about how to make trail mix from items they might find in their home (see photo below). Many tasted dates for the 1st time and most thought these were “s w e e t!” Soynuts and sunflower seeds were reviewed and tasted…and liked! Ingredients don’t have to cost a lot & can be found at your local Marc’s, Big Lots, Trader Jo’s and your local grocery stores that sell bulk items.
Trail Mix Recipe
Dates (diced), Raisins, Craisins, Any dried fruits, Banana Chips, Soynuts, Roasted Pepita seeds, Sunflower seeds, Any whole grained cereal, Granola, Dark chocolate chips, Pretzels, Popcorn, M & M’s for fun – but only a teaspoon!
Put a teaspoon of each or the items you like in a ziploc bag or plastic container and enjoy.
When 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.”
Even 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!”
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.
Make 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 www.commonsensemedia.org. 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, 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 @email@example.com or call 216-455-1523.
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.
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
Offered in collaboration with staff from University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic.
Continental breakfast and lunch provided.
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.
1 cup dried quinoa (any color you like – white, red, black, purple – or mix it!)
An array of seasonal vegetables – be creative!
A lovely legume – for a complete protein meal!
A selection of fresh herbs – don’t be scared!
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.
Copyright 2012 My New Roots at mynewroots.blogspot.com