James Bouquin, president and executive director of the Mountain View branch, says that although other organizations exist in the Bay Area for people affected by cancer, Cancer Support Community is unique in providing support groups and educational programs for cancer patients of all kinds, instead of focusing on one specific type of the disease. In order to allow some of Cancer Support Community's programs to be available, El Camino Hospital in Mountain View has volunteered funding and space to hold evening support groups and Saturday education programs beginning in July.
The organization's only other location in Northern California is in Walnut Creek, although it does provide various services through medical centers around the East Bay.
All of Cancer Support Community's services are free, and the organization never turns anyone away, Bouquin says. The model proved unsustainable in Mountain View, and the organization is closing for financial reasons. The Mountain View branch opened in 2010 after a group of Silicon Valley residents petitioned the organization for a nearby location and provided funding to establish it. A large grant from El Camino Hospital led Cancer Support Community to open its branch in Mountain View in a space close to the hospital, the organization's largest benefactor.
Another grant from Cadence Design Systems allowed Cancer Support Community to build their Mountain View building into a "beautiful, therapeutic space," says Bouquin. But the company doesn't make those grants anymore, he said.
"The idea of finding another $100,000 to support that space and have the funding to run the other centers won't happen right now," Bouquin says. "We'd be very open to opening a new center and additional services, but we'd have to find another organization to underwrite that."
Although Bouquin has reached out to other organizations for support, so far only El Camino Hospital has responded with an offer to host support groups and education programs at their facilities.
While both the cancer patient and caregiver support groups offered by Cancer Support Community are the most popular of the organization's programs, Bouquin also mentions high turnout for the exercise and movement classes, as well as education courses that focus on homeopathic therapies to complement Western medicine. The organization's administrative work is supported by volunteers, many of them cancer survivors, but their programs and services are led by trained professionals.
According to Bouquin, approximately 450 people used Cancer Support Community's Mountain View services in the 18 months since the branch opened. About two-thirds were cancer patients, and one-third were family, friends, and caregivers.
"Our first responsibility is to our members, so I personally met with all the folks who are our members to tell them about the news, and let them know about alternatives," Bouquin says.
Cancer Support Community member Peggy Liou says she was shocked upon learning of the Mountain View location's closing.
"It's pretty devastating to me, the news of the closing, almost like having cancer again," Liou says.
Although El Camino Hospital will offer evening support groups from Cancer Support Community, Liou says she will have to search for support from other organizations. Her eyesight prevents her from driving comfortably at night.
Liou was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in December of 2010. She says she initially visited Cancer Support Community in Mountain View to learn about the organization's services, and ended up attending a variety of their support groups and seminars.
Although Liou describes herself as an independent person who felt no need for support groups before her diagnosis, she says she was humbled by the other participants she met.
"Everybody has cancer that returned two or three times and they are still fighting and upbeat, so I feel like there is hope," Liou says.
Although she says her family and friends wanted to help her with her battle against breast cancer, they did not necessarily know how cancer patients feel.
"I feel pretty useless sometimes," Liou says. "It's pretty tough."